Five Key Plays: Michigan vs. Memphis


1. Trey Burke’s block to end the first half

With Michigan on a 10-0 run, Memphis was in serious need of a bucket before the end of the half. With 25 seconds remaining, Memphis is content to let the clock wind down all the way to four seconds. But for Michigan, the most important moment of this play came with 11 seconds to go. As Wesley Witherspoon prepares to screen Douglass, who’s guarding Joe Jackson with the ball, Trey Burke alerts Evan Smotrycz to switch. Because of this heads up play, when Witherspoon does set the pick Burke is able to switch onto Jackson rather than Smotrycz. You can bet John Beilein knew this, and that’s exactly the way he had told Michigan to play the high ball screen in practice and in the huddle (he also points the switch out during the play). Now, after the screen, Burke quickly picks up Jackson with time winding down and finishes the play with a beautiful block to end the second half and preserve Michigan’s momentum.

Things got a little testy after the play as well when Zack Novak confronts Will Barton after Barton shoves Evan Smtorycz in the back. Novak and Barton received technical fouls and although Novak eventually fouled out it’s no surprise and tough to complain with the three time Michigan captain showing a little emotion in backing up his teammate.

2. Eso Akunne’s second half 3-pointer

Coming into this game, John Beilein knew Memphis was fast. He knew of the pace they’d want to play and that at times, Michigan would have to run with them. He also knew that the Wolverines have to play three games in three days. When you run with Memphis, chances are you’re going to get tired. Beilein vowed to play his bench and did, playing 11 players — 10 of which scored. The bench combined to score 19 points and three of those points came from junior preferred walk-on Eso Akunne. Eso hit this huge three to ignite the crowd and give Michigan a 12 point lead with just over 12 minutes to play. It was a big play for Michigan but especially Akunne, who has slowly earned more playing time and appears to have jumped Carlton Brundidge on the depth chart. John Beilein specifically pointed out Eso’s shot and hard work after the game:

We stopped and embraced the moment for a minute when Eso hit that shot. That young man has worked his tail off so hard, all summer long. He’s just worked hard. Rather than go right in the huddle, I told the assistant coaches, ‘let’s just think about what just happened.’

Plays like this and solid production from Colton Christian, Jon Horford and even Blake McLimans are the sort of plays you need during a three day tournament. The bench gave Michigan a lift today and is almost certain to be counted upon during the next two games as Michigan’s legs tire.

3. Tim Hardaway’s easy bucket after Trey Burke’s “assist” in transition

I’m still not exactly sure how this happened, but somehow it ended up as two points for Michigan. If Eso Akunne hitting a big three wasn’t a sign that this was Michigan’s night, this bucket certainly was. Trey Burke blows by one Memphis defender and uses a beautiful spin move to get by another but he’s clearly out of control and over penetrates. A Tiger defender reaches in from behind and knocks the ball out of his hands, through the legs of another defender and directly into Tim Hardaway Jr.’s hands. Hardaway scoops it up for the easy basket, two of his 21 points on the day.

Overall, Burke did a great job of controlling the game and playing under control but there’s a fine line between playing in control and doing too much. This is one of those instances where Burke over penetrated but was bailed out by a bit of fate.

4. Trey Burke’s coast to coast bucket breaks the Memphis press

Toward the end of the second half, the Memphis full court press was furious at times. Michigan struggled to get the ball over half court and had to call a couple timeouts because of it. But here, with five minutes left and Memphis threatening down nine, Trey Burke takes matters into his own hands. He blows past Joe Jackson and every other Memphis defender in about seven seconds, taking the ball coast-to-coast for an easy two. With Darius Morris gone, Burke is one of the few players with the quickness and dribbling ability to break opposing presses and make plays on his own. While Burke got into trouble in the play before by over penetrating, he makes a great read on this play realizing that he can get all the way to the basket for an easy lay up.

5. Evan Smotrycz’s 3-pointer all but seals the game for Michigan

Memphis did a great job attempting to fight and claw its way back into the game but this shot from Evan Smotrycz was the dagger. Michigan does a great job of running down the shot clock and still managing to get a quality look. Stu Douglass dribbles probingly across the court to the wing, eventually weaving his way into the paint, drawing the attention of two additional Memphis defenders and finding Smotrycz open for a triple. Smotrycz doesn’t hesitate and calmly drains his only three of the game, giving Michigan a 70-56 advantage with just over three minutes remaining, effectively eliminating any chance of a Memphis comeback.

  • A2JD

    Great clips.

    Maybe it’s just his size, speed and jersey number (at Tech) but Burke is starting to remind me of former Georgia Tech/Indiana Pacer PG Travis Best.

    • Maybe it’s the initials! But yeah, this guy is a huge talent. Glad we got him.

  • Peterklima2003

    Reading your description of Play #1, I thought it was pretty amazing a true freshman point guard made such a “heads up” play that he told Smotrycz to switch.  You seem to imply he learned it in practice.

