Five Key Plays: Michigan at Minnesota


1) Tim Hardaway Jr.’s four made 3-pointers in the first five minutes of the game

Usually, Tim Hardaway Jr. reserves his scoring runs for the ends of games. In Michigan’s game against Minnesota on Saturday, Hardaway figured, “Why wait?” and let it fly early. The great thing about these four 3-pointers was that while they weren’t all wide open, there was enough space for all of them and they all could be called shots “in rhythm,” something that’s very important to John Beilein. Beilein has often said he doesn’t mind shooting a lot of 3-pointers as long as they’re “rhythm 3’s,” and Tim’s shots all appeared to come within the rhythm of the offense. The first shot was wide open, the second came as a result of good ball movement, the third came off of a screen from Jordan Morgan and the fourth was a result of excellent recognition by Zack Novak. Tim ended up leading all scorers with 22 points, with 15 coming off of first-half triples. These shots all came within the first five minutes of the game and gave Michigan a nice early cushion to work with, though the cushion disappeared by the end of the first half.

2) Darius Morris early in the second half

Minnesota found itself at the end of the first half and played pretty well the rest of the game. The second half was when the Gophers should have put some distance between themselves and Michigan — Michigan couldn’t hit anything and some Wolverines were even missing easy layups inside. But Darius Morris, nearly by himself, prevented Minnesota’s run from happening with timely buckets in the paint early in the second frame. After Jordan missed an early layup, Darius basically said, “Fine. You guys don’t want to finish inside, I’ll do it myself.” From there, Darius makes a great play to grab his own miss and put it back (among three Gophers, by the way). He continued to force the issue in the paint, consistently taking Blake Hoffarber off the dribble and establishing himself inside. It was clear that John Beilein wanted to move away from relying on 3-pointers as much as Michigan did in the first half, and Darius executed the game plan to get the ball inside. He has been so good all year at getting buckets in the paint and showed off that ability with these plays.

3) Zack Novak rebounds in traffic

This is why Zack Novak plays 35 minutes per game. We are about to enter a series of plays here in 5 Key Plays that could be termed “The Novak Zone.” Zack was the game’s most important player late in this game, and rebounds like this one were a big reason why. Teams like Minnesota provide an especially tough challenge to the undersized forward. Minnesota is an especially long and athletic Big Ten team and Zack gets to spend all game fighting with the bigs down low for rebounds and entry passes and everything else. This rebound was just an especially awesome example of how the guy fights and fights all game long and doesn’t really care who likes him or doesn’t like him by the end of it. His willingness to do whatever it takes to win (or, as Zack might see it, not lose) is truly inspiring to his teammates. Plays like these are what makes him leader in every sense of the word.

4) Zack Novak’s late 3-pointer

After the stretch of awful shooting Zack has had to endure the past few games, it was really great to see him hit one like this. It was reminiscent of the Michigan State game, where Zack seemed to hit a clutch 3-pointer whenever Michigan needed it. The Wolverines couldn’t have needed this triple more than right then — down one with a minute and a half left in the game and the clock winding down. Darius of course does a nice job of drawing defenders to him when he drives to the paint, though he is just a bit late in recognizing Zack is open on the perimeter. But once Darius does realize it, he gets Zack the ball quickly and Novak fires from NBA range. The shot put Michigan up two in the final 1:39 of the game. This has to be considered the play of the game…

5) Zack’s steal and pass to Darius for the and-1

…Unless this one is. Zack Novak’s play on these consecutive possessions was just phenomenal. The junior nailed an incredibly clutch 3-pointer in the final minutes, then comes back down the court and steals an entry pass to Ralph Sampson III who, by the way, is about seven inches taller. Not only does Zack steal the entry pass, but he immediately recognizes Darius is streaking downcourt unguarded and throws him a Denard Robinson-esque touchdown pass right in the breadbasket. But of course this play wasn’t all about Novak. Darius showed some amazing awareness after he received the pass to slow down and wait for the inevitable contact, which he shrugged off while making the layup — and almost more importantly, the free throw. Just an outstanding play by both guys. This bucket came with just under a minute left and pretty much sealed the deal for Michigan. This is a great example of one of those plays Beilein always talks about that you have to make if you want to win on the road in the Big Ten. Michigan has been great this year at making them when they need to and picking up key road victories.

  • the_white_tiger

    Kudos for getting this up so quickly, and as always, excellent work!

    On kind of a tangent, I was reading an MSU board and they were talking about Hardaway. They began to compare him to Keith Appling, and the consensus there is that they’d take Appling over Hardaway in a heartbeat.

    • Kenny

      they’d take Nix over Morgan in a heartbeat too.

    • Mith

      Well I haven’t watched much of MSU, but Appling seems like a fine player. I’m quite content to have THJr though.

