Five Key Plays: Michigan at Penn State

1) Three consecutive 3-pointers by Stu Douglass and Matt Vogrich

This flurry of great outside shooting could not have come at a better time. Before the barrage of 3-pointers, Michigan was down 11 with four minutes to go in the first half. The Wolverines looked, for all intents and purposes, dead. Then three possessions later, Michigan was down just one and had all the momentum. This was about as key of a stretch as it gets. On the first play, Darius Morris is classic Darius: reading screens, dribbling maybe a little too much, trying to sneak his way into the paint, and then finding Stu Douglass with an open window for a long 3-pointer. The next two threes came very fast, mostly thanks to good defense and defensive rebounding. As Bacari Alexander tweeted after the game, solid defense leads to fast-break offense. Both triples were results of alert fast-break offense and the defense not being in position to guard effectively. It was great to see Michigan find offense in transition because the half court offense had been stagnant early on.

2) Morris layup – Vogrich block – Vogrich 3-pointer

This was just a tremendous sequence that we can use to highlight not only how great Darius was at getting into the lane and making something out of nothing, but also how effective Matt Vogrich was in key spots. The guard had 6 points, one assist, one block and one turnover in 23 minutes. And while Darius won’t get his own key play this game, he was the one keeping the Wolverines in it for most of the game. It seemed like whenever Michigan absolutely needed a bucket, he was there to find the paint and get the ball to the rim. In getting around Battle here, Darius shows off his ability to get by people using his big body instead of quickness (and he may have gotten away with a slight travel) and finishes at the rim. On the ensuing defensive sequence, Vogrich does a great job executing the switch with D-Mo on defense, timing his jump and getting a hand on the ball. As illustrated earlier, his defense led to a fast-break 3-pointer. Vogrich made plenty of mistakes — air-balling a three and throwing a pass over everyone’s head into the backcourt stand out — but he made just enough opportune plays to make up for Hardaway sitting on the bench for long stretches at a time.

3) Stu’s contested, NBA-range 3-pointer

This may have been the shot of the game. Michigan was down 10 at this point, looking as stagnant as they did most of the first half. This triple energized the team (especially Tim Hardaway Jr., who we’ll get to later) and kicked off the second-half rally that won Michigan the game. This was Stu’s fourth made 3-pointer (he was 4-5 on the day from deep). Stu was clearly feeling it and this was one of those shots that you need to hit if you’re going to steal one on the road. It looked like Stu had to put a little more arc on it, even. This is just a heck of a shot when Michigan needed it most.

4) Tim Hardaway’s run to finish the game

This was a coming of age moment for Tim Hardaway Jr. Hardaway, after going 0-5 from the field for the game until the 7:24 mark in the second half, essentially dominated the game until there was 1:39 left. This run included all of Hardaway’s 14 points (two 3-pointers), two assists and a steal. I’m not sure what came over him, but whatever it is we want to see more of it. It’s stretches like this one that highlight Tim’s potential to be a star in the Big Ten — he has the ability to take over a game, he just needs to work on his consistency. I mean, he had zero points until there were seven minutes left in the game and the only notable plays he made in the first 30 minutes were silly fouls and missed layups. John Beilein had to love what he saw from Tim in this stretch, especially with the freshman taking the ball to the rack with no fear; that’s been something Beilein has harped on him learning to do all season and it appears Tim gets more comfortable doing that by the day. Hardaway’s run started with Michigan down nine and ended with the Wolverines up five and shooting free throws.

5) Talor Battle’s 3-point attempt at the end of the game

This shot could be described nicely as “ill-advised,” but I’m sure Ed DeChellis had a different word for it. It’s tough because Talor Battle makes these kinds of shots on a pretty consistent basis, and if it goes in he’s the hero and Tim Doyle is incessantly screaming “If loving Talor Battle is wrong, I don’t want to be right” for the rest of the broadcast. But this bad miss couldn’t have come at a more confusing time. Battle walks up the court with his team still very much in the game — down 3 with 45 seconds left. Not to mention the fact that his teammate took a knee to the head and is laying on the ground bleeding. There’s plenty of time to get a better shot than a pull-up NBA three in a four on five situation. Talor’s long 3 had the scent of desperation. This gave the ball right back to Michigan and forced Penn State into a fouling situation, effectively ending the game.

  • Matt

    Video #4 gives me chills.

  • JBag

    I just wanna point out how much better the offense runs when the ball is moving (obvious), but also when the players are making their cuts with some urgency. In video 4 every play has guards making cuts like they’re actually trying to get open. Too often it seems like they just jog through the lane to get out of the way for Darius, which is when the offense gets stagnant and turns into D-Mo time.

  • Tweeter

    one thing i just noticed watching these highlights, is in the Hardaway to Morgan pick and roll play, you see Morgan point to Hardaway when DOuglass has the ball telling him to move it to Tim. This is great to see. Our five man understanding the offense to the point of directing the ball on the perimeter to set a screen. Usually when you see a five man do this type of thing it is directing the ball so that the ball is in the hands of a passer with a better angle to get him the ball. But in this case, Morgan directs the ball to set up for a screen. Just great.

