Game 10: Arkansas Pine Bluff at Michigan Recap

Dylan Burkhardt


There’s nothing quite like a mid-December finals week guarantee game. This one was never in doubt but it was a far from aesthetically pleasing get-me-over performance. Michigan opened the game on a 34-8 run and Pine Bluff failed to reach double digits until there were under four minutes to play in the first half. The most exciting play of the opening was a hard screen that led to a Burke buzzer beater and you could count Pine Bluff’s first half field goals on one hand. The game was effectively over at half time but Michigan’s lackadaisical second half performance – Pine Bluff outscored the Wolverines by 13  in the second stanza – left much to be desired. In spite of a comedy of second half errors, Michigan moved on with a 63-50 victory.

Turnovers were the story in this one. Michigan coughed the ball up on 30% of its possessions and seemed to lack any real focus or execution in the second half. The Wolverines gave the ball away on 42% (13 of 32) of their second half possessions and made just nine second half shots – two inside the arc. While this was certainly a healthy dose of “playing down to the competition after establishing a big lead”, it’s impossible to call the performance anything but underwhelming. It was three point shooting – 13 of 26 – that carried Michigan as its early season success inside the arc was set off track with just 38 percent two point shooting for the night. When the Wolverines didn’t turn the ball over they moved it well, notching assists on 17 of their 22 made field goals.

The defensive stats appear solid but are not nearly as impressive when considering the opposition and accounting for Pine Bluff scoring eight points in the first 16 minutes. The Golden Eagles actually scored a point per possession in the second half, well above their season average, but not enough to offset their first half ineptitude for a poor .74 points per trip over the full 40 minutes. The Michigan defense’s primary flaw was its inability to stop Lazabian Jackson, who scored 23 points on 7 of 15 (6-11 3pt) shooting. His friends didn’t provide much support as Savalance Townsend scored 15 points on five shots but the other eight Golden Eagles that played combined to make just five shots combined. Pine Bluff still turned the ball over on nearly a quarter of its possessions, was a non-factor on the offensive glass and attempted just five free throws.

I wrote in the preview that this would be a great opportunity for the bench to get some run but that only proved partially true. Matt Vogrich seized the opportunity when Tim Hardaway Jr. took a hard fall, scoring 11 points in 21 minutes, and Blake McLimans also played 11 minutes as Jon Horford rested a foot injury. Akunne (2mins), Brundidge (1 min) and Christian (1 min) didn’t enter the game until the final ticks of the clock as Burke (37 mins) and Novak (37 mins) shouldered a heavy workload yet again.

It wasn’t very impressive but it’s a win. These games probably have a larger impact on Michigan’s Pomeroy rankings more than anything else and it’s tough to gain much tangible insight from games of this nature. Next up for Michigan is another cupcake *ahem* SWAC opponent on Saturday afternoon as the Wolverines host the Alabama A&M Bulldogs.


Player Bullets:

  • Trey Burke: Michigan is a different team with Burke on the floor. The freshman had 15 points on 6 of 15 (3-5 3pt) shooting, seven assists, six rebounds and three turnovers in 37 minutes tonight. I thought he opted for a few too many mid range jumpers but it’s tough to argue with 15 points and seven assists from the freshman guard. Burke is also starting to heat up from three point range, hitting 6 of his last 11 triples.
  • Evan Smotrycz: Evan is playing some of the best ball of his career; 16 points on 4 of 6 (3-4 3pt) shooting with eight rebounds… and five turnovers today. He got carried away in the sloppy nature of the game and tried to be a bit fancy but he’s shooting the ball with great confidence and doing a better job of staying out of foul trouble. Smotrycz was at least tied for the team lead Michigan in points, rebounds, steals and blocks on the night.
  • Tim Hardaway Jr.: Hardaway fell hard on his tailbone and played sparingly from that point on but he still scored eight points thanks to a pair of threes. Like just about everyone else that played Hardaway struggled to value the ball tallying three turnovers in 19 minutes.
  • Jordan Morgan: Morgan’s offensive game was out of sync – 3 TOs to 2 FGAs – but he is playing with the sort of combative attitude that we saw a season ago. He took a charge, had a big block and was generally aggressive on the defensive side of the ball.
  • Zack Novak: Novak has handed out 14 assists in the last two games. John Beilein mentioned that he’s really feeling comfortable at the two guard and it’s tough to debate that. Novak had handed out six assists twice before in his career and has surpassed the mark in each of the last two games. Even on an off shooting night, his individual improvements are more obvious than any other player on the Michigan roster as he becomes more and more comfortable pump faking and making plays inside the arc.
  • Stu Douglass: Douglass made the most difficult of his four three point attempts and finished with six points in 19 minutes. A quiet night for Douglass but sometimes it’s better to be quiet than struggle.
  • Matt Vogrich: It was great to see Vogrich hit three triples on five attempts but it was most encouraging to see him grab three offensive rebounds – all of which came before he attempted a three point shot. Michigan needs Vogrich to build on this game and bolster a weak bench.
  • Blake McLimans: Blake got Horford’s minutes and was 0-2 from the field with a rebound and a block. It was his hard screen at the end of the first half that stood out. He’s probably not there yet but he sets good screens and if he can hit the occasional three he could provide Michigan with some spot minutes.
  • I feel like Burke’s player bullet always begins with: “Michigan is a different(better) team with Burke on the floor”

    • I was thinking that too so it’s probably true. I guess it says something to how painful the 3 minutes were that he wasn’t on the court and Michigan actually was +2 during those 2 minutes.