  • Chris in NC

    Man, I could watch those 2 Novack plays over and over all day. Between the 2 I couldn’t pick which was better… Just wonderful.

  • skitchbeatz

    Appling over Hardaway? HAH!

  • Kenny

    It is hard no to like what Novak has done for this team. Even when he missed his last 20 shots, nobody was calling reducing his minutes. We will missed him dearly when he is gone.

  • Brian W

    Hardaway was amazing to watch on Saturday. His shot is a thing of beauty. Looks a lot like Glen Rice when he shoots it. If Tim continues his hot shooting, I’m sure he’ll get more comparisons to Glen in the future.

    Props to the U-M Women’s team, who earned the #3 seed in the Big Ten Tournament with a dramatic win over Illinois today.

  • Bishopeight

    Makes some sense considering that Appling has gone off for 25-30 points so many times this year????

    • KRN

      Hey now, he’s had some big games. It takes real skill to score in double figures against quality teams like Eastern Michigan, Bowling Green, Oakland, and Northwestern. If he tries really hard, next year he might actually score 20 in a game. He could even challenge for 1st Team All Michigan State next year.

    • Jeff

      Can’t really use their old standby excuse that there’s too much competition at MSU for him to have the opportunity yet. He’s getting lots of minutes and tons of opportunities. He’s just not nearly as far along as Hardaway.

  • um basketball fan

    “The Wolverines have been quietly (OK, not quietly, because Michigan fans e-mail me more than any non-BYU fan base in the nation) making a late-season push for at-large consideration, and this win will only boost that case. In fact, the Wolverines are probably, if only barely, in the tournament right now.”

    -Eamonn Brennan

    • um basketball fan

      And thank you Dylan for these posts. No access to BTN = these key plays are a lot more enjoyable to watch instead of read.

    • jmblue

      I love that our fans are making the e-push for recognition.

  • Mattski
    • Jeff

      This quote from Summers sounded awfully close to blaming the coach.

      “I know those guys aren’t 20 points better than us,” he said of Purdue. “But we’ve tried to fix the ‘D,’ we’ve tried to fix the offense, fix the energy. Maybe it’s something else. It’s not my place to say certain things, but we’ve tried to fix everything with us.”

    • chitownblue

      Durrell Summers hasn’t hit more than 40% of his shots in more than a month. He routinely didn’t get back on D in the second half today, and showed no desire to guard Moore once the lead got to double digits. He mopes, he’s given up going to the hoop – he’s the biggest dog in the conference.

      And HE’S calling people out?

      • gpsimms

        it’s pretty hilarious. my favorite ‘rell moment of the year is when he got himself a breakaway against osu and he decided he’d show his superior athleticism by doing a 180 backwards dunk. he converted the shot, but most definitely did not stick the landing. you could hear the crowd laugh at him as he landed on his butt.

        he reminds me of that kid who can’t get anything right, but has been told he’s amazing for so long that it doesn’t even occur to him what a fck up he is.

        • gpsimms

          now i’m suddenly not sure it was osu. it was def a road game, because he got laughed at.

          • Kuws

            It was at Minnesota. I believe his tumble led to a Gopher shot in transition too, though I don’t remember if they made it. It was mind boggling that he didn’t take the easy 2 especially in a close, critical game and ESPECIALLY given the month long funk he’s been in. But hell, if I could do that type of dunk and I had the open court… Real problem may be is that this is one of the few instances he displayed his gifted athleticism…

  • KAB

    Dylan,do you feel like THJ should be in the conv.for BT freshmen of the year.I know Sullinger has been huge,but come on..

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      He’s been great but no he shouldn’t be in the conversation to win it over Sully. Sully is a player of the year candidate, it is what it is. In any other year, like last year, he’d be right in the conversation.

      • KRN

        Speaking of freshmen, who are your picks for Big Ten All-Freshman Team Dylan? Is Morgan a lock in addition to Hardaway?

        • Dylan Burkhardt

          Interesting question. I think Sullinger, Hardaway, Craft and Masabe are locks. Morgan should have a chance and is maybe battling against Jereme Richmond? We’ll see.

      • Speaks to the talent level in the Big Ten. Without Sullinger in the conversation, Craft, Mbakwe, Basabe and THJr would (should) all be considered.

        • the_white_tiger

          Trevor Mbakwe is a Junior (per ESPN). This is his first year at Minnesota though.

          All B1G freshmen:

          G – Aaron Craft
          G – Tim Hardaway, Jr.
          F – Melsahn Basabe
          F – Jordan Morgan
          F – Jared Sullinger

    • Tweeter

      I do. At least in the conversation, but it would be a short conversation. Sullinger has the numbers and the number one ranked team, i think he wins it fairly easily. However, POY I think has to go to either Juwan Johnson or Jordan Taylor.

