Game 4: Michigan vs. Memphis Recap

Dylan Burkhardt


John Beilein described today’s game as a measuring stick and his team answered the challenge. Michigan is clearly ready for its next test. A Wolverine offense that lacked direction in early season play was suddenly operating efficiently in the Lahaina Civic Center and the Michigan defense which gave up abundant open looks to Western Illinois stifled the Memphis attack. The game was played at a pace suitable for Memphis, 70 possessions, but the result went with the Wolverines, 73-61.

The Michigan offense was able to exploit Memphis’ over aggression and lack of discipline for the entire 40 minutes. Jimmy Dykes noted that Josh Pastner told him before the game that Michigan “couldn’t make enough twos to beat Memphis” but that proved to be a fatal miscalculation. The Wolverines welcomed the Memphis pressure and found an abundance of easy looks, backdoor cuts and driving lanes that were absent in early season games. Michigan attempted 60% of its shots inside the arc and made an astounding 21 of 30 two points attempts (70%). The Wolverines still weren’t perfect as they struggled shooting the ball from the perimeter (30% 3pfg) and turned it over too often in the first half but the result was still a season best 1.11 point per possession output.

As crisp as the Michigan offense looked, defense carried the day for the Wolverines. Memphis had it’s fair share of blow-bys and easy looks but Michigan’s team defense – in both man and zone – was tremendous. The Tigers scored just .88 points per possession with a meager 37 percent effective field goal percentage. It wasn’t the 1-3-1 zone but the 2-3 zone that stifled Memphis as Michigan dared the Tigers to shoot threes and they obliged, making 4 of 21 long range attempts. Not that Memphis was much better inside, making 42% of its twos and having six shots blocked. Michigan’s defensive rebounding performance was impressive as anything as U-M rebounded 85% of the Tigers’ misses on the game (StatSheet lists a still impressive 76%, due to team/OOB rebounds).

Michigan did very well in the superlative statistical categories. The Wolverines got 19 points from the bench and also outscored Memphis in transition (9-8) and in the paint (28-21). 56% of Michigan’s made field goals were assisted, a clear sign that the offense was effective and Michigan got to the line often, making a slightly improved 72% of its freebies. Michigan’s six blocked shots also stood out as Michigan has only blocked six or more shots in a game twice over the last three seasons. The Wolverine big men – Smotrycz, Horford and Morgan – deserve significant credit after receiving the majority of the criticism in Michigan’s first three games.

It’s just one game but it was the sort of performance that makes it a lot easier to look ahead on the schedule with confidence. The bad taste of mediocre games versus cupcakes at home is gone and Michigan looks every bit like the team that we expected to see. Memphis probably isn’t the eighth best team in the country but the Tigers are going to win a lot of games in C-USA this season and this will be a quality neutral site RPI victory. Now it’s a short turnaround with the next game taking place at 7 p.m. tomorrow evening against the winner of the Duke-Tennesse game Duke on ESPN. A full preview of that game will be coming shortly.

Player Bullets:

  • Trey Burke: It was just his fourth college game and Trey Burke made a statement. The freshman point guard wasn’t perfect but he controlled the game and made plays: scoring 14 points on 6 of 10 shooting and handing out four assists. He’s a playmaker and was extremely effective attacking the basket and in the mid-range. His block of Joe Jackson at the end of the half was impressive stuff and, yes, he clearly outplayed Jackson.
  • Tim Hardaway Jr.: Hardaway scored 21 points on 6 of 12 shooting, grabbed seven defensive rebounds and handed out five assists. He turned the ball over three times and tried to force the issue a bit but he very quietly carried the Michigan offense. Hardaway continued to excel inside the arc, making nine of 10 free throws and six of nine twos. He was active off all sorts of cuts and back doors and also had some very nice passes including a beautiful pick and roll look to Horford.
  • Evan Smotrycz: He had three frustrating turnovers but quietly had an impressive game: 7 points on 3 of 5 (1-1 3pt) shooting, eight rebounds (a career high), an assist and a block. The dagger three was impressive but I was more impressed with his aggression on both ends: attacking the basket and on the defensive glass.
  • Stu Douglass: No, he’s not a point guard. Yes, he took some absolutely terrible shots. But yes, Michigan needs Stu Douglass on the floor for long stretches. He’s the Wolverines more disciplined perimeter defender, hit two threes (2-7 shooting overall), grabbed four rebounds and handed out three assists to one turnover. From the assist on the Smotrycz three late to a couple big threes when the game was tight in the first half, Douglass played well enough overall to outweigh some of his questionable three point attempts.
  • Zack Novak: Novak didn’t have a huge influence on the game but he did score eight points including a pair of huge threes. He turned it over just once and there’s no denying that he’s a leader on the floor – even in the halftime scrum when he came to Evan Smotrycz’s defense.
  • Jon Horford: Morgan was shelved with foul trouble throughout and Horford stepped up and made some big plays, grabbing six rebounds, blocking four shots and scoring four points in 12 minutes. He battled around the basket, made hustle plays and should continue to develop into Michigan’s best post defender.
  • Jordan Morgan: He was productive when he was on the floor but foul trouble really prevented him from having a chance. The result was four points and one rebound in 11 minutes. The production that Michigan got out of Smotrycz and Horford at the five position with Morgan on the bench was a dramatic improvement over a season ago.
  • Colton Christian: Eso Akunne had the big shift off the bench in the second half but it was Christian who produced in the second. In one short stint he scored on a back door layup, took a charge and grabbed an offensive rebound.
  • Matt Vogrich: He had a nice drive to the basket but Michigan needs him to hit open three point looks off the bench. He hasn’t been consistent this season and missed both three point attempts today.
  • Eso Akunne: John Beilein promised to use his bench and he was true to his word. Eso Akunne didn’t turn the ball over, managed the game and hit a huge three in the second half. That’s the way to earn a coach’s trust and a sign that it just might be your day.
  • South Florida Maize Rage

    A lot of credit for this win goes to Coach B. He CLEARLY outcoached Pastner tonight. He knew Memphis a lot better than Pastner knew the Wolverines. Michigan is so mature defensively. Really fun to watch .

  • Champswest

    Based on our first 3 games, I didn’t give us much of a chance in this game.  However, this was by far UM’s best effort.  They looked more like March 2011 and give me renewed hope for this season.
    Burke’s height did not seem to be a negative today, so that was very incouraging.

  • Jimmy

    Trey Burke looked great.  He’ll have his ups and downs this season but I’m certain he’s going to be able to get the job done overall.  Really loved watching this game.  Great effort, good execution.

  • ForeverBlue

    Man I was happy to see the offense today, especially Hardaway coming out strong.  Really though there wasn’t a single guy who didn’t make a contribution and there wasn’t a single guy who I thought played out of their mind.  That bodes well for the future.   

  • CanuckGoBlue

    Somebody mentioned the lack of respect Michigan got on the halftime show today. They utterly outclassed a Top 10 team, and the ESPN crew had nary a mention of their potential to contend for the Big Ten title.

    It’s pathetic the lack of respect Beilein gets in the industry as well. Just because the guy doesn’t have the “pedigree” of some of the big names in the coaching ranks, doesn’t mean he’s not one of the best there is. No disrespect to Pastner, but just because he was an assistant under Olsen and Calipari doesn’t mean the guy is going to do big things.

  • The Yooper

    Any reason for Brundidge not getting any minutes? Eso, Colton, and even McLimans played while he didn’t see the court once. Wondering if it’s an injury, disagreement with a coach, or he’s simply just not ready?

    • gpsimms

      The last game he got minutes, he looked pretty lost offensively.  He’s got talent, and has looked strong going to the bucket, but I just don’t think he’s ready yet.  Will be interesting to see if he readshirts, with Eso playing competently in a backup big-guard roll.

