Game 7: Michigan at Virginia Recap

Dylan Burkhardt

Photo: MGoBlue

Michigan and Virginia battled back and forth for 30 minutes but somehow the Cavaliers always felt like the aggressors. Eventually Michigan’s offense sputtered and Mike Scott awoke to help Virginia pull away with a 19-2 run late in the second half. The result was a 70-58 Virginia win, dropping Michigan’s record to 5-2 on the season.

Michigan was never able to find an offensive rhythm against Virginia’s Packline defense. The Wolverines scored just .93 points per trip despite shooting 45 percent from three point range. Michigan, obviously bothered by Virginia’s physical play, was unable to convert the two point shots that carried the offense in Maui and converted just 42% of its two point looks. That lackluster two point shooting was accompanied by first half turnover woes and little to no production on either the offensive glass or at the free throw line.

Michigan’s offense degraded to glorified isolations on far too many plays. U-M players got bodied off of cuts and screens for most of the night and the crisp offensive motion that we saw against Memphis, Duke and UCLA was glaringly absent. This isn’t the last physical and compact defense that Michigan will play against and the Wolverines are going to need to learn how to execute their offensive sets in these sort of match-ups.

Michigan won’t be the first team that struggles to score the ball against Virginia but its struggles on the defensive end are more troubling. Scoring has been a laborious process for the Cavaliers this season and they weren’t scoring in the first half either. Michigan’s defense crumbled in the second half. Virginia scored 1.10 points per trip for the game thanks to an impressive 1.37 points per possession in the second half. Michigan’s defense was plagued by late double teams, Virginia penetration, poor closeouts and an inability to guard Mike Scott. There were some great plays by Virginia but there were also far too many flat out defensive breakdowns.

Memphis and UCLA might not have made Michigan pay for its defensive mistakes but Duke, and now Virginia did. Percentage of made field goals assisted is far from a flawless statistic but it’s a great indicator of how cohesive an offense is on a given night. 73% of Virginia’s field goals were assisted compared to just 36% of Michigan’s makes.

The decision to sit Tim Hardaway Jr. for 16 minutes in the first half can be debated to no end. It’s a risk averse strategy that is often frustrating but John Beilein’s track record says that his players with two fouls in the first half are going to sit. Michigan actually held its own for most of the time Hardaway was on the bench but things got dicey when Smotrycz went to the bench with his second foul as well. Michigan went with a lineup featuring a Novak-Christian-McLimans frontcourt and allowed Virginia, who had been trailing most of the half, to escape with a one point halftime lead.

That stretch gave Virginia confidence entering the second half but the 19-2 run that won the game for Virginia was fueled by Mike Scott dominating the game. Michigan’s double team from the baseline was relatively effective against Scott in the first half but he got loose in the second. Scott began to beat the Michigan double and force the U-M defense to collapse – the result was consistent: an easy bucket for Scott or a kick out to a wide open three point shooter.

There’s no denying the fact that Michigan took one on the chin tonight. Virginia played a more physical game and clearly outplayed the Wolverines. Virginia’s non-conference schedule is not difficult, so it might be a while before we know exactly how good Tony Bennett’s team really is. However, this was a road game against a team that should finish in the top half of the ACC. A loss is frustrating but far from inexcusable. Michigan has the week to regroup before playing its first home game in over two weeks as it hosts Iowa State.

Photo: MGoBlue

Player Bullets:

  • Tim Hardaway Jr.: The two early fouls were critical but even when he was on the floor Hardaway struggled. Virginia’s physical defense just never allowed Hardaway to get comfortable as he finished with 5 points on 2 of 9 (1-3 3pt) shooting with two assists and two turnovers. Hardaway had a number of up-and-down performances last year but was unable to shoot Michigan’s way back in the game tonight.
  • Trey Burke: Burke and Novak were the primary reasons Michigan was able to stay in the game offensively in the first half. He hit some big shots on the night including a step back three at the shot clock buzzer, a nice floater in the lane and a beautiful spin move in transition. He makes things happen when he pushes the ball but still bogs down a bit in the half court, final stats: 11 points on 4 of 10 (1-4 3pt) shooting with four assists, four rebounds and three turnovers. His biggest area for improvement is on the defensive end where he needs to fight through and over screens rather than going underneath the pick.
  • Zack Novak: There’s no doubt that Zack Novak has broadened his offensive game. His consistency with the 15-18 foot jump shot off the pump fake is dramatically improved. He had some huge buckets in the first half to keep Michigan afloat and finished with 12 points on 5 of 8 (2-3 3pt) shooting. The flip side is that he really seems to be the struggling on the defensive end and seemed to miss a handful of defensive rotations and closeouts that he’s made in the past.
  • Evan Smotrycz: When he can stay on the court, Evan Smotrycz has produced this season. Against Virginia, he had 10 points, five defensive rebounds and a steal in 22 minutes. Unfortunately he couldn’t stay on the floor because of his tendency to pick up silly personal fouls.
  • Jordan Morgan: Morgan makes some great plays, like the fake hand off and drive, but he hasn’t been nearly as consistent as last season. He seemed to be a step late on the double team quite a bit and also had three turnovers.
  • Jon Horford: Horford has had some great stretches but he seemed to struggle with the physical nature of the game today. He played just six minutes, didn’t grab a rebound and had a pair of awkward rushed missed shots around the paint.
  • Stu Douglass: Douglass needs to take smarter shots. A couple of his misses were late when Michigan was trying to shoot its way back but his shot selection has been crippling this year. A bad, rushed three point shot is every bit as bad as a turnover and Douglass had a couple that simply killed momentum tonight.
  • Matt Vogrich: This seems to be the theme every game but Michigan needs Matt Vogrich to start hitting threes. Vogrich had some very productive stretches down the stretch last season, especially when Tim Hardaway Jr. struggled, but he just couldn’t answer the bell today. Vogrich was 0-2 today and is now 1 of 10 from three point range on the season and Michigan’s options at the three position behind them are thin.
  • Eso Akunne: Akunne has done a good job of just being solid when called on. He’s not going to make anything out of the norm happen but he’s proven that he can play in control and spell Michigan for one or two minutes at a time.
  • Colton Christian: Christian provides energy but he had a very rough stretch to close the first half including a missed layup, pair of free throws, open jumpshot and a turnover.
  • Blake McLimans: Blake blocked a three and made a three. Two things that he didn’t do last year.
  • maxwell’s demon

    People like to focus on the sitting with 2 fouls thing but it’s not why we lost. The pick and roll game was absent, we got abused down low, we were continually late on rotations, and Hardaway simply had a poor game. My guess is Virginia is a tourney team and this loss doesn’t look bad come March. Just have to win out until B10.

    • MGoTweeter

      If you mean by “absent” that it was not executed at all, then I agree the pick and roll game was absent.  Screens are starting to become a big problem at least in my mind, at both ends of the floor.  On offense, Michigan just does not set good screens.  Its a two part problem, where 1. the player with ball just is not taking his man to the screen, and, 2. the screener is not doing a good job of moving his feet to make sure he is in position to set a good screen.  On defense, Michigan it looks like even more of a lack of effort.  Guys are just not fighting hard enough through screens.  I think we saw this a lot early last season, then we saw a turn around once the pressure started to build in Big Ten play.  But with everyone back this year, I expected the team to be a lot more ready to play from a tough standard than I have seen so far this year.  

      Maybe this game will serve as the wakeup call, just as the bad losses at Indiana, Northwestern and at home against Minnesota did last season.  This team needs to toughen up and be the aggressor.  

      Even beyond the screen issue, one of my big pet peeves is a player with the ball letting a defender pressure him the way Virginia did tonight.  At some point you just have to dribble through that and make the official call fouls.  Too many times guys tried to dribble around pressure instead of just going through defenders.  You may suffer a turnover or two, but you cannot let a team simply force you out of the offense with on ball pressure.  This may be the area this team misses Morris the most, as he was very good in using his body to prevent such things.

      • maxwell’s demon

        Yeah I didn’t actually mean that we weren’t trying to get the pick and roll going, I meant Virginia completely took it away. 

