Game 19: Michigan State at Michigan Recap

Dylan Burkhardt
Michigan State at Michigan 27

A year ago, Michigan hit Michigan State while the Spartans were down. The sweep provided the Michigan program with a jolt of energy, confidence and an eventual NCAA Tournament berth but there was no denying the existing chinks in the Spartan armor. This year, for the first time in over a decade, the two programs finally had a chance to spar on equal footing. Both teams entered Tuesday’s game ranked in the top-25 for the first time since 1998 and were separated by just a half game at the top of the Big Ten standings. The game on the floor did not fall short of expectations. The Wolverines let a double-digit second half lead slip away to a valiant Michigan State run before battling back, and then holding on in the closing moments, to escape with a narrow 60-59 victory.

The first half of this game went according to Michigan’s game plan. The Wolverine offense hummed along effectively as Michigan hit threes, got easy looks off of the pick-and-roll and even found some timely production off the bench. Defensively Michigan held its own on the defensive glass, rebounding 75% of Michigan State’s misses, and seemed to control the game while weathering a pair of Spartan runs.

If the first half went Michigan’s way, the second half was all Michigan State. The Spartans outscored the Wolverines by .22 points per trip, wiping away a double-digit Michigan lead, and controlled the game on both ends. It was vintage Michigan State basketball. The Spartans grabbed 56% of their second half misses for seven second chance points and hit four timely 3-point shots on just six attempts. As the Michigan State offense found its groove, Michigan’s offense sputtered. The Wolverines fell in love with the three point shot, making just 2-of-11 second half 3-point attempts, and scored just two points over a six minute stretch midway through the second half.

The game would be decided by a couple of late possessions but full game statistics still paint a clear picture. Michigan’s strong shooting numbers were buoyed by a great performance inside the arc – 17-of-24, 70.8% on twos – compared to just 6-of-21 on three point attempts. What’s most impressive about Michigan’s two point shooting numbers is that just four of the 27 two point makes were assisted. This wasn’t an array of backdoor cuts shredding the Spartan defense but Michigan players putting the ball on the floor and making things happen. Burke (8-8 2p), Novak (2-3 2p), Hardaway (3-5 2p), Smotrycz (2-4 2p) and Vogrich (1-1 2p) all had a number of strong individual takes to the bucket. With Burke and Hardaway that’s to be expected, but seeing that sort of effort across the board against a defense like Michigan State is impressive.

Michigan State shot the ball extremely well from three point range (7-of-15) and did wear down Michigan on the offensive glass, rebounding 36% of its misses. However, the Spartans turned the ball over on just shy of a quarter of their possessions and were never able to get to the free throw line. The turnovers – nine combined from Green and Appling – really seemed to be the factor that kept Michigan alive. Michigan State made mistakes, like Appling dribbling the ball off of his foot, but Michigan also forced the Spartans into some uncomfortable situations and had eight steals.

On Monday, reporters asked Zack Novak whether he thought Trey Burke understood this rivalry, given that he’s just a freshman from the state of Ohio. Novak laughed the questions off and assured reporters that there was no need to worry. By the end of the night on Tuesday, Burke had etched his name into the rivalry’s record books. Michigan’s floor general was the best player on the floor and changed the game on both ends. From his timely steals and blocks to his equalizing NBA range three point shot and of course his final assist, Burke won this game for the Wolverines.

From a Michigan perspective, there probably isn’t a more satisfying way to close out a game against Michigan State. It has to be more than a bit rewarding to Michigan’s seniors that were integral parts of the one-point loss two seasons ago. Forget the chaotic defensive possession, which was clearly disrupted by Michigan’s quick double-team of Draymond Green, and final moments. Michigan’s win was about toughness. This was billed in the media as a game of power versus finesse but as John Beilein astutely pointed out in his post game, the Wolverines have plenty of toughness despite not resembling football players. Michigan shouldered Michigan State’s blow, falling behind by four points in the closing minutes, and answered with winning plays down the stretch. Tim Hardaway Jr. hit big shots while Trey Burke miraculously, he even called the play “a bit lucky”, found Stu Douglass for a layup after driving into two Spartan defenders and Michigan held the Spartans scoreless on their final three possessions.