  • maxwell’s demon

    Not sure why Burke needed to play 37 minutes tonight.

  • gpsimms

    yeah, i mean if the starters are just going to eff around and cough the ball up the entire second half, i don’t see why he didn’t clear the bench with 15 minutes to go.  at least bartelstein and co. could have let the lead get down to 13 by trying hard, and to be honest i bet they wouldn’t have…

  • jaisdaddy

    i trust Coach B and staff but some of their moves confuse me… does anyone know if Max is redshirting?

    • Beilein has basically inferred that Max and Sai (preferred walk on) will red shirt. He said they don’t need to make it official, so they won’t, but there’s a reason they haven’t played.

  • jaisdaddy

    well i remember hearing that Max is “raw” but a year working with Coach B and Coach Alexander i think he’ll be nice piece off the bench…

  • MGoTweeter

    This was one of those games that shows why rankings based on stats are silly.  That is not to say there is nothing to be learned from looking at team stats, just that they really fail to show a complete picture of a team.  Going along those lines, you cannot make any judgments about Michigan based on this game.  It was clear from the first five minutes APB was not a very good team and that Michigan could coast to a win.  

    However, individually I do think there are things you can take away.  One of those things, that I have begun to notice in other games as well, is that as good as Burke is and as much as he means to this team, he is not nearly as good as Morris was in late clock situations.  While this does not mean anything in games like this, it will be important once Big Ten play starts and offensive possessions become grinding affairs.  One of the best things about Morris was his ability to create a play late in the shot clock almost all by himself.  Burke has a lot of playmaking ability, but he is still much more of a shot first creator than pass first.  Which is fine, but in late clock situations against a set defense, his lack of size compared to Morris, makes it much more difficult for him to get a good shot off.  I would like to see Michigan start to lean more on Hardaway in late clock situations.  

    It was great to see Vogrich get on track a bit shooting as this team desperately needs to add more quality depth.  Hopefully he can build off this and provide a somewhat consistent scoring option off the bench.  Smotrycz continues to show a very good and dynamic skill set and I really do not have a big problem with most of his turnovers, because this team needs him to be aggressive.  

    Overall I do not have a problem with Beilein not emptying the bench, as it has become clear to this point, that the guys who are not playing are not going to be big contributors this season.  I like that he left the main rotation guys out there to work on things.  Turnovers are going to be a bigger issue this year than past seasons, but a lot of them are a necessary byproduct of the team forcing things in order to create better offense.  Just think back to two years ago when Harris and Sims were out of the game (and even sometimes when they were in), the offense became much to perimeter oriented.  This team seems to understand that it needs to create things a lot more, and in doing so, it will open up more opportunities at quality threes but will also lead to more turnovers.  The more reps these guys get, the better.  

    • gpsimms

      I just don’t think it looked like anyone was taking the reps seriously.  Maybe I’m wrong, maybe APB was doing some new things defensively that we can learn from, but I think they just looked like they were done with the game and shoulda been on the bench.

      I do agree that it doesn’t matter, none of the guys on the bench are really rotation guys anyway, but it’s just slightly annoying to see them perform so poorly when there are a whole bunch of guys who would love to get some real run in a game for a switch.

      By the way, is CB’s redshirt officially burned?  What’s the arbitrary date deadline?  He seems like he has enough talent that a 5th year from him could be a really nice thing to have down the road…

      • UMQuasi

        I think the rule is pretty generous in basketball.  I thought someone could play  the first 1/3 of the season and still redshirt.  With last night being our 10th game, Brundidge would still qualify under that rule.  Someone correct me if I’m wrong

        • sane1

          That’s only if he’s injured and it’s 20% of the games, IIRC.  Otherwise, you lose your redshirt the first time that you step onto the court.

    • RE: your first point. I think it also shows why conference only efficiency margins are one of the best stats — you are basically evening out the sample.

      • MGoTweeter

        While that is true, I still have problems with stats not showing the complete picture of a game.  The final stats for a game like Iowa St do not really show how much Michigan dominated that game.  Over a large enough sample size I guess these things even out as Michigan will undoubtedly have a game where they make a game appear closer than it was, but I do not if you can ever get a true balance in one season of conference play.  I have always been an eye test guy and usually only lean on stats if they back up my argument or I have never seen a team play.   

