Game 14: Minnesota at Michigan Recap

Dylan Burkhardt


Under 60 possessions, woeful first half offense, lots of whistles and plenty of subpar shooting nights. Despite Michigan leading for most of the game, the Wolverines were never able to put Minnesota away. Minnesota hit just enough big shots to hang around in the game and had two chances to tie or take the lead in the final two minutes of action. Michigan held onto its lead, and perfect Big Ten record, and escaped with a 61-56 victory.

This was not your average John Beilein victory. The four factors graph is atypical of Beilein’s traditional recipe for success. Michigan was outshot by Minnesota in this one but the Wolverine offense managed to score 1.05 points per trip thanks to frequent trips to the free throw line and a strong performance on the offensive glass. Minnesota isn’t a great defensive rebounding team but it’s a rare and impressive occurrence when Michigan grabs over 40 percent of its missed shots. Morgan really battled for a few, grabbing six, but five other players also grabbed at least one offensive rebound.

One point per possession is a good barometer in conference play. If you can hold your opponent below one point per possession, you probably will have a good shot to win the game down the stretch. Minnesota scratched and clawed its way to .97 points per trip in this one and that was just enough. The Gopher offense was powered by some out of character three point shooting – 8 of 19 – but Michigan’s ability to stop the Gophers’ strengths on offense was impressive. Minnesota’s offense is one of the best in the conference at grabbing offensive rebounds and getting to the free throw line. Michigan held the Gophers to a 25% offensive rebounding rate, well below their 38% average, and a free throw rate of just 15%, compared to a 44% season average. Despite Minnesota’s offense having a big second half – the Gophers made 7 of 9 twos and 6 of 13 threes in the second half – Michigan’s defense grinded out two key stops to close the game.

This was a game that Michigan couldn’t afford to let slip away. Home games are vitally important in league play and the downside of the soft scheduling start for the Wolverines is that early losses would be more costly. It wasn’t the prettiest game but every Big Ten game is a fight and Michigan has taken care of business thus far. Next up is a trip to Bloomington, Indiana to face the Indiana Hoosiers.


Player Bullets

  • Trey Burke: Trey Burke is a winner. On a night when Michigan’s other primary offensive options were struggling, Burke took matters into his own hands. He hit his threes, ran the pick and roll and lived at the free throw line. John Beilein praised his composure after the game but Burke also knows how to provide some spark as he fired up the crowd a few times with big plays and even drawing a five second violation.
  • Tim Hardaway Jr.: Hardaway struggled throughout this one, scoring just seven points on 2 of 14 shooting. Hardaway didn’t have his perimeter shot and forced several looks around the basket. He just never got comfortable but still had enough confidence to hit the huge shot late in the game when Beilein re-inserted him into the lineup. He’s really struggled with his perimeter jumper over the last four games, making just four of his last 26 three point attempts.
  • Zack Novak: Novak had nine points on 3 of 9 shooting and never found his range from distance, going 1 of 6 on threes. Novak also had to play significantly more time at the four position than he has been lately to defend Minnesota’s smaller lineup.
  • Stu Douglass: Douglass played a great game. He hit three of four triples and he continues to play solid perimeter defense. Stu’s shots were all big and provided a scoring boost on a day when Michigan’s offense was so clearly struggling.
  • Evan Smotrycz: Smotrycz kept up his rebounding surge, grabbing nine boards for the game, but never got going offensively. He was 1 of 4 from the field but did hand out a pair of assists. Beilein sat him for a long stretch in the second half and I think that decision was mostly defensive based. Minnesota plays a small lineup with Williams at the four and Smotrycz seemed to struggle defending the quicker lineups.
  • Jordan Morgan: With Minnesota focusing on neutralizing Smotrycz and Hardaway on the wings, Michigan focused on getting Jordan Morgan the ball quite a bit. Results were mixed as Morgan scored seven points (3-6 fg), grabbed 12 rebounds (6 off., 6 def.) but had five turnovers. Morgan had some very frustrating passes
  • Matt Vogrich:  Vogrich played eight minutes and missed his only three point attempt of the game but he made the sort of plays you want to see from a bench player. He took a charge, he got a steal late and kept a possession alive with a big offensive rebound.
  • Blake McLimans: McLimans also had a solid stint off the bench in the first half. He grabbed an offensive rebound. Morgan and Smotrycz are still the two top options at the five without Horford but McLimans should continue to get a few first half minutes going forward.
  • Carlton Brundidge: Brundidge got a quick shift in the first half but looked a bit lost out there. He threw a couple of passes that were in the wrong spot and never looked comfortable.
  • sane1

    Tubby admitted that he picked his poison by not helping on Trey and guarding the perimeter. Part of our poor shooting was that many of the shots were contested and rushed slightly. Even Novak forced a couple of shots today. Given that Tubby was giving Trey the driving lanes and opening up the paint, Morgan’s 5 turnovers were killers. Most were simply bad decisions, lack of composure. The Big 10 season is a long slog. Teams have to find a rhythm and an identity. It took us almost half the season to do that last season. It’s just good to be 2-0. 