      • Guest

        JB’s offense is difficult to learn especially in your first year as a player. Give it time until he finally learns the system.  Plus, he’s behind Stu, Novak, Burke, THJ, Eso, Vogrich in PG/SG/SF positions.

  • gpsimms

    I think this recap is a little rough on Stu.  He took a few bad threes, but still shot 2/6 from deep, better than the team as a whole.

    Also, I just think Stu has become a little more of a playmaker this year.  His rebound in traffic and full court heave to Trey was a big time play.  When the shot clock is running low, the team seems to look to him to make something happen, a la Darius last year.  While he’s def not Darius, it’s not as ugly as I feared it would be before the year.  A few times he got someone open on the perimeter by dribbling in the lane.

    He looks faster and stronger on the ball to me this year.  I really like what he’s doing right now.

    • Meant to come off positive on Stu for the most part but he took two threes that he just shouldn’t have attempted. I thought he passed, rebounded and defended very well though. 

      • gpsimms

         Yeah, ok.  Those two were terrible ideas.  No argument from me, there.

  • drew

    When JB gets to use his system against a team that lacks direction (like Memphis, or a Tennessee) he just destroys them.  I’ll admit that after the horrible loss on the road to Indiana last year I was fed up with the way things were trending, but Beilein has been embarrassing teams lately, and a lot of times it’s with less talent. Dude can coach.

  • Geemo48

    I still don’t understand why Brundidge isn’t getting playing time. Akunne is dynamic in any way, he just doesn’t screw up. Brundidge at least gives you a scoring option when your giving the starters a rest.

    • I would say it has a lot to do with trusting Akunne. Knowing the offense and making the right rotations counts more than the potential to maybe get to the free throw line. Brundidge has practiced for a month and players develop at different rates. I would say it’s a trust thing right now and that Eso is outplaying him in practice.

  • GregGoBlue

    Jon Horford pulled down some tough boards today and 4 (!!!) blocks in limited minutes. I think he’s our most improved player, hands down. 

    • MGoTweeter

      definitely his best game this season.  Memphis certainly helped out in that they never really tried to go inside and attack our post defense, which has been a major weakness so far this year.  Duke is going to provide a much tougher test for our bigs. Hopefully there is some confidence that carries over for Horford because UM is going to need him big time tomorrow.

      • Bluebufoon

        Dukes bigs aren’t dominant. Mason Plumlee might try to back us down in the post but a weakside double team will stop that and Miles Plumlee is more rebounder than scorer– by the way I like them both but as long as we don’t foul them they aren’t going to kill us on the block. Then Ryan Kelly prefers the perimeter to going down low. Duke is a good match-up for us if we still have our legs. Evan Smotrycz has to go toe to toe with Mason Plumlee.

        • gpsimms

          i thought mason plumlee looked pretty tough last night.  it will be interesting to see.  I think he’s a tough matchup.  kind of fast for morgan, kind of strong for smot….

  • Kyeblue

    Beilein should never be estimated. The zone defense at the end of the first half decides th game. Not only Memphis had no clue how o deal with it, their frustration went uncontrolled and never back in the game again. Beilein also sent 6 off the bench, all for real minutes. Horford probably had his best college game, very solid on defense and active on offense. McLimans actually looked quite good on the zone defense. Christian looked like that he deserves more minutes. Eso is not a game changer but he is strong and poised to not turn he ball over. Vogrich missed a couple of threes but made a layup he would’ve not made and took a charge on the defensive end, overall solid performance.

  • mitch

    I really dont get Vogrich.  He was rated a top shooter coming out of high school, but it just hasn’t translated.  His 3’s aren’t even close.

  • Jeremy S

    The team, the team, the team!  This was an absolutely outstanding win.  When Michigan is motivated, they play great as a team and are just outstanding on both offense and defense.  All of the players are just so unselfish.  That game was just a complete pleasure to watch.  I couldn’t stop smiling.

    The recap was also outstanding.  The key statement in my mind was Memphis’ “lack of discipline for the entire 40 minutes”. Michigan stayed motivated and disciplined the entire game.