    But, in watching the play, it seems it was Beilein yelling for the change from the bench. Beilein not only told them to practice it, but he also told them to switch during the play. 

    Nice play by Burke with the block and it is great he follows following orders so well.

    I think that the small crowd at Maui is the reason why Duke (and possibly Michigan) will do so well.  Great coaches can basically call out plays and defenses from the sideline themselves and the players will be able hear and respond.  That is not easy to do in a B10 road game (and maybe why UM struggles at Indiana?)  (Also, shooting seems to be easier in a small environment.)

    • That’s a great point, Beilein definitely calls for the switch. Added a quick tidbit about that into the post.

      • Peterklima2003

        Still great coaching and a great play by Burke.

        I can still hardly believe that the team from the first 3 games was the same team as in the Memphis game.

    • Jeremy S

      Nice job on spotting that.  Great analysis.

  • Mattski

    A stellar effort on many fronts. I am excited that so many players contributed. Suddenly, the triumvirate of Smotrycz, Horford, and Morgan down below looks like it could be a serious strength. Happy for both Akunne and Christian, both of whom seem to make real contributions every time in. We’ll be so much better off if Hardaway, who is still only a sophomore and learning, doesn’t have to carry the team every night. Hope, also, that people will climb off Stu’s back. You have to watch film, maybe, to see all his contributions, but they’re solid, as in the play to Smotrycz above. 

    In retrospect, Novak’s tussle with Barton was important. A chippy Barton shoves several players on the way out, and they are inclined to ignore him; Novak stands up to him. Had we been losing, the psychology might have been different. As it is, I think Michigan went off knowing that they had this game if they stuck to their guns. 

    Smotrycz’s hand in also helps set up Burke’s block by causing Jackson to swerve. 

  • stuttgarter hofbräu

    This game proves three things: 1. JB can afford to pick up the pace once in a while, 2. We play better in maize and should retire the white and 3. We will beat Wisconsin this year.  

    • MGoTweeter

      how does beating Memphis prove that UM will beat Wisconsin?

      • gpsimms

        well because stylistically, wisconsin is basically the same team as memphis.

  • Jeremy S

    Who is Eso Akunne?  And how do you say his name?  There is nothing on him in the player’s bio section?  I hadn’t heard of him before last night.

    • MGoTweeter

      this is helpful…

      pronunciation and bio there

    • D9ImFine

      Eso is from Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard High School.  He was all-state a Dream Selection in his senior year and finalist for Michigans Mr. Basketball.  He Scored over 2000 points in high school.  He received a scholarship shortly after he committed to walk-on at UofM and was a scholarship player his first year.  He was inelgible for the second semester of his freshman year because of grades.  He then lost his scholarship and has been fighting to become a factor once again.  His scoring ability has never been questioned if you were to ask any of the UofM coaches right now they would say Eso may be one of the most talented scorers they have but has had issues with turnovers and defending his postion.  We all are pulling for him!!! Here is some High School Clips

      • Jeremy S

        Thanks.  Did you see the smile on his face after he hit that three?  It doesn’t show in the video above, but he was so happy.  He had a perma-grin.

    • Kenny
  • Kenny

    Dylan, I believe that Eso is listed as a junior and he didn’t redshirt his freshmen year. 

    I think that people who do not follow this program closely do not understand why michigan bench went wild when Eso hit the three. Eso slowly become an asset of the team and will be even more important next year as a senior. I hope that he will also take Carlton under his wing. 

    Although it is hard to put it as a key play, the zone in the latter part of the first half is the game changer. We led by the 9 points but let Memphis took at 4 p lead, then the zone worked and we are back to 6 pt lead before the half. More importantly, it frustrated memphis player and shook their confidence. 

    • rlcBlue

      I was impressed that even with Douglass in the game, they had Eso bringing the ball up the court during the first half. Granted, Memphis wasn’t pressing, but it showed some trust. I still think that one of the keys of the game was that we didn’t lose any ground when Eso, Christian, and McLimans were in the game together. Memphis only got 4 minutes from players outside their eight man rotation, with only a TO, a missed shot, and a defensive rebound to show for it; Michigan got 14 minutes, 5 points on 2 shots, 3 rebounds, and no turnovers.

      I noticed yesterday that on MGoBlue McLimans is also listed as a junior – I was absolutely certain that he had redshirted in his freshman year. I wonder if his status actually changed, or if it’s an error on their site.

  • Quaint06

    Does anyone have an inside scoop on why Brundidge is behind Akunne in the rotation slash not playing at all? Does it come from his practice performance? I did see the quote from Beilein that Akunne has worked really hard.

    • John

      Brundidge is a freshman. It sometimes takes a while for them to get adjusted to the college game. This is Akunne’s third year so he knows the system. Brundidge will be great, I’m sure he just needs a little time to adjust.