      AS far as Hardaway v. Appling. I loved Appling as a high school player, but he has shown very little at this level and its not like he has not gotten ample opportunity to prove himself. I don’t think there is much of a comparison right now between the two.

      • Beast1530

        Jared Sullinger could win Big 10 Freshman of the year and Big 10 POY. His numbers back him up.

  • Brian W

    Michigan State’s season is taking on a Detroit Pistons feel, except Joe D. can’t cut someone and let them go to Iowa State. I’d love to send Rip Hamilton packing to the cornfields of Iowa, though.

    • Beast1530

      Joe D tried to trade away Rip Hamilton to the Cavs but Rip refused the trade. The irony is the Cavs was going to buy him out once they get Rip in a trade. Rip could’ve gone to the title contenders (the Bulls, Celtics were reportedly very interested in Rip).

  • Zack Novak for president.

  • Tweeter

    Is this a shot at Izzo? Sure seems that way to me: “But we’ve tried to fix the ‘D,’ we’ve tried to fix the offense, fix the energy. Maybe it’s something else. It’s not my place to say certain things, but we’ve tried to fix everything with us.”

    From The Detroit News:’s-Durrell-Summers#ixzz1FDR2TZbH

    • Tweeter

      oops meant as reply to mattski

    • Jeff

      Posted the same thing above. I sure think it was.

    • Mattski

      Definitely sounds like it. That’s a team that has lost faith in its coach and each other. I don’t expect them to lie down next week, but

  • gpsimms

    darius seems like a good kid. (the journey)

  • davis104

    Michigan State is 2-8 in true road games this year (Oakland does not count) with the two being a game they barely survived at Northwestern and Minnesota without Al Nolen in which Minnesota blew a 7 point lead with 3 minutes to go.
    Lost by 14 to Syracuse
    Lost by 5 to Duke
    Lost by 4 at Penn State
    Lost by 9 to Illinois
    Lost by 10 to Purdue
    Lost by 20! to Iowa
    Lost by 26 to Wisconsin
    Lost by 10 to OSU

    Sure the name on the front of the jersey says Michigan State, but I’m feeling good about this game.

  • steve

    Bracketology 101 also has us in their last 4 in… playing a play-in game against Colorado… all i can say is that would be awesome to play a mediocre Colorado team….

    • Cyrus Ernesto “Ernie” Zirakzadeh

      I periodically visit my brother in Boulder and watch the local teams. Even though Colorado has a new coach, it is better than people often assume. This year, Colorado has some tough role players who, like Stu and Zack, can suddenly get hot when shooting and who almost always do the unsung dirty work (tough picks, rebounding, etc.).

  • grandchamp

    If Max Bielfeldt doesn’t commit to Illinois tomorrow then he is ours for the taking if we want him as he was on an official visit there this weekend. I read an article last week somewhere saying he thinks he has a better chance of contributing early at Michigan then at Illinois but he is still waiting on us to pull the trigger on him on Nance.

  • Kainkitizen

    Novak’s 3-pointer is the play of the game because it turned the score and the rest of the game in our favor. Novak jumped straight up with great balance without a frontal or sideways kickout of his legs for his spectacular 3pt jumpshot. He needs to shoot about 500 of those everyday this coming summer. Excellent choices Dylan.

  • Brian W

    Sam Webb mentioned that Max Bielfeldt was going to visit Michigan again during his recruiting round-up this morning. I don’t have a Gobluewolverine account, but there’s an article about him there this morning.

  • MaizeNBlueJ

    Minnesota torrent is up at

  • KAB

    Crashing The Dance has us as the second team out but Penn St in???

    • Mith

      Well I think they are committed to some kind of statistical model, I don’t know how much they adjust it. I just can’t see PSU beating us out if we are both .500 in the conference. A 10-8 PSU might get the nod, though.

  • paul r

    Big question for Saturdauy What shoes do they wear with the Maize Uniforms? will it be black w/black socks OR ythe Maize and Blue ones worn @ Minn?? I would like to see the Maize and Blue shoes of which I do not think we have seen at home yet??

    • steve

      i actually think they wore them against oakland and purdue but i could be mistaken…

      • paul r

        you are correct. they did wear the Maize and blue shoes vs.Oakland. Looked great. after looking back, they wore black shoes vs. Purdue.

    • Chris

      Izzo despises the black socks. You can be sure they will be wearing them.

  • rlc

    Question for those who watched the whole game – when did Minnesota switch out of the 2-3 zone? Hardaway’s early bombs were just what we were hoping for when facing a tall team playing a zone. Morris’s drives against Hoffarber were the way to attack the Gophers’ man-to-man D. I’m just wondering if it took us 10 minutes of not scoring to recognize that they had switched defenses…