Photo Credit: Detroit News
On Michigan’s first offensive possession of the game, Jordan Morgan went up soft for an easy layup, missed it, and went crumbling to the floor. It was eerily similar to Morgan’s rough start at Ohio State, except this time it was Mike Cappocci defending the rim rather than Jared Sullinger. I’m not sure what happened, but after that dismal attempt, the switch flipped. Morgan dominated the next 39 minutes in a way that we haven’t seen this year. He missed just one more shot and finished with 27 points on 13 field goal attempts. That’s not to say Morgan didn’t get any help from his teammates. Tim Hardaway Jr. was phenomenal yet again and Morris, Douglass, Novak, and Smotrycz were all solid in supporting roles.
Michigan seized control of the game in the first half due to Morgan’s solid play and some of its best defense this conference season. Michigan held the Wildcats’ vaunted offense to just .63 points per trip in the first half and held a commanding 34-19 break at the intermission. The second half was a roller coaster ride that wasn’t quite as enjoyable. Michigan’s defense crumbled in the second as Northwestern scored 1.42 points per trip thanks to Juice Thompson’s offensive explosion. The Wildcats hit three after three and mounted a 14-0 run late that cut Michigan’s double digit lead to just a single point with less than three minutes to play. As disappointing as it was to see Michigan collapse and let Northwestern back in the game, it was almost more encouraging to see the Wolverines close the game on an 8-0 run and regain control.
While the defensive performance was inconsistent, Michigan does deserve credit for slowing down John Shurna. Shurna is nursing injuries but he was nursing the same bad ankle when he destroyed Michigan earlier this season. I said in the preview that Michigan needed to make someone else beat them and they did. Michigan aggressively switched screens and forced Northwestern into some very difficult shots, many of which the Wildcats made in the second half. Despite the poor second half showing, I think it was obvious that the preparation and execution was light year’s better than the disaster in Evanston.
Michigan’s offense was very effective overall, scoring 1.14 points per possessions. The Wolverines shot the ball extremely well with an eFG% of 57.7% – 57% on twos and 40% on threes. We rarely see Michigan dominate on the glass and get to the free throw line but today they did. Michigan rebounded 38% of its missed shots and also posted a free throw rate (FTA/FGA) of 40%, both well above its season averages. Michigan turned it over a bit too much, just under 20% of its possessions, but overall this was another very strong offensive performance.
This was Michigan’s 15th win of the season and matched the Wolverines win total of a year ago – with seven games left on the schedule. Next up in Michigan’s revenge tour is a home rematch versus the Indiana Hoosiers. Christian Watford, the Hoosier combo forward that gave Michigan fits defensively, is questionable for the game with a wrist injury.
Photo Credit: Detroit News
- Jordan Morgan: Morgan was dominant and Michigan kept feeding him the ball in perfect positions to score. The big man finished with 27 points on 11 of 13 (5-8 FT) shooting with 2 rebounds and just two fouls. Morgan obviously did a great job finishing and his defense was also solid. He was able to play physical defense without fouling but also provided great help defense with three blocks (his first multi block game). The stat line screams “career night” but you have to remember that he has something like 100 games left to play in his career.
- Tim Hardaway Jr.: Hardaway did his best the prove that his clutch performance at Penn State was no a flash in the pan: 17 points on 5 of 11 (3-8 3pt) shooting with 10 rebounds (9 def.) and four assists. Thunderous dunks, “rise and fire” threes, a little bit of pick and roll, and double digit rebounds. Hardaway becomes a more complete player every game. Over the last six games, Hardaway is averaging 16 points per game with an eFG% of 56% — 45% on twos and 43% on threes.
- Darius Morris: Morgan’s play offensively is a bit of an indicator as to how well Darius Morris is playing offensively. Today, Morris assisted five of Morgan’s 11 field goals and did a great job distributing the ball (7 assists total). Morris didn’t have his best shooting game (4-14) and had a couple sloppy turnovers (5) but he still manufactured 11 points and grabbed seven rebounds. It wasn’t a great game for Morris but when you are 3 assists and rebounds short of a triple double on an “off night”, it means you are having a pretty damn good season.
- Stu Douglass: Stu played 37 minutes, as Michigan went small for most of the game. He only took four shots and hit one of two 3-point attempts. His defensive rebounding was extremely impressive as he grabbed six boards. He got a bit careless with the ball at times with three turnovers to three assists. He really struggled against Northwestern’s full court press and made a few bone headed plays – luckily they didn’t come back to haunt him.
- Zack Novak: Michigan switched a lot of screens but Novak was primarily guarding Shurna and he did a great job. He finished with 7 points, three steals, three rebounds, two assists, and a turnover in 36 minutes. Novak was very aggressive in the first half by pump faking and driving, he forced a couple things once he got inside but his willingness to drive helped break down Northwestern’s defense, even if the open look was a couple passes down the line.
- Matt Vogrich: Vogrich played 7 minutes and attempted three shots, none of them from three. He wasn’t all that successful slashing to the hoop but the assertiveness was good to see. His lone basket came on a tip in where he might have been the only player on his side of the court.
- Evan Smotrycz: I noted in the preview that Shurna had abused Smotrycz in the first game so his lack of playing time in this one shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. Even in limited playing time, Smotrycz scored 5 points on 2 of 3 (1-2 3pt) shooting.
- Jon Horford:Just three minutes and not a lot of production as Morgan was phenomenal and Michigan also opted to play Smotrycz at the five more than the four.