Game 12: Bradley at Michigan Recap

Dylan Burkhardt
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Photo: Dustin Johnston / Gallery

More Post Game: Beilein Video / Smotrycz, Burke and Morgan Video / Novak and Hardaway Video / Locker Room Speeches / Photo Gallery

No students in the crowd, Christmas carols during pre-game warm-ups, travel plans arranged to return home and the allure of Big Ten play on the horizon. Holiday games are a recurring nightmare for college basketball coaches. It’s impossible to deny that Michigan was in at last a bit of a holiday funk to open this game. The Wolverines got off on the wrong foot and never really seemed comfortable, battling back and forth with Bradley, until a Tim Hardaway Jr. alley-oop catalyzed a Michigan run and stretched a five point lead to 15 midway through the second half. The end result was a 77-66 Michigan win, securing a 10-2 pre-conference record for Michigan heading into Big Ten play.

Michigan’s offense was humming along as it has more often than not of late. The Wolverines scored 1.14 points per possession, the best mark against Bradley this season. Michigan has scored the first or second most points per trip against six of its 11 Division I opponents this season. When the Wolverine offense is running smoothly it really is fun to watch. Michigan’s attack was balanced and precise as 25 of its 31 field goals (81%) were assisted on the night. Five Wolverines reached double figures and four players handed out at least four assists compared to just six turnovers as a team.

Geno Ford might have a losing record in his first season at Bradley but he still knows his basketball. In his post game remarks, Ford emphasized that rebounding was the difference between the first and second halves and he couldn’t have been more correct. Bradley rebounded 39% of its misses in the first half compared to just 7% in the second – that’s nine first half offensive rebounds to one second half offensive rebound. The half time message to attack the defensive glass was well received and the Braves finished with a mediocre 27% offensive rebounding rate for the game.

Michigan’s defense was relatively average in the other three factors. The Wolverines held Bradley right around their season averages shooting the basketball and managed to avoid sending them to the free throw line. However, as we’ve seen all too often this year, the Wolverines struggled to force a turnover prone Bradley team to give the ball away.

John Beilein noted that the Michigan staff hadn’t seen any 3-2 zone from Bradley on film and that Trey Burke had never faced a 3-2 zone in his career. Both of those points were obvious when Bradley first switched to the zone the first half. Michigan’s offense stagnated, scoring two points in the final 3:45 of the first half, and U-M players were content to settle for mediocre three point attempts. Similar to the defensive end of the floor, John Beilein’s halftime adjustments worked. Michigan made 5 of 16 (31%) two point field goal attempts in the first half compared to 16 of 21 (76%) in the second. Michigan attacked the zone in the half court and combined that production with easy baskets in transition.

Michigan’s pre-conference slate was relatively unremarkable. The Wolverines took care of business, winning the games they should, but left opportunities on the table versus Duke and Virginia. Next up is a quick three day holiday break with morning practice on the 23rd followed by an evening practice on the 26th. Then it’s the Big Ten opener as Michigan hosts Penn State on December 28th.

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Photo: Dustin Johnston / Gallery

Player Bullets:

  • Evan Smotrycz: Smotrycz has made 15 of his last 19 three point attempts – his eFG% over the last four games is 98% –  and that’s not even the most impressive element of his recent form. It’s been his rebounding and all around versatility that are truly eye opening. He made threes last season but now has the ability to counter opposing defenses when they take away the three point shot. Today it was another double-double, 20 points and 10 rebounds, and impressive performance. Hardaway will be Hardaway, Burke will be Burke, but Smorycz is the x-factor that elevates this offense to another level.
  • Trey Burke: Burke didn’t shoot the ball well today – 5 of 13 (1-7 3pt) – but he played one of his most collected and composed games; handing out eight assists to just one turnover. He seemed to find the perfect balance of doing enough but not doing too much and also made great decisions in transition.
  • Tim Hardaway Jr.: Hardaway never found his three point shot (2-9 3pt) but did make 5 of his 7 two point attempts and had five assists to zero turnovers. Hardaway is lethal when he gets the ball in transition going downhill. He’s most often running the floor if he pushes it himself off a defensive rebound. Those opportunities have been limited because Hardaway hasn’t grabbed many rebounds lately, just six in the last four games.
  • Zack Novak: Novak had two bad turnovers against the Bradley zone and didn’t have a great shooting night – 4 of 9, 1-4 3pt – but I have no business complaining after I wrote earlier this week that Novak needs to be more involved in the offense. His nine FGAs were his second most of the season and he continued to tally solid assist numbers (4).
  • Jordan Morgan: After going 1 of 4 in the first half and getting blocked emphatically twice to start the game, Morgan responded. He tallied 13 second half points on 6 of 8 shooting and played the aggressive style of basketball that Michigan needs from him for 30 minutes per game.
  • Stu Douglass: Douglass didn’t shoot the ball great (1 of 4, 1-3 3pt) but it was encouraging to see him affect the game in other ways: six assists, one turnover, three rebounds and a steal. Douglass made good decisions, didn’t force shots and passed the ball extremely well.
  • Blake McLimans: McLimans only played in the first half (three minutes) and grabbed a rebound and botched a layup around the basket. Horford’s injury status remains unclear but if he is out for extended time it seems like a safe bet that we’ll see a four-five of Novak-Smotrycz much more often than we’ll see McLimans at the five in Big Ten play.
  • Matt Vogrich: Just eight minutes of playing time and two misses from the field but Vogrich has to get some credit for taking a charge, handing out an assist and grabbing a pair of rebounds.
  • Carlton Brundidge: Brundidge is getting the first half shift over Akunne lately, an encouraging sign for his development, but still played just three minutes.
  • In a mostly unrelated note.. Darius Morris was part of 50 Cent’s performance on X-Factor tonight. Relevant YouTube: http://bit.ly/vAqI01

    • Jeff

      Well, that’s interesting. He’s a long way from Ann Arbor and college life, both literally and figuratively.

  • Flwolve

    Hypothetically speaking, right now, is Burke as good as Morris was last year?  I laughed when somebody suggested that after the first couple of games but now I’m not so sure.  Trey Burke looks like an absolute seasoned veteran out there and he is extremely talented.  If we can get Burke and Hardaway to stick around 1 more season, next year could be really fun.

    • Mith

      I don’t think Burke is going anywhere for a few years.  Morris has NBA guard size, but Burke does not.  I think Trey might be here for 4 years.

      • Jsdulberg

        If you think Burke will remain for all 4 years you are out of your mind. The kid can flat out play! Forget lack of size, Burke will have a great Michigan career and barring injury he will be outta here before his senior year. Without debate, he is a more impressive freshman than d-mo was.

    • JimC

      Darius was better passing, but it seems like Burke moves the offense really well.   It’s not much of a difference, imo.

    • Champswest

      I think that one advantage that Trey brings is his shooting, especially the 3.  Teams can’t pack it in against us because they have to respect the outside shot.  That helps to keep the middle open.
      Burke is certainly way ahead of where Morris was as a freshman and I  think that he will be on a par with sophomore Morris real soon.

  • Jeff

    I thought Bradley played wayyyy over their heads the first 25 minutes. They were throwing up a lot of junk that was going in. I didn’t think we played too badly considering the possible distractions of this time of year. Anyway, the pre-conference slate could have gone better and it could have gone worse. No real big wins (Memphis has 5 losses, but they’re all to ranked teams) but nothing remotely close to a bad loss. The big ten should be very deep this year, and will give Michigan plenty of opportunities to pick up big wins.

  • JimC

    ESPN puts Shayok Shayok’s dunk in their “Top Ten Plays”.   Geez, it wasn’t that great………I think they like saying “Shayok Shayok”.

  • D-Train

    The big thing that gives me pause from this game is the lack of depth in our bench.  We had six players play over thirty minutes, with Brundidge, McLimans, and Vogrich in single digits.  This will be difficult to keep up throughout Big Ten play.  We need Horford to recover quickly.

    • Flwolve

      The loss of Horford could be huge if we’re forced to play McLimans major minutes but the lineup with Smote at the 5 and Novak at the 4 has some serious potential.  Almost any lineup with Smote out there has potential.  Smote is really coming into his own this year.

