Game 6: Michigan vs. UCLA Recap

Dylan Burkhardt

It wasn’t always pretty, and Michigan allowed UCLA to hang around for a bit too long, but in the end the Wolverines took care of business and knocked off the UCLA Bruins convincingly by a score of 79-63. The win moved Michigan to 5-1 overall (2-1 in Maui) and secured a third place finish in the 2011 Maui Invitational. The story for John Beilein’s club in this game was on the offensive side of the ball where the Wolverine offense showed significant improvement for the sixth consecutive game.

Michigan’s offense was nearly flawless, scoring an impressive 1.29 points per possession. The most encouraging aspect of the Wolverine’s offensive dominance was success in areas other than shooting. This wasn’t just Michigan hitting a barrage of three point shots, this was systematic destruction of a dysfunctional Bruin defense. Michigan did shoot the ball extremely well – 67% on twos and 50% on threes for a 69% effective field goal percentage – but the Wolverines attempted attempted an out of character 70 percent of their field goals from inside the arc. Michigan also got to the free throw line more than we’ve seen in the past but more importantly dominated the offensive glass, grabbing 43% of its missed shots. The Achilles’ heel of the Michigan offense was also a deviation from the norm with U-M struggling to hold onto the basketball and turning it over on 23% of its possessions.

The Michigan defense wasn’t nearly so perfect, allowing UCLA to reach a season best per possession scoring output (versus D-I opponents) of 1.00 point per possession. Luckily, UCLA was content to bail Michigan’s defense out by attempting threes – 4 of 17 from three point range – but UCLA did make half of its twos. Michigan’s defensive rebounding also left something to be desired as the Bruins grabbed 36% of their misses on the night. Michigan’s defense might not have been awful on the night but these last two games have raised some legitimate concerns, or areas of focus, for the U-M defense going forward.

It was tough not to question Michigan before these three games in Maui. The Wolverines first three performances were as nondescript as their opponents and many outsiders, both partisan and neutral, expected a long week for John Beilein’s team in Hawaii. It remains to be seen just how good Memphis (probably pretty good), Duke (probably very good) and UCLA (probably terrible) are but Michigan earned the results it needed. After a third place finish in Hawaii, Michigan sits at 5-1 and will travel to Virginia next Tuesday for the Big Ten-ACC Challenge as a team carrying a significant injection of confidence.

imageNov 21, 2011; Lahaina, HI, USA; Michigan Wolverines guard (10) Tim Hardaway Jr. brings the ball upcourt against the Memphis Tigers during the EA Sports Maui Invitational at the Lahaina Civic Center. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

  • Tim Hardaway Jr.: Haradaway is dominating games and doing it without the three point shot. That should be scary for future opponents because that ability wasn’t there a season ago. His slashing ability and cutting has elevated his game and he also continues to appear comfortable shooting mid-range jump shots. His weakness to date this season is the three point shot: 31% on the year and 25% in Maui.
  • Jon Horford: Jon Horford was simply outstanding in the first half scoring 12 points on 5 of 5 shooting and holding his own defensively and on the glass. His baskets came in a multitude of ways: he slipped screens, cut back door, rolled to the basket, scored off a put back and added in a turnaround jumper for good measure. He finished the game with 12 points, seven rebounds, three blocks and two steals in 19 minutes – easily his best game in a Michigan uniform.
  • Evan Smotrycz: Smotrycz was awful in the first half and early in the second half until he finally got a shift at the five position for Michigan. Suddenly he was making plays – a back door pass, a tapped out offensive rebound and a three over Josh Smith stand out – and playing with confidence. His final stat line is a mixed bag: 7 points on 3 of 8 (1-3 3pt) shooting, eight rebounds, four assists, one block and one turnover in 23 minutes. His decision making is frustrating at times but the numbers support the notion that Smotrycz is bringing more to the table this season.
  • Zack Novak: Novak notched a career high 22 points on just eight field goal attempts. He was hitting threes (4-5) but more impressive his twos (3-3). More than any other Michigan player, he’s become comfortable with the pump fake. He hit two long twos after pump faking and dribbling forward and also got to the free throw line after following a pump fake with a dribble drive. Novak hit 9 of 16 three point attempts (56%) over three games in Maui but his 64% two point shooting on the season might be more impressive.
  • Trey Burke: Trey had a quiet game – 5 pts (2-7 fg), 5 assists, 3 rebounds, 3 turnovers – but he still had his fair share of highlights. His spin move in transition was beautiful and for the second game in a row he got his own rebound a made something happen, this time a touch pass to Hardaway for a layup. Two causes for concerns: freshman fouls (especially on jumpshots) and UCLA’s ability to more effectively defend him on the pick and roll tonight (especially late shot clock scenarios).
  • Stu Douglass: Stu shot the ball well (3 of 4, 1-2 3pt) but this was not a good performance. He had a career high five turnovers, most of which were blatant mental mistakes, and zero assists on the night. Douglass has been more aggressive driving the ball this season and has been relatively effective, 8 of 13 on twos. He’s also already made as many free throws this year (3) as he did all of last season.
  • Jordan Morgan: Morgan was fantastic versus Duke but just looked out of it against UCLA. He played just 11 minutes, missed one shot, missed two free throws, grabbed one rebound and turned the ball over once.
  • Eso Akunne: Eso got first half minutes yet again and knocked down a nice pull-up jumpshot in transition.
  • Matt Vogrich: Vogrich took a charge but otherwise did nothing in his eight minutes of playing time. Beilein needs to get Vogrich going as a shooter in the offense over the next month leading up to conference play.
  • Carlton Brundidge: Brundidge also got a couple first half minutes, as well as garbae minutes at the end, but didn’t do much. His notable play in the first half was a travel after over penetrating into the UCLA defense.
  • Nick