A couple of notes on random coaching decisions. Small ball worked for Michigan against Michigan State last year so it wasn’t all that surprising to see John Beilein go with that option again. The fact that Zack Novak has been relatively effective defending Draymond Green gives Beilein this luxury and it helps the Michigan offense significantly. I thought Michigan’s approach for defending the pick-and-roll was more effective, especially early, as Michigan State seemed hesitant to hedge as hard as Iowa and Northwestern while Morgan was disruptive defensively.

Michigan State at Michigan 15

Player Bullets

  • Trey Burke: What more can you ask for? Burke’s performance was simply brilliant: 20 points on 8-of-11 (3-6 3pt) shooting, four rebounds, three assists, two steals, two blocks and three turnovers. Burke was a game changer on both ends of the floor and made and endless number of big plays. No performance is ever perfect but it’s tough to remember a bad decision that Burke made in this one.
  • Tim Hardaway Jr.: There’s no ignoring Hardaway’s struggles at this point but he needs to continue to play through them. In the first half he let his frustration affect the rest of his game as he sulked after turnovers and had several uninspiring defensive possessions. He never truly found an offensive groove but he did make a handful of critical second half plays. He opened the half with a big dunk, took two charges and scored four of Michigan’s final six points in the closing minutes of the game. John Beilein drew those plays up for Tim in a bid of confidence and he answered the call.
  • Zack Novak: He had 10 points on 4-of-8 (2-5 3pt) shooting and just one rebound and, yet again, did a great job defensively on Draymond Green (season low 7 points on 8 shots, 5 turnovers to 3 assists). The two early threes provided Michigan some confidence but his jumper late in the shot clock with 9:04 to play was critical because it held off the Spartan run just a few minutes longer. It’s also another one of those plays that he has never made at any point in his career before this season.
  • Jordan Morgan: Morgan’s stat line is innocuous – Four points on 2-of-4 shooting, two rebounds, two blocks and a steal – but he played a tremendous game. He battled for 33 minutes, that’s more than all but one Michigan State player and a lot of minutes for a post player, against some big bodies in the post. Morgan did a great job hedging on the pick-and-roll defensively while also fronting the post.
  • Stu Douglass: From his defense to the final layup, Douglass gave the Wolverines a little bit of everything they needed. His shot selection has improved (and his shooting numbers are naturally rising) and he’s been a very calming influence for this team. His four point play in the first half was vitally important and it’s clear that John Beilein trusts him on the floor. Expect Douglass to remain in the starting lineup as he’s playing great basketball on both ends of the floor.
  • Matt Vogrich: Vogrich had a great take to the bucket, finishing with a reverse layup in the first half, but his missed three with 6:55 was almost Michigan’s downfall as Michigan State took its first lead.
  • Evan Smotrycz: Smotrycz played just ten minutes but he did have a pair of great takes to the hole off the dribble. Beilein noted after the game that he thinks he’s wearing down so that playing a few lesser minutes might help him.
  • Kevin Luoma

    Great breakdown of the game.  If we could just get the supposed big three of Trey, Timmy and Smotrycz going at the same time we could really have something.

  • Joshua Bock

    Great recap Dylan.

    HUGE win tonight.  What a game from Trey Burke, he was simply the best player on the floor.  Jordan Morgan was great defensively.  Izzo talked about his team, especially his big men, being winded at the end and Morgan’s effort was a big part of that.  Novak/Stu continue to be two of the best senior leaders this program has seen in a long time.
    I hate to bring up anything negative after a win, but Matt Vogrich really needs to find a way to contribute.  He was -6 tonight in just 9 minutes and his +/- has been negative in five straight games.  His inability to guard anyone constantly puts pressure on the defense.  If he cannot spell the starters for 8-10 minutes a game then Beilein needs to look elsewhere for depth.

    • Joel_C

      His reverse lay-up was nice, but hopefully he can bring his 3-pt % up a little. I have faith in him.

    • mikey_mac

      It’s pretty simple with Vogrich — if he starts hitting some threes, he becomes useful again.

      • Joshua Bock

        True.  He’s just not been able to knock down wide open looks this year.  The last thing this roster needs is a 3-point threat.  McLimans has found a way to provide quality minutes this year without scoring and Vogrich has not.  Hopefully Horford gets healthy and the depth becomes less of an issue.  Still, Vogrich in the game has meant an automatic run for the opposition recently.