      • andrew

        Agreed. I think that just pivoting for a while, passing it to the wing and then setting a crappy screen isn’t the answer. Unless you’re Princeton, you need to beat ball pressure off the bounce with physicality. Against tough teams M will have a hard time running their offense in less they really start setting tough screens. 

  • J-Bag

    The turning point in the game was Smotrycz’s 4th foul. When he had to come out Beilein understandably elected to go small with Novak at the 4 instead of Christian, and that’s when Scott went off. Novak couldn’t guard Scott by himself, and he made some good passes to free up shooters when they sent the double team at him.

    As frustrating as the offense was the entire game, a lot of it had to do with UVA’s defense and then just forcing bad threes trying to get back into the game after the huge run. There was also a spot during the run right after a timeout that a guard found Morgan wide open on a basket cut and he just dropped it – a basket that would’ve stemmed the tide and maybe slowed UVA’s run. 

    Just a couple moments that show how small the margin of error is when you’re playing a tournament-calibur team on the road – hopefully we’ll see this as a learning experience and not let it become a habit.

    • rlcBlue

      Hell, I thought the turning point was his third foul. He had scored five points in a row, was clearly feeling confident, and then he used that confidence to throw a hipcheck on a ballhandler four feet outside the three point line. The kid’s got game-changing ability, but sometimes he uses it to change the game for the worse…

  • gpsimms

    Whelp.  I’ve been arguing for more Colton.  When Vogrich continued to clank threes, I said ‘Well, if he can’t make that shot, Colton should be out there, because at least he can defend.” 

    Then Colton came out, and , man, he had a rough, rough, night tonight.  And the other guy I have irrational love for, Stu, had a rough, rough night tonight.

    Dylan, you’d be proud of my tempo free knowledge though, when at halftime I was like ‘man, they are killing us on the glass,’ and my friend was like “dude they’re only outrebounding us by like 3 or something.’ and then i was all, “yeah, but they’re shooting like 30% and we’re shoooting near 50%.  we have no second chance points from boards, and I bet almost half their first half points are from second chances.”

    Novak has really added to his offensive game.  It’s crazy, he didn’t improve much on offense for three years, and now all the sudden he’s got all this midrange stuff.  great to see.

    smot continues to alternate between great plays, and mind blowingly awful plays.

    disappointing day for the bigs.

    the defense was weird.  i understand collapsing for the double on Mike Scott.  but what was with always coming down on their guards driving in?  I felt like many times the guards dribbled into the lane and were no threat at all to score, but hardaway or vogrich would come down in a situation where they couldnt help anyway, and then UVA would get a wide open three for it.

    not panicking.  everyone in college hoops loses on the road, especially after all this travel.

    • gpsimms

       and to add to the list of things i was completely wrong about: i thought if we shot the three well we’d win comfortably.  if we shot poorly, i thought it’d be close.

      that was our best 3 pt shooting day of the year by far.

  • SamGoBlue

    I have a couple quick comments:

    1. I rarely, if ever, disagree with Coach Beilein about in-game strategy, but I really felt that he should have put Hardaway back in with about five or six minutes left in the first half. We would go up by five points, Virginia would come and tie it, both teams would go stagnant for a while, we’d go up five, and the cycle would continue. There were a few times that I really felt we could have taken control of the game if we had just one more playmaker in there to give us some extra offense. Alas, Hardaway never came back in, was cold in the second half, and didn’t pick up his third foul until the game was already just about out of hand with five minutes to go. I understand Beilein’s philosophy here and I usually agree with it, I just felt this game called for a slight change.

    2. Well we didn’t get absolutely abused on the offensive rebounds by Virginia (obviously below average, but it has been much worse before), we allowed the Wahoos to convert on far too many second-chance points off of their offensive boards, something that simply cannot happen in a tight road game like that.

  • storm33

    Anyone else jealous that we don’t have Joe Harris on our team?

  • A2MIKE

    Anyone else think our on the ball defense, most notably Burke, needs some work?  I feel like Trey is the type of player that shouldn’t have anyone blow by him.  It seemed like this was a problem in Maui and again tonight.