    man, this is a lot of travel. it’s like the belgium trip last year. better results, though.

  • Flwolve

    Stu played 1,065 minutes last year and only made 3 FTs.  That has to be some sort of record. 

  • MGoTweeter

    Also Congrats to Tim Hardaway Jr. for making the all Maui team!!/EASportsMauiInv/statuses/139575472110579712

  • GregGoBlue

    Great tournament from Michigan; really got to see the mettle of this team. This is going to be an exciting season for this young Michigan team. 

    A major cause for concern is FT shooting for JMo. He’s 44% on the year, and that’s just abysmal. I know he started off cold last year, but let’s not make a habit of this eh?

  • MGoTweeter

    This was definitely Horford’s best game, but he still had several poor moments (dropped pass, missed free throws, failed box outs, and struggling with Josh Smith).  That said you can see why he started the year over Morgan.  He gives it his all on every play and has a very nice skill set when once he collects himself.  By the time he is a senior he could develop into an extremely good big man.  He still seems to be struggling with his coordination and growing into his body.  Hopefully everything just clicks at some point this year, but more likely we just see flashes throughout the year and a little more consistency next season.  

    • GregGoBlue

      That’s gotta be the first (successful) post move we’ve seen out of Horford all season. More of those, please! 

      The effort is there from Horford, and he gets open on the pick and roll, but that kid hasn’t shown he can handle the pass yet. He gets there on loose balls, but can’t handle it. Can coordination be taught? I say: let’s hope so!

    • SamGoBlue

      Your comment raised an idea in my mind: We should keep a tally of who has a better game every time we play between Horford and JMo. Right now it’s probably heavily shifted toward JMo but I wouldn’t be surprised in the least bit to see Horford continue to improve.

  • jaisdaddy

    good game against a horrid UCLA team… once this team gets to clicking on they are going to be a hand full for alot of teams… good to see  Coach B get Brundidge some PT time in the first half… once he gets use to the offense and his role he’ll be something special… i think people are trying to compare him to Burke and how fast he’s come on… Smotz is really struggling right now hopefully he can get it together soon because they’re going to need him …can’t help but to get excited about next years class playing with these guys…

  • Mattski

    Nice write up. It’s funny–I keep thinking we’ve got a lot of nice pieces. Then I look at the roster and see we really only go 6, 7 effective players deep. Conclusion: Beilein is doing a great job of getting what he can from the subs, finding combinations that work. 

    This probably reveals my ignorance a little, but one stumbling seems to be that Smotrycz thrives more–and proves more useful–at the five spot, which means Horford and Morgan are off the floor. All three are still young, still coming on, sometimes showing great flashes. But only Smot can go to the four, right? So why isn’t Beilein working him more there? One obvious answer is that someone else goes off the floor then, and Smotrycz has the inside-out ability. But I’d love to hear others speculate about the possibilities in this regard. 

    • JimC

      I seem to recall that Horford and Morgan were both in briefly yesterday. 

