Five Key Plays: Michigan vs. Duke

Dylan Burkhardt

1. Five turnovers and two missed shots on first five possessions

I don’t know if Michigan was intimidated, too fired up or just caught up in the moment but its first five possessions of the game were frustrating and uninspired. Sloppy turnovers, air balls, a lack of offensive flow and flat out poor play defined this stretch. Michigan fell behind 9-0 early and looked more like a team in Cameron Indoor than the Lahaina Civic Center. This game looked very much like it would be a Duke blowout early on. As bad as the opening possessions were, Michigan was able to regroup with a run of its own and crawl back to 11-9. This opening stretch still put the Wolverines, who were never able to regain any real sort of offensive efficiency in the first half, into a situation where they were playing from behind for 40 minutes. The game would have changed had Michigan gotten off to a better start but perhaps with a more even start one of the Wolverines second half runs could have much them into the lead.

2. Michigan scores on first six possessions of second half

We always emphasize the starts and finishes of halves in Five Key Plays and both of these first two sequences are a great example of why. Michigan came out with purpose and energy and made it clear that this was going to be a game for the final 20 minutes. First it was mini 4-0 run that led to an immediate Duke timeout. The first basket was a great pick-and-roll assist from Burke to Morgan, a clear sign that the duo is developing a nice chemistry. The second basket is a strong Smotrycz drive, crossover and finish, a move that Michigan needs to see more of if Smotrycz is going to become a consistent scorer this season. The rest of the run is spearheaded by freshman point guard Trey Burke – another (even better) screen and roll assist to Morgan, a strong take to the bucket, a three point assist to Hardaway in transition and a drive and kick to Evan Smotrycz who makes another strong drive to the basket for the and-one. This is just great offense from Michigan and a great sign individually for Burke (especially), Smotrycz and Morgan.

3. Novak missed three, Duke put-back, Burke missed layup to Seth Curry three

Michigan had done an admirable job to cut the halftime deficit from 12 points to six points in less than 10 minutes but this stretch really hampered Michigan’s comeback chances. First, Novak has a great three point look in transition with the chance to cut the deficit to just three points and catches front rim. On the ensuing defensive position, Burke gets screened and the defensive rotation leaves him forced to box out Miles Plumlee and the Duke lead grows to eight after an easy put-back. Burke attempts to take matters into his own hands on the next possession, forcing a driving attempt and ending up on the ground after a circus shot. Duke pushes the ball a bit and Burke is left lagging behind the play as Seth Curry drifts open for a wide open three pointer. In a flash, the Duke lead has gone from potentially three points to 11. Michigan would make runs later in the game but this stretch really ended the Wolverines early second half push. And as great as Trey Burke was last night – he was the main reason Michigan was able to make this a game in the second half – this is a reminder that he’s still only played five collegiate games.

4. Novak’s offensive rebound with 2:45 to play

Michigan was down 10 with under three minutes to play and easily could have folded as Tim Hardaway Jr.’s three point attempt rimmed away but Zack Novak made what can only be described as a typical Novak play. Novak is the only U-M player crashing the glass and swoops in from the opposite wing to wrestle away a near-side rebound from in between three Duke players. After a quick timeout, Michigan scores two points on the free possession thanks to a Stu Douglass jump shot. The Wolverines didn’t come all the way back after Novak’s rebound but they did manage to cut the deficit to six points in two different instances after that play. Plays like this are why it’s hard for John Belein to take Novak off of the floor (he played 39 minutes in this one) and are almost certain to pay dividends down the road and make a difference between winning and losing in a close game or two.

5. Novak’s intentional foul with 29 seconds remaining

Of course it’s Novak that chases down a streaking Ryan Kelly and you know there’s not a strand of DNA in Zack that is going to allow Kelly to score an easy layup. However, this is pretty much a by-the-book intentional foul. To his credit, Novak goes for the ball with his right hand first but once you wrap the other hand around and grab a player on a break away you are always going to be called for an intentional foul. This was also the play that essentially ended Michigan’s tough-to-die comeback hopes.

  • umnyc

    After looking at #2, its just painfully clear how important Smot is to this team. Coach has to figure out a way to get him to calm down and let the game come to him. He’s too talented to only be on the floor for only 10 mins.

    • Indiana_Matt

      Smot could be very good. I hope he makes it happen.

  • Champswest

    Great recap, Dylan.  Things I have learned from the last 2 games: (1) We will be fine with Burke at the point (and yes, he can get into the paint), (2) We could really use Smotrycz to be a steady 10-14 points a night, not 18 one game and 4 the next, (3) Horford will contribute this year and (4) although we may not be a top team yet, we can compete with anyone (and we could become a top team by year’s end).

    Now, if we could just get shots to start falling for Vogrich.

  • mikey_mac

    Glad the Novak missed 3 in transition was noted. That miss and the ensuing Duke points really felt like the biggest moment of the game to me.
    Also, notice in play 5 how badly Vogrich over-commits to the direction of the play on the rebound and is immediately in no position to play defense on the long outlet, even though he was by far the furthest out from the hoop as the ball caromed off the rim. I have to question his court awareness on that play …

    • rlcBlue

      The Kelly breakaway was on an inbounds play after a made basket.

  • Rdlwolverine

    I thought a key play came in the first half when a Duke player (one of the Plumlees?) made a basket and was fouled, missed the FT but Duke rebounded and hit a 3 for a 5-point possession.  It was the second time Duke rebounded a missed FT and converted in the first half.


      AGREED….  Happened twice. Have to rebound on FREE THROWS!!!