  • GregGoBlue

    Does anybody else worry about (talented) depth at the 4 after this game? I think we got exposed playing against a really talented 4 in Mike Scott in that when Smot got in foul trouble our alternatives were 1) a senior undersized 4 who simply was outmuscled and 2) Colton Christian. What are we going to do next year when Novak graduates? I believe at one point McLimans was playing the 4, and you know your’e at the bottom of the barrel there. Hopefully this won’t continue to be a problem playing against other talented 4’s on our schedule. 

    • Quaint06

      Thinking of next year’s team, my sense has been that the only weakness will be the 4, both in terms of the starter and depth. 
      However, it seems to me that with all the fire power on offense, Christian might be able to get more minutes and play a role of defensive specialist (i.e. “please don’t shoot the ball”).
      Other options may be to see if GR3 can slide into that position for some relief minutes; also Horford or Morgan, with McGary at the 5.

      • Quaint06

        I forgot about Bielfeldt. I have no clue about his level of ability.

    • I think the four was always going to be a mismatch going into the season. Novak has really played the four for three years and he’s capable of defending better than he did last night. Smotrycz also needs to stay on the court more, think 30 minutes per game compared to 20. 

      Luckily there aren’t a lot of great fours in the Big Ten — I can’t think of a lot of players similar to Mike Scott. Draymond isn’t quite so big, Watford is a bit more finesse, Thomas plays the four at Ohio State, Bruesewitz at Wisconsin… A lot of tweener guys that we can hopefully do a better job against.

      Next year is a different ball game. I think McGary and Robinson both have the chance to play some four with completely different looks. You could go Robinson at the four and McGary at the five for a smallball look or McGary and Morgan for a big look. 

      • Quaint06

        Well, if Way Jr. stays, you could have a starting lineup of McGary (5) GR3 (4) and Way Jr (3) with Smot off the bench. I would have to think Robinson would be better defending the other team’s 4 that Smot, even with the height disadvantage. 
        But if Hardaway goes, I think we’ll be weak at the 4, with a lot of offensive fire power and strengths that will make up for it for the most part.

    • Erob

      Can’t McGary also play the 4?  

  • While I appreciate all that Stu has done over his time at Michigan, he needs to stop taking many of the shots he takes or be eased out of the rotation, if possible.  Dylan’s synopsis above, calling his shot selection “crippling” is entirely accurate.  If Stu is in the game at a critical time and the opponent is going on a small run to put us down, say, 6.  There is an absurdly high chance Stu is going to believe he should take matters into his own hands and take a terrible 3 or force a drive and bad shot.  That then often excacerabtes the problem and creates a huge 3 or dunk or other momentum shifting play for our opponent and puts the game is much, much worse position for Michigan.  There is nothing more frustrating than knowing this is going to happen and then actually watching it manifest itself right in front of my eyes.  In other words – it is crippling.  Good call, Dylan.

    • SamGoBlue

      I absolutely disagree. Stu took at most two bad shots last night – one was a deep three that he missed after nailing a long one the previous trip down the court, and one was a made three turnaround in the ending minutes of the game. He missed a wide open three and a nice look at a layup, but those are not bad shots.

  • umnyc

    Let me first say that I love this team and coach b, but the truth of the matter is that coach was out coached by bennett last night. I thought he stuck with novak at the 4 and stu at the point for way too long in the second half which added a few more points to their rediculous run and put the game out of reach. I also think he should have encouraged the team to look for the 12 ft jumper which was there all game with the VA interior defense collapsing and their gaurds over playing the perimeter. I’m happy to chalk this one up as a tough road game, but I agree that there needs to be some attention paid to smot’s ability to stay on the floor, horford/morgan gaining a little more confidence in the post, and Vogrich in general.

    • He might have the stuck with that lineup for too long but I think that’s a larger indictment of our depth. What other options did he have? Smotrycz had four fouls with ~10 mins left and isn’t really the sort that you trust to avoid them. The other guard option is Akunne off the bench with Vogrich struggling. Need someone in that bench group to step up.

      • umnyc

        Agreed, although I think the other option might have been to put Burke back in to calm things down at the point. Stu was not handling their pressure and our offense was suffering. Would be great if Brundidge could sort himself out, but I think there are serious growing pains there if he can’t beat akunne and stu on the depth chart. At the 4 he eventually went to Horford for a few mins which helped – thought he could have done that sooner just to get the ball out of Scott’s hands.