  • Joel_C

    I guess I just have to accept the fact that THJ is a 2nd half player? But then I think back to that game @ Minnesota last year when he went 4-4 from 3 in like the first 5 minutes…

  • Mattski

    Nice write-up. I have a sense the Wisconsin and MSU football-on-hardwood models of hoop in the B1G may finally become less dominant. Between Morgan and Novak, who needs big people?
    Love these quotes in Wojo’s DetNews piece on the game: 
    “My adrenalin was pumping so much at first, I was out there just gasping for air,” Burke said. “It was so intense.”
    And Beilein:
    “I admire what they do so much, but you gotta beat the places you admire to win a Big Ten championship. If you gotta go through Michigan State, that’s what we gotta do.”

  • AC1997

    I thought what was missing from the write up was a discussion of fouls. Michigan has struggled at times this year when one of their starters gets into foul trouble, especially with Beilein’s maddening policy of sitting guys with two first half fouls. Against an aggressive and physical MSU team I think a lot of us were dreading a foul fest…especially for Morgan. And while the refs did a good job of letting them play, Michigan did a GREAT job of avoiding fouls.

    • I agree here. Morgan especially battling as hard as he did without getting into foul trouble was great.

    • storm33

      Great point.  Part of that is Michigan just not being a very deep team.  For instance, during the Iowa game, when Trey Burke had to sit for most of the first half, Michigan’s offense crumbled.  Including Douglass, we have about 6 distinctly good players.  We’re just a worse team with McLimans and Vogrich on the floor.

    • Jeff

      Great point. I was thinking same thing during the game. We basically played five guys last night. In many prior games, one of them would have been on the bench for most of the first half.

  • Herb

    I know ole Stu had the game winning bucket in all, but it’s still tough to swallow that he let a potential game deciding  rebound BOUNCE over his head there with a minute to go.

    Haters gonna hate I guess.

  • Andy19il

    Don’t forget about Smotrcyz getting a couple of steals on help D in the post.  Those were big as well as Nix was tough to handle down there.

    • gpsimms

      well, only one of those counts, because on one he fell over and got ripped in transition.

  • Alex

    Never give up on our team. McLimans has proved that people can better their games. While he has not made the same leap Morgan did last year he has contributed some good minutes this year. I have no doubt that Vogrich is trying and that if he works hard, then he will get it together.

  • A2JD

    Nice win by the good guys.  I hope to see no letdown this Saturday at arkansas.  Go blue!!!

  • ChathaM

    Among all of the great content here, the game recaps are the best. Thanks, Dylan. A few thoughts…

    I think UM surprised MSU in the first half with their willingness and ability to drive to the basket. Izzo sounded a bit whiny when he pointed his finger at his players for allowing that, but I also think there’s quite a bit of truth there. MSU wasn’t 100% ready in the first half defensively, and they paid.

    MSU’s bigs, particularly Nix and Payne, weren’t quite as good as our previous two opponents at hard-hedging the Burke/Morgan ballscreen. It was really nice to see Burke find the diving Morgan off the ballscreen once in the first half.

    I don’t understand Izzo’s comment about having Appling play “so many minutes”. Appling averages 29.1 minutes per game, and he played 31 last night. That shouldn’t be a big deal.

    I thought that Smotrycz and Vogrich both showed a lot of energy last night. That’s what’s been missing from Smot’s game in particular. Even though that high energy manifested itself in some poor shot selection, that energy is what Smot needs to bring to the floor, as he simply isn’t a player who can get by on physical talent alone.

    I agree with AC1997 that being disciplined re: not fouling was a key for UM. It would have been very easy to commit silly, panic fouls on some of those MSU jump hooks, but it didn’t happen.

    I can’t figure out Hardaway. At times (often in first halves), he looks disinterested. Then, in a blink, he’ll hit a couple of shots and, like last night, take a couple of charges.  He’s consistently inconsistent. I just don’t get it.

    Looking ahead, Arkansas seems like the prototypical trap game for UM; a team coming off a huge home win, and going on the road to a new environment to play a high energy team. I don’t have a good feeling about the game, but at the same time, Arkansas will have a very tough time defending UM’s stuff if the Wolverines bring energy. 

    • jbeck

      Also re: Appling’s minutes – all 5 of our starters played more minutes than he did.  Either Izzo’s trying to protect him by making an excuse (which is fine, coaches do that a lot) or Appling needs to grow a set.

    • Evan

      Arkansas is not a trap game. We still have not won on the road. That’s a big hurdle we need to overcome.

