Five Key Plays: Penn State at Michigan

Dylan Burkhardt

Burke grabs back-to-back steals for early baskets

Despite a sold out crowd, Crisler Arena felt a bit lifeless early on. Students are still on break and Michigan didn’t have a lot of energy out of the gate as Penn State jumped out to a small early lead. These back to back steals by Burke helped calm some nerves and get Michigan into the flow of the game. Both are great active defensive plays even if the finishes at the other end were a bit dicey. Burke gets bailed out with a goal tend on the first and on the second it looks like he probably traveled. Evan Smotrycz actually leads Michigan in steals but with Burke’s hands and quickness he could and should pick up more steals as the year continues.

Novak sparks late first half run

Novak continues to diversify his offensive game as the season wears on. Michigan closed the half with a great run and Novak seemed to be centrally involved in every big play. First you can see him scoring with his back to the basket, a wrinkle that we haven’t seen much of this year, and then you can see him affecting the game in transition and around the paint. I think it’s safe to say that the Zack Novak we saw over the last three years would have made maybe one of these plays per game, certainly not four to close out a half.

Hardaway opens the second half attacking the basket

Hardaway began the transition to attacking the basket in the first half but he opened the second stanza with a purpose. Michigan went to Tim for the first three offensive possessions of the second half and they ran down the court with two more points each time. Everything aggressive and toward the basket, Hardaway fed off the energy and even took a charge on the defensive end. It didn’t matter who Penn State threw at him – Oliver, Frazier and Woodyard all give it a shot in this clip – Hardway simply blew past them.

Vogrich knocks down both three point attempts

It’s no secret that Matt Vogrich has struggled with his shot during non-conference play. Perhaps the slightly symbolic transition into Big Ten play, or the short time off for the holidays, was exactly what Vogrich needed to snap out of his funk. Matt hit both of his threes on the night and shot them both with confidence – and close to NBA range.

Evan Smotrycz second half backdoor passes

Smotrycz’s improvement is the storyline of the season. His shooting is improved, he’s rebounding, making hustle plays and in this game he added the backdoor pass to his offensive repertoire. His decision making can still be suspect at times – three turnovers against Penn State – but these are just things of beauty.

Sorry for the slightly abridged version of Five Key Plays today. I’m traveling and Kevin is in New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl.

  • Mattski

    Love the way Burke pushes it way out ahead to himself on that first steal–a veteran move.

    This team hasn’t looked dominant in many of its games; there’s always been something to complain about. But it really has a lot of skilled players, able to work in a lot of different ways. I’d just like to see a little more swagger from them, including JoMo.

  • JimC

    Nice work Dylan.

    Also this, from today’s USA Today “…The [Michigan] Spartans rolled at home as Tim Hardaway…”

    How wrong is that!?

  • Wayman Britt

    Love Vogrich’s second three.  That was the same designed play that Stu missed just a few minutes earlier.

  • These are my favorite posts on umhoops. Brilliant work. My favorites are Trey’s glove-like defense and Timmy Jr attacking the rack hard. The more confidence Evan gains the better. The kid has alot of potential, and believing in himself is a big part of his success. He looks very comfortable and that should scare opposing teams.

    I still have faith in Jordan. He’s another guy that needs to have some confidence out there. He’s big and physical and needs to crash the boards harder IMO. He has the potential to be a very solid BIG for us and with Horford (who seems to have taken a page out of Carlos Brown/Branon Minor always hurt book) we really need him to impact the game. If it’s not points, atleast through defense and rebounding. 

    I have great faith in this team, I expect some serious ups and downs but in the end I think we can be a top 5 team in conference.


  • GregGoBlue

    These in particular are some very strong and encouraging 5 Key Plays. Vogrich hitting 3’s, Hardaway attacking the basket, Smotrycz adding a new dimension to his game, Novak scoring in a number of ways… these are all things that we have been saying Michigan needs to do to win, and it looks like this team is starting to heat up at the right time. 

  • Mattski

    Stiffer challenge ahead with Minnesota, huh? Looking forward to your preview, Dylan. 

    • JimC

      I can’t wait for that game!  A real test.