        Bench needs to step up big time. Hopefully some home court love can provide the confidence they need.

    • mikey_mac

      I don’t know that he was out-coached, because Bennett just went with the normal UVA gameplan, but Belein wasn’t able to bring anything to the table offensively, even after halftime, to help break the pressure of UVA.

  • Varg

    Dylan, do you have any idea why Beilein won’t play Horford and Morgan together?

    • I think because he’s worried about the lack of quickness defensively and ball handling offensively. 

  • D9ImFine

    Vogrich just seems to get force fed minutes.  I mean we need to see if there is someone else can be productive with 12-17 minutes a game that Vogrich gets.  I mean I just think its a total mystery at this point?

    • They tried Colton, they’ve tried Eso for stretches. I’m not sure it’s a mystery. 

    • Mpartington87

      Vogrich just needs to step up. The kid can shoot, that’s for certain.

  • Mpartington87

    This game was painful to watch. Very frustrating, also. It was simply an off night in every regard. I think they will learn from it and move on, however.

  • Beilein’s Swish

    Yikes….real ugly game which was lost in the first half when Hardaway sat for 16 minutes.  Had we gone into halftime with the solid 5-10 point lead, it would’ve been a different game and I also think the long sit-down for Hardaway took him and the team out of rhythm (on top of fierce UVA defense).  

    Beilein is a very conservative coach, and he does this all the time when someone gets 2 fouls in the first half.  We just have to get used to this….he’s like the Kirk Ferentz of basketball (if he was a football coach he’d be constantly punting from inside the 35 yard line).  His conservative nature will work most of the time, but it clearly didn’t this time.

    Oh well, onto the next game.  Hope the team can fix its perimeter defense.

  • sane1

    Bennett is a very fine coach who had 4 days to prepare for us. Not the whole story, but a big part of it. When we had Novak matched up with Scott (a 5th year senior), they got the ball in to him. When we doubled, which is what we do, Scott knew where to go with the ball. That’s just one example of how a good coach can make a difference with time to prepare. We didn’t have our first real practice until Sunday. Practiced Monday, then flew to Virginia. In addition, UVA had the good fortune of getting both THJ and Smotrycz in foul trouble. Took away two of our best offensive threats and a big who could match up with Scott. 

  • Champswest

    To sit a player with foul trouble, or not, is not a right or wrong decision.  It is a personal preference.  Coach Beilein favors sitting, I don’t.  Not wanting to pick up a careless 3rd foul 1 or 2 minutes before halftime, I agree with.  Voluntarily sitting our best scorer for 16 minutes, to me, is the same as having him foul out with 16 minutes left in the game. So many times I have seen the same results that we saw last night, a player sits for long periods and then never does foul out, or like Hardaway against Virginia, doesn’t even get his 4th foul.  I would play him and take my chances.

    • gobluehoops!

      I agree with this. Particularly since THJ is not overly foul prone and the second charge call was a joke, so it was not like he was hacking up a storm this game.

  • section13row15

    Good player analysis on Stu Douglass especially. He is really not helping our offense right now.

  • mikey_mac

    Overall, I’m not surprised that UVA won, but I am surprised at how punchless UM looked for most of this game. This team needs to be more physical and assertive on defense, but when they are, they just get called for a lot of fouls. The team looked slow and almost lethargic — they put up a few good sequences on defense, but even in those rare moments they never felt like they were imposing themselves upon UVA, a team with only one truly athletic player to be concerned about. This team needs to find its defensive swagger by B1G season.

  • Anthony

    Time to force feed cb some minutes i dont care if he doesnt play well he is the most talented player of eso,christian,vogrich who have provided nothing. He probably doesnt know the offense yet and is not ready to play, but i would take my chances right now the other guys off the bench are not getting the job done.

    It also doesnth elp that your senior in douglass has not helped the bench with terrible shot selection. Those might have been two of the worst shots i have ever seen being down 7 and 10 he jacks a 3 with plenty of time on the shot clock. I could understand if he just made a few, but he really has not been shooting the ball well. In that situation the ball has to be in hardaways or burkes hand the game is on the line.