Five Key Plays: Michigan at Michigan State


There were obviously an abundance of key plays in this one but we think that we still came up with a pretty good list. Please let us know in the comments if you think we missed one. It seems weird that Darius isn’t explicitly featured in any of these. But sometimes there’s just too many to choose from.

1) Zack Novak’s four-point play

This shot not only kicked off Zack Novak’s ridiculous shooting night, it also calmed down the entire Michigan team. Michigan State started the game hot and rushed out to a quick 6-0 lead in the first two minutes. It looked kind of… typical. But with this play, Michigan made sure things didn’t get out of hand. Like most big plays in this game, it was set up by Darius Morris. Morris runs a little pick and roll with Jordan Morgan and the threat of his penetration commands three defenders. Delvon Roe and Kalin Lucas are both stuck with Darius after the screen which forces Durrell Summers to have to hang around the paint to help on Morgan rolling to the hoop. Darius sees that Summers has left Novak too much space and and rockets a pass across the defense. Zack launches and Summers has to close out quickly — as a result, he cruises by out of control and commits basketball’s cardinal sin by fouling a jump shooter. This was a great pass by Darius but Novak also did a tremendous job catching and shooting the ball quickly.

2) Colton Christian knocks down a long two at the end of the shot clock

I was rushing back up the stairs to my seat and saw this play on one of the big-screen TV’s they have on the ground level. A guy working at Breslin was there and said, as the shot went in, “Who’s that guy?” Even I didn’t know for a second, but yes, that was Colton Christian nailing a very big shot early in a very big game. The important part of this play was that Michigan State can’t play any better defense than they did on this possession and Michigan still scored. They stuck with Stu Douglass when he tried to drive, didn’t allow Jon Horford to do anything in the post when he got the ball on the block and finally suffocated Darius as he brought the ball inside the 3-point line. State did everything right here as they let a rarely used freshman, that had made one field goal all season, shoot a long contested jumper at the end of the shot clock. And Colton nailed it. Huge play and any offensive production you can get from a lineup of Morris, Douglass, Vogrich, Christian, and Horford is a huge bonus.

3) Sloppy transition offense leads to Draymond Green and-1

This is where the game almost turned. After a back-to-back series of extremely sloppy plays on offense for both teams, Draymond Green goes coast-to-coast to nail a tough layup while getting fouled. The Izzone was alive for the first time in the second half (you know, when they weren’t begging for pizza or tiny “Farmers” basketballs) and the game was dangerously close to slipping away. This bucket also cut Michigan’s lead, which had been all the way up to 14 at one point in the beginning of the half, to just six. This was when Michigan had to decide if they were going to wilt or stand up and fight, and they chose the latter after this play. Overall, just some sloppy offense from both sides.  Michigan is not a particularly fast team and they don’t do a lot of running, and Michigan State reminded them why on this series of plays. Michigan stresses a slower “road tempo” and while they did a terrific job of slowing the game down (59 possessions total) this was one point where things got dicey.

4) Zack Novak’s 3-pointer from the top of the key

Novak was tremendous all game and this late triple pushed Michigan’s lead back to the 13 points. Even though Draymond hit a 3-pointer at the other end right after, that shot cut the lead back to 10 instead of seven. This play illustrated a common theme throughout the night and one that went beyond x’s and o’s.  When the team was struggling or playing out-of-control or really needed a bucket, Zack Novak was there to step up. Not only during play, like in this example, but also (maybe especially) during breaks in play. Whenever the Wolverines even looked like they were doubting the outcome of this game, Zack Novak got in their faces and told them they were going to win. Similarly, whenever Michigan wasn’t sure what it was doing on offense and needed someone to bail them out of a tough spot, they looked to Novak, and he delivered. Every. Time. Here, Stu misses a long 3-pointer (too early on the shotclock) and Darius makes a heady play in grabbing the rebound. Darius kicks it out to Zack, who knocks down a rare wide open triple. The end result was great but when Douglass fired that original three with 30 seconds left I was ready to pull my hair out.

5) Stu Douglass’s fadeaway from the free throw line and 3-pointer to ice it

The two biggest shots of the game, hands-down. Stu Douglass stepped up late in this game and hit two of the biggest shots of his career. He didn’t have a tremendous performance overall, but he knocked down some extraordinarily tough shots when it counted. Michigan fans have been looking for signs that Stu has developed the ability to create his own shot when he has to, and he’s shown flashes of that throughout the season, but it’s been tougher for him to do in Big Ten play. In the first play, Stu takes gets the ball with about 15 seconds left on the shot clock and makes something happen. He makes a great move at the free throw line with Kalin Lucas draped all over him and is able to create enough space to knock down an extremely tough fadeaway jumper over last year’s Big Ten Player of the Year. In the second play, Stu makes his only (and biggest) 3-pointer of the night with just 22 seconds to play and Michigan nursing just a two-point lead. Once again, great shot by Stu but Darius makes it happen. Darius drives to the basket and preoccupies Draymond Green just long enough to open up some space for Stu to knock down the long 3 with Green’s huge hand in his face.

  • UMQuasi

    Side note…did everyone else have “Carl Douglas – Kung Fu Fighting, 1974” come up as the “next video” on youtube after Stu’s shots? If so, I suggest you give it a watch…wow

    • JimC

      And Green Day’s 21 Guns is the video after Draymond Green’s clip.

  • WolverineGoBlue

    Is there anyway I could watch the whole game online? I missed the first half but was able to catch the second.