    • MarcO

      Great analysis Tweeter, thx for pointing that out. I went back to rewatch it. Awesome recognition by Morgan to get it done and again on you for pointing it out to me.

      GREAT STUFF!

  • Kenny

    A nice win but a ugly game before THJ took it over in the last 6 minutes.

    anyway think that Morris should just dunk the ball at the end of the game to get a 7 pts lead with 10 seconds left rather than take off 2 seconds off the clock.

    Morgan should be more evolved offensively and take that shot at the FT line when there is only 5 sec on the shooting clock.

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      Beilein said after the game that Morris was “trying to be classy”… He told him to be classy when they are up double digits with 10 seconds to play and told him to score the ball.

    • Andy

      He definitely should have put it in. If there’s enough time for them to foul you and they intend to foul you, take the basket. You are going to get the opportunity to score two points either by a lay up or making two free throws. Chances of making the layup are obviously higher.

  • JimC

    5 key plays are grea.

    The other “key play” was Jeff Brook’s dislocating his shoulder vs. IL. We might not have won if he had played.

    • JimC

      *great

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      Definitely helped but Woodyard hit some big shots and finished with 11 points and 7 rebounds in his place.

  • Dylan Burkhardt

    Here are our latest win probability graphs from KenPom:

  • bird

    I remember back in the day when Hardaway’s role was to stand in the corner. Great to watch his game evolve.

    Why does his jersey say “Hardaway, Jr.”? Is there really an ambiguity here that needs relieving? The Kid’s jersey just said “Griffey” — perhaps not when he actually played on the same team with his dad, but that’s different.

    • gobluetwo

      Probably an identity thing. Remember that Bernard Robinson’s jersey also had the Jr. on it.

  • Mattski

    The next two games are as close to “must wins” as you can have in a season like this. They can all but assure an NIT bid and build confidence for the home stretch. Lose one or both and these young players can begin to doubt themselves again. Barring Wisconsin, Michigan has a chance to do some real damage here at season’s end. The official motto needs to change from “wait’ll next year” to “let’s win now!”

    • billiam

      Your last sentence shows how much we’re all looking forward to next year. If we’re this good (better than expected) now, just imagine next year, when we return everyone and get two top 100(?) guards.

  • JimC

    Yeah.
    Tho I think we have a better chance vs WI than @MN or @IL.

    • Kenny

      never know, Wisc is more consistent than ILL and MN. I think that we have chance in all three but I love to get back at Wisc.

  • Jeff

    So is the verdict in? Is this year’s team definitely better than last years?

    • gpsimms

      funny enough, two years ago we finished as kenpom #50 (that was with tournament win over clemson, and playing #2 seed OK tough)…right now we are #54 I think.

      So yes, definitely better than last year. Depending on the back half of the big ten season, maybe as good as the tournament team.

  • bball

    The Hardaway sequence is so impressive with the Pick-and-roll play. Aside from the great 3′s he drains and the steal/layup, he gets four different outcomes with the dribble to the middle of the floor (to his right coming out of the corner) on hand-off action (twice from Darius and twice from Stu I believe).
    First – PSU don’t hedge properly and he cruises past the screen, drives in and lays it in and gets the and-1
    Second – He fights under the hedge that was out too far, stumbled a little and so dishes to Stu for a 3
    Third – Its a good hedge but a better roll by Morgan and great recognition from Hardaway – great pass and a DUNK by Morgan
    Fourth – the guy guarding Hardaway jumps out and overplays the screen big-time so Tim can’t use it at all, so he just drives left and finishes.

    Basically – any way they tried to defend it, be beat it. Awesome stuff from a freshman.
    Great job using all his options and really fun to watch him grow into using all of his tools and talents!

  • Alex

    I am so proud of this team for not giving up when the going got tough.

  • MarcO

    The development we’re seeing is tremendous.

    Vogrich is showing that he can be productive at this level, something I truly doubted after seeing him last year. Great teams have bench players who play their roles. Vogrich’s role is becoming clear and he is showing that he can step into that role. If he can continue to give this team 20 solid minutes with 4-8 pts and a myriad of other contributions in those minutes, that’s an excellent job by the staff to develop him and credit to Vogrich as well for listening to the coaches and developing.

    Th Jr. This is what everyone’s been waiting for. He’s not just an outside shooter. No one believed he could’ve been but we’re now seeing his confidence develop. He puts the ball on the floor and scores with both hands, he comes off screens and makes great plays in the last 2 games, and he shows he can run the floor on the break like an NBA player. If I’m buying a jersey, it might just be yours.

    Morgan. Love this kids heart. His development on the boards and with the ball in his hands with his back to the basket make UM bball have real potential today. If he develops a 12-15 ft jump shot, I’m dreaming of high tourney seeds and dominant play in the future. He’s already shown a lot of development from his early season struggles with foul trouble to being a dependable 5 in the big10. Very impressive BB brains on this kid.

    Welcome to Ann Arbor wolverines, you’re making the maize and blue proud.

    I’m not ready to talk about next year, we’ve got diaper dandies on this squad who are ready to do some damage. We’re a couple of inspired wins from the bubble. Let’s go blue!

  • JGiebz

    Stu “Jimmered” them in clip #3

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