      Anyway, I still like Smot at Forward.  He’s not very strong, and can’t jump much, but JoMo & JoHo can.  And I still have this dream (fantasy?) of Smot becoming a prolific 3-pt shooter, hitting 4 or 5 every game. 

      That’s all i have to say about that.

    • KJay

      Think you’re underestimating our depth.  Burke, Novak, Hardaway, Smot, Morgan, Douglass, Horford, and Vogrich are a solid 8 man rotation, and with contributions from Akunne, Christian, McLimans, and Brundidge we’ve actually got more depth than probably any of Beilein’s prior UM teams.  

      In the bigger games we may see a shorter bench, but having the ability to go 11 deep as we did against Memphis will make us better equipped for the rigors of conference play than we have been in years’ past.

    • rlcBlue

      I think the rotation we saw against Duke is what we’d play if the B1G season started tomorrow, but thankfully it doesn’t. Beilein has a month to develop his bench further so that we can get more useful minutes out of it. What I’d hope for most is enough development from Brundidge to allow Burke another 6-8 minutes of rest per game. Whether that happens from CB running the point (doubtful, after watching him get pantsed pringing the ball up yesterday), or from being a dangerous shooting guard that makes Douglass into an effective point doesn’t really matter. The only other way I see Burke getting rest is more Eso, which would be great to see but seems unlikely.

      I’d like to see Vogrich get untracked shooting-wise, but his defensive abilities are going to continue to keep him off the court. He can’t defend quick guards man to man, and as we saw against Duke, the 1-3-1 with Burke on the baseline won’t stop  teams with good size. When the matchups are right, Vogrich can get THJ some rest, but there will be games when he barely sees the court.

      The front line rotation also depends on matchups. You’re right that Horford and Morgan can’t play the four, and that’s why one of them will be starting every game at the five, but you also put your finger on why Smotrycz winds up there sometimes; if the matchups call for five men out, Evan is the only big who forces his defender to come out of the lane – unless McLimans finally starts hitting three-pointers, which seems about as likely as Bartelstein becoming a starter. In the meanwhile, as Morgan and Horford develop their post games we’ll see more four out sets when the matchups are good.

      Expect to see a lot of experimentation with different combinations in the upcoming weeks – maybe not at Virginia, but in the rest of the non-conference schedule. Reading Beilein’s and Novak’s comments about Maui just reinforces how much the team values versatility. The ability to take advantage of whatever the opposing defense makes available is really the core of Beilein’s system. In a perfect world all the players would be able to do that, but for now Beilein will just work on using the strengths and covering up the limitations of the guys he’s got.

  • JimC

    Nice to see Brundidge in (twice!) last night.  Which reminds me, where is Max Bielfeldt?  Is he going to redshirt or something?

    • A2JD

      I have to think right now that redshirting him and hoping for Morgan-like results is the plan.

  • Wayman Britt

    Boy does depth really help.  Morgan and Smot were off, but Horford plays a great game.  UM’s depth will really help them this year, because some nights players are just off.

    I know he plays a different position but what about more time for Eso instead of Vogrich. 

    • D9imfine

      I agree Eso gives you much punch then vogrich right now. He has learned to play the 1,2,3 already good call wayman!

  • JimC

    The sports on TV are boring today.   I just can’t get excited about the Lions…..and wish it was Saturday noon already!  
    Is that wrong.

    • Mith

      Yeah, I think maybe it is.

    • Jetsgreen

      u just don’t like football obviously. The night game is an awesome matchup

  • Champswest

    Very good trip for our guys.  For the 3 games in total, I give Excellent to Hardaway & Burke, Very Good to Novack and Horford, Good to Douglass & Morgan and Not So Good to Vogrich & Smotrycz.  When we get Matt & Evan going (and get Carlton to the point of contributing), we can really be good.  In just a few short years, we have gone from starting walkons to having 8-10 guys that can play and contribute.  Exciting times. 

    • Jetsgreen

      i’m hoping for a 2 year NBA lockout so Hardaway sticks around to play with McGary

      • A2JD

        The Lockout just has to continue until June so college players will not put their names in the draft.  I wouldn’t think the NCAA would let them wait any longer to either put their names in or take them out.

  • SamGoBlue

    I don’t know that I would say UCLA will probably turn out to be a “terrible” team. They have obviously started very poorly, but I could see them at least being competitive in the PAC-12 and this will end up being at the very least a decent win.