  • SubAlum_06

    Great clutch shots by Stu and another great post. The announcers were driving me crazy the whole second half with the “when is the run gonna come” line every time Sparty made a bucket, but I love that “spin… toe…cotton!” line on Stu’s fade away.

    • Jeff

      To be honest, that’s what I was thinking the whole second half. The script was playing out as it had so many times before with MSU waiting until the end to steal it. Then Stu hit that shot and created a new script. Incredibly exciting game.

      • Dylan Burkhardt

        Anyone that watched last years game at Crisler Arena probably should have been thinking the same thing. I’m not sure how you could think anything else.

  • gpsimms

    just saw nate lubick take it to the rack against villanova. he looks pretty good with the ball, kenpom Orating is 115.3 efg 55.7. too bad we couldn’t bring him in

  • Brian W

    The number two play was pleasant surprise. It was nice to see Christian contribute.

    I’m glad that blocking call against Novak (that should have been a charge) near the end of the game didn’t up being a bigger play for MSU. That along with the over-the-back no-calls were part of a bad night of officiating.

    • Michael4

      All anyone can ever ask for from the officials is to call it the same at both ends and be consistant with the calls. I don’t think Michigan got any breaks on the calls and add this to the game being away it was amazing we won. While I have seen much worse I don’t think State could blame the loss on the officiating.

  • Someone was saying Novack was going to challenge Blake Griffin’s record for charges taken? Is that true? And is he really among the top-ten all time 3-point shot leaders for M? If these are true I have to revise my opinion of the guy. Not just gritty; not just a workhorse. He is a bona fide star,

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      Blake Griffin’s record for charges?

      • Taylor

        I think he means Shane Battier’s record for charges taken in a career.

        • Dylan Burkhardt

          Ah yeah, I think that was just a sarcastic tweet by Bacari.

    • Sheryl

      Manny, Stu, and Zack are #6, 7, and 8 respectively on career three pointers made.
      The only thing I’ve seen regarding Zack’s charges is this BA tweet…….
      “@novak3159 is closing in on Shane Battier’s all time charges take in college. He’s on pace to have the title soon. HALOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! “

    • gpsimms

      by bona fide star, you mean first guard to be in Beilein’s system for 4 years, and who came into a team with a million holes in the roster so he could play as a freshman. Of course he’s gonna set an M record for 3’s. He’s probably already broken the record for 3’s attempted.

      Don’t get me wrong, I love Novak. And these last 6 or so games he’s been shooting lights out, and he’s mostly responsible for our first win at Breslin in 15 years, but there are going to be a lot of players setting records for 3pt attempts and makes over the next few years.

      • UMHoops Fan

        Zack is 7th on list for attempts (4 behind Stu who is 6th). And there’s very little chance he or Stu will break the record for made or attempted 3s. Bullock and Dion Harris have to big a lead.

        Your point about JB taking a lot of 3s is fine, but it’s also a bit over-stated (everyone takes 3s, the guards don’t necessarily take that many more, perhaps some do). It’s not hard to look these numbers up on, which you might want to do before dropping an “of course” that is actually quite unlikely to happen.

        • gpsimms

          yup you’re right, and i’m lazy. apologies for not taking the time to look it up. i made assumptions and you have shown me to be a real asshole.

  • HALOL!

  • grandchamp

    I had to listen to the msu announcers during the game on my iphone at work because it was the only feed that I could find. When Colton hit that shot they were sick to their stomachs. hahaaaaaa

  • Jeff

    The Christian basket was one of those things that made you think maybe that night was going to be a little different. Also, Morris hitting two threes, I thought was a very good omen. Is Blake McLimans ever hits a three, there’s no way we’ll lose that game.

  • UMHoops Fan

    Watching how they get Stu a little space for his 3-pointer is really interesting. On the wing, Stu sets a pick on Novak’s man(Green) fairly close to the basket, MSU switches, then Stu backs off and Green gets caught wondering if he should help on Morris’s drive — and he is more used to guarding down low versus guarding 3 point shooters (like Lucas who switched onto Novak). Meanwhile, Morris is coming off a pick and roll and Roe has switched onto him, so Green is worried that Morris will be able to blow by him. Stu also slides up to the top a bit which gives Morris a much bigger passing lane and makes Green have to find Stu, adding a fraction of a second before the close out. It’s easy to look and just say oh just drive and dish — but a lot of little things go into getting just the situation they want and getting Stu a decent look, and even then Green does a pretty good job of recovering and getting out quickly.

  • Kainkitizen

    Very Good Selection of 5 plays. It was just one of many great games to watch during Beiliens tenure here. This win is so much bigger then beating Duke, UCLA, Purdue, UConn, and Clemson. It means so much more to the program and to the Maize and Blue Nation. It was fun and exciting to watch and feel all of the emotions of beating our little brother on their court.

  • rlc

    “It seems weird that Darius isn’t explicitly featured in any of these.”

    Well, you gave us four offensive highlights (covering five baskets), and I count four assists for #4.

  • Anthony

    In video number 3 i was screaming at my tv stus got to try and give the foul at the free throw line he waited to long and it cost his team three points.

  • Kainkitizen

    Yes, Stu should have tried to steal or swat the ball out of Green’s hand at the free throw line area where they met up with each other instead of turning his back in the low post area. it could have been a difference maker at that time or at least a slow stoppage of State making a late run like they did.