      I love seeing Brundidge starting to get some minutes.  Just watching his game in HS, you knew that the could would need some time to transition to the college game because he’s not the best athlete.  However, he’s athletic enough and once the game slows down for him, I think he’s going to be a good player for us in the future. It may not be this year but next year and forward, I think CB plays a major role on this team.

      • GregGoBlue

        except Smot at the 5 when Morgan is resting means more opportunities for Smot to pick up fouls…

    • Jeff

      One of the problems in terms of depth is that’s Vogrich’s shot has completely left him. Last year, it seemed we could count on him for a couple big threes a game. That’s been almost totally absent this year. Really makes it hard to play him many minutes. That and Horford’s injury have produced the weird situtation where our depth is worst than last year despite losing only one player.

  • MGoTweeter

    Now that preconference is over (except that pesky Arkansas game), what is everyone thinking as far as B1G record?  I was leaning toward 11-7, but now I will go a little more optimistic with 12-6.  

    • rlcBlue

      I suspect a lot of M fans are going to be disappointed at the end of the B1G season – not because the team will have a bad record or miss the NCAA tournament, but because the start of the season is going to raise expectations too high. We could open the B1G schedule 5-2 or better, but then 8 of our last 12 games will be on the road (starting with that pesky Arkansas game,) and the 4 home games will be tOSU, Indiana, Purdue, and Illinois. That is a really tough stretch run. 

      I also fear that Trey Burke is going to be one (5’11”? 6’1″?) bruise by the end of the season, because our conference pals will be happy to sacrifice a few fouls in order to slow him down as much as possible with “physical” defense.

      So I think the band wagon jumpers are going to be grumbling when we finish 10-8 after that hot start. That will make the subsequent runs in the BTT and NCAA tournaments “surprising” to same.

    • Jeff

      I’m on the fence between 10 and 11 wins because I think the Big Ten is really deep this year. Also 3 of the 4 teams that we only play once (Iowa, Neb, Minny) are expected to be in the bottom half of the big ten. That said, due to Smotrycz’s big improvement and Burke’s surprisingly good play, I’m going to go with 11-7 in the Big Ten.

      • Mith

        I keep thinking 11-7 as well.  10-8 maybe.  If they can knock off Arkansas, that’s be about 22-9 or 21-10 at the end of the regular season and I would gladly take either.

    • JimC

      11-7

  • UMQuasi

    Does anybody have more details on Horford’s injury?  Last I heard from Beilein was that it wasn’t serious but they were just going to keep him out for the rest of the pre-conference schedule just to be safe (because we didn’t need him to win).  But now I’ve seen comments on here wondering how long he’s going to be out.  Has he suffered a setback?  I had always assumed he’d be back for Big Ten play.

  • Brian

    I expect 10-8 in the Big Ten conference.  The Big Ten is going to be very rough this season, and we will have our hands full with Sullinger, Zeller, Payne, Leonard, etc. if we end up rolling through the year with only Morgan and McLimans as bigs (and Smote at the 5 mainly).  

    On Horford, I saw him on campus last week and based on the way he was moving around I would not expect him back for a long time, if at all this year.  I think a redshirt is most likely.  

    • Erob

      With Horford back, I think 12-6, without him, I think 10-8.  In what way was he moving that makes you think he won’t be back soon? 

      • SamGoBlue

        I believe he said something like around a month on Facebook. Keep in mind that he played immediately after the injury occurred, and since then has been sitting out. I highly, highly doubt he is done for the year.

      • Jsdulberg

        2 wins on the back of horford alone? naw bro

  • Giddings

    It may not have been apparent on TV, but even without students last night’s crowd was by far the best of the season. It was packed and LOUD (at times).

    I almost think it was better that this was not a student game because they could sell all the tickets in the upper bowl which are normally reserved for the students that buy tickets but don’t show up.

    • MGoTweeter

      definitely a full house, that got pretty loud during the second half run.  But the atmosphere in general was not very good.  Really missed the constant yelling from the student section.