    • Yup. Psychologically it really has to help to get off to a good start in conference play. A win at Assembly Hall would be huge, but I’m not confident. 

      • Yeah, I’m not either. I’m hoping they’re a little too high after their second big home win of the season and we sneak away with a win.

        I’m especially hoping this, since I’ll be heading to Bloomington for the game. Indiana fans are starting to become unbearable to listen to already this season, and I’m sure I’ll hear plenty of it if we don’t come away with a victory.

      • Mattski

        I don’t think we have played well there in recent seasons, either. I would settle for playing them tough, then holding serve in A2.

  • Indiana_Matt

    I must say, you gotta love the idea of being the first team to beat IU at home this year. They gotta be really up for this game. Almost as much as Duke, I would think.

    • Merlin50

      It was ugly but it was a win.  I was really impressed with  our movement on defense especially Novak.  That said we have little to no chance at Indiana-we don’t have a player that can matchup with Watford.

      • Indiana_Matt

        The Hoosiers were obviously up for Kentucky and OSU. I’m thinking they might not be as up for us. Take the crowd out early, and victory is ours. Go blue!

        (don’t know why I’m irrationally confident, but I’m going to roll with it)

  • jemblue

    It’s satisfying to win the rebounding battle against these guys a year after they annihilated us on the boards in the game at Crisler.  

  • maizeman

    Good to be 2-0 in the BT, but I’m really concerned about the depth of the team.  Nine guys played but only six had double digit  minutes.  I’m not sure this will bode well for the rest of the season if the top six have to log these kind of minutes.  Burke and Novak both played 38 min. 

    Hopefully Horford gets healthy and Vogrich finds his shot in order for this team to make a run at the BT.  Otherwise we may have to settle for 9-9 and a very worn out group come the post season.

    • Jeff

      Yeah, I didn’t think it was the best idea to play the starters so many minutes against PSU. We had that game under control almost the whole way. It will be tough to get them much rest going forward. Beilein even said he thought Hardaway and Smotrycz were a little bit tired, although he might have just been covering for them.

  • maxwell’s demon

    not included in Morgan’s 5 turnovers are the 3 passes he fumbled out of bounds or into the paws of a gopher

  • q-sac

    i think we have a solid shot at indy. burke was incredible and stu solid but other than that the team played poorly – especially hardaway who seemed to be forcing it all game – and we still got the w. i dont see a repeat performance – no way the starters other than burke be essentially nonfactors again. playing to potential could mean a statement win and set the tone early in the big ten.

    • The main thing with Hardaway yesterday was he seemed to be frustrated that he wasn’t getting fouls called when he went to the rack, so he stopped going altogether. I can see the same thing happening at IU, especially given the advantage they get on their home court. Lots of swallowed whistles, etc.

      Not that it’s an excuse. We’ve always struggled to win there, but I was in attendance for the game a couple of years ago when we were down 20 and ended up beating them in OT. I’m hoping we can come away with another win.

      • sane1

        I think THJ was finishing those plays against PSU’s defense and thought he could do the same against Minny. Whether he was fouled or just missed, he has to keep his head in the game. Coming into the season, he was supposed to be one of the team’s leaders. He can lead by example.

      • Indiana_Matt

        Over the last couple seasons this team has played very well against the top competition. I see no reason why they wouldn’t bring that kind of effort again in Bloomington. It will be a very tough challenge to get a win, but I’d be really surprised if the margin is more than10. And Beilein is twice the coach that Crean is. I like our chances. This win would be huge for our national profile.

    • Jeff

      My take on Indy is that they will be as tough as almost anyone in the country at home, but will be very ordinary on the road. In three years under Crean, they’ve won exactly one road game in the Big Ten. 

      • HoosierDawg

        Just an FYI…this is NOT the same IU team you have seen the past three seasons.

        • Jeff

          Agree, that’s why I said ordinary on the road, as opposed to mind-bogglingly awful :-).

          • HoosierDawg

            They were unwatchable!

  • JimC

    Was wondering why Smot sat so long in the 2nd half…..Dylan has all answers here.

    NOT expecting a win at IN.

    • DeathReau

      Actually I think it was something else.  I was just 3 rows up from the bench and when Smot got yanked he had just committed a foul.  Beilein was explaining to him what he should have done differently, but Evan continued to argue that it wasn’t a foul.  Beilein took a seat but Smot kept going, forcing Beilein to get up and explain a little more demostratively.  It eventually turned into Beilein shouting as he sat down again and finally Evan got the hint.  He didn’t go back in until a few seconds to go in the game.

  • A2MIKE

    I would rather play our best ball in March.  Beilein understands where this team needs to be in March, and they will get there.  It is so much more satisfying to win while playing your worst game of the season, rather than to get blown out while playing your worst game.  I dont know the stat off hand but Beilein teams are really good with 3+ days of rest, especially as an underdog.

  • FLiPCiTyBLuE

    I firmly believe this Michigan team has just the grit and know how to dismantle the Hoosiers in their place…-GO BLUE!