    • Observernba

      I don’t think its fair to compare Morris at the end of last season with Burke at the beginning of this one. Without Burke, I don’t know where this team would be right now. He’s a huge difference maker and I think that by the end of the season you’ll be whistling a different tune.

      • MGoTweeter

        I am not putting down Burke at all and I acknowledged how much he means to this team right now.  Without Burke, there are probably a couple more losses on the record today.  

        My point or concern, is solely in late clock situations and by the end of the season perhaps Burke is great at them.  But right now, I see some issues.  To this point in the season the team has not really missed Morris at all.  But I worry that once this team gets into Big Ten play, it will Morris a great deal.  I do not expect Burke to be where Morris was (frankly I am amazed he is this good right now) and I am not trying to compare them.  Rather I am just pointing out a part of the game that the Michigan team right now is missing with Morris being gone.  Like I said in my previous comment, I would prefer the team start to lean on Hardaway a lot more in those late clock situations.    

  • storm33

    I feel like Evan Smotrycz can be an elite player.  He just needs to think a little more carefully with what he does with the ball.  Sometimes he makes the most boneheaded plays, but when his shot drops, he is the most dangerous player on this team.

  • Kenny

    The game got way too sloppy after we had the 30 point lead. The best coming of tonight’s game is that Vogrich finally break the ice. 

    The comments on Novak is dead on, he is the glue of the this team and he plays like a senior team captain.  

  • Wayman Britt

    I wish the bench would have got a few more minutes, especially Carlton.  He needs the time and development, unless he is so far behind to only play mop up.  For those who saw him in high school is he not ready for college ball? Over rated? 

    We know he is not going to red shirt, I think against these lower teams he should get the chance to prove himself.

    • LansingBlue

      Saw Carlton play a few times in high school and he definitely has upside, the guy went on some huge scoring tears.  I just don’t think he’s ever been on a well coached team until now.  Don’t think he ever ran a set play or knew how to play team defense at all, and I can’t imagine you learn either of those overnight.

  • Mattski

    That thing was fugly. Talk about leaving a bad taste. Beilein playing things a bit too conservatively, talking post-game about the score being too close? I understand wanting to get Burke the experience, but we better all start saying rosaries for his health. 

  • Beilein’s Swish

    The biggest disappointment was the lack of playing time for the deep bench players, who really need the reps.  The way the starters were playing and turning it over on every possession for the last 5 minutes, I think the deep bench players would’ve actually done better as they would actually be trying and maybe the light could come on in game situations for one of the bench players.  Once again our perimeter defense was weak, which has seemingly been a trend all season.

    Overall, not much to read from this game, though the high turnovers in two straight games are disappointing.

  • bird

    Missed the game and instead drove out to see Chesterton @
    Lake Central last night.  I have negligible
    scouting skills, but GRIII clearly outclassed everyone else on the court in
    terms of athleticism.  He looked smooth and
    did a little bit of everything (except from deep – I think he was 0-1).  I was impressed at how well he distributed
    the ball and tried to get his teammates involved.  He would have had a few more assists if they
    could have handled his passes better.  He
    also had a few nifty drives into the paint (often through four defenders).  If I had to criticize something – and it’s a
    reach – it would be that I noticed him favoring his right a couple times (e.g.,
    switching at the last moment to finish on layups).   Can’t
    wait to see him in our system.  I can see
    him executing either end of the pick and roll with aplomb.  (I THINK he played good defense, but I’m too dumb
    to attempt an informed comment.) Painter was there – to check out LC’s Tyler Wideman
    I assume – but I have to believe he had an eye on Chesterton 6’6” freshman Matt
    Holba. We should have an eye on him, too. 
    They (I sat on the Chesterton side) said Crean’s been showing interest.  Seems to have quite some game for a

  • mikey_mac

    I wouldn’t harp on the turnovers too much — the team lost its focus, whatever. The game was never in question and the guys knew it.
    That said, why didn’t Belein know it? Stu, Eso and Brundidge couldn’t have handled the full-court press at the end? Really? Get Burke and Novak off the court 3-5 minutes sooner.

  • JimC

    Six players hit at least one three-pointer, and the team shot 50% from three.  We’d win every game with that.

  • Alex

    I didn’t watch the game but it seems like it was reminiscent of the early games. The bottom line is that the schedule will ramp up over these next few games. I would argue we really need to win all four games. They are very winnable but if our team doesn’t play crisp basketball for forty minutes the last three can be lost. Clearly, PSU and Minnesota aren’t the class of the Big Ten but they may actually be good enough to be average in most if not all other conferences. We all know how hard it is to win a Big Ten road game making these next four games critical.

    They just got to try to show improvement each and every day and hope they ate worthy come March. I think they will.