      • ChathaM

        I agree that it’s a big hurdle. I used the term “trap game” only to illustrate that a team could easily go into this unusual game with the wrong mentality, and come out with a loss.

  • Dr_ZC

    A few observations:

    Morgan played a great game on defense. However, there is no doubt that he has problems catching and securing the ball. Zack can really suck the ball when he rebounds, but Morgan not only has problems catching the ball, he gets stripped easily.

    If there is one blemish in Burke’s game, is that he does not involve his teammates as much on offense as of late. His assists are down. But who can blame him, when he sees that his teammates have problems scoring? He takes it upon himself to score and he delivers.

    JB’s policy to throw the hook at a player with 2 fouls, might have hurt THJ game in the first half. He got one foul and he was playing tenntative from that point on, without contensting shots. I am sure in the back of his mind he was concerned that he might be riding the pine. Somebody must have spoken to him midway, because his defense picked up and he even got two charges, blocked shots, and he was everywhere defensively.

    • Mattski

      We see flashes of both great strength and real athleticism from Morgan; I think he’s still putting it all together, including confidence-wise. He’s going to continue to improve and contribute for two more years.

      He has had many detractors, but few can doubt what great D he has played the last few games.

  • ChathaM

    Michigan is now 2nd in the nation in wins vs. RPI top 50 teams, with 6. Baylor is #1 with 7.

    • Jeff

      Wow, wouldn’t have guessed that. I guess it’s do the conference’s strength. I know NW has a surprisingly high RPI.

    • What site are you using? Warren Nolan dropped Iowa State out of the top 50 which puts us 5-3 vs. top 50.

      A lot of teams in that 35-50 range too…

      • ChathaM

        I use ESPN’s Inside RPI Daily, which is supposedly a replication of the NCAA’s RPI formula. It has Iowa St. at #46.

  • Davidjamesstephens

    Even though I’m a Spartan fan, I gotta say this Michigan team has some heart. They are difficult not to like. Their mixture of blue collar guys alongside talent reminds me of the Sparties formula for success the last couple years (decade or so). I also can’t help but think that due to Belien’s (sp) recruiting acumen, that Michigan basketball is back, and will be so for quite a while. Additionally, I hope you Michigan fans appreciate what you have in Trey Burke, his skill at his level (frosh) don’t come around very often. In my opinion, he was unquestionably the best player on the floor last night. But since I am a Sparty, I’ve got to give a shout out to MSU’s future as well. I know you guys are pumped about MM becoming a Wolverine, as you should be, however, speaking of underrated prospects (Burke), I don’t think Matt Costello is getting the attention he deserves, nationally anyway. I fully expect, Costello to have just as much impact for his team as Mcgary for UM. On a final note, if MSU had to lose to UM, I must say, the way they lost was about the best way, scrapping to the very end on a last second shot, on the road, is the way to go. See you guys in E.L. where the Izzone rules!

    • Jeff

      Thanks for the kind words. I think both programs are poised very well for the future and have pretty good teams this year as well.

  • Eyerunthis

    One of the things I like best about Burke is what I perceive as his knack for hitting a bucket when we need it most.  There were a couple points in last night’s game where MSU was making a run, or our offense was struggling, and Trey knocked down a shot, and he’s done this repeatedly all year.  Is it just me seeing this?

  • Jeremy S

    What an awesome picture that is in the middle of this article…with the focus on Izzo having a conniption and the one that is giving him his fit in the foreground.  So Sweet.

    Is that Denard in the brown because I think they may have showed him in the crowd behind the State bench? Lol.

  • section13row15

    I know the stat line didn’t show it and it’s been mentioned a couple times here but I thought Jordan Morgan deserved an award after the game last night. He battled so hard on defense, set screens, boxed out, and did a lot of little things we needed to win this game and he received very little individual reward. But the team reward of winning that game was enough for him and that’s what it takes to win a big 10 championship. There was no selfishness from him last night.

  • Lankownia

    Every year they try to keep Stu out of the starting lineup, and every year he plays his way back into it.

  • mikey_mac

    BURKE!!! I cannot lavish enough accolades on him for last night. For him to be the best player on the court as a freshman amongst a collection of talent like that is unreal. Incredible coup by Beilein to get him to Ann Arbor.

  • Elshark81

    Check out this piece on Grantland showing Trey Burke some love…awesome highlight video!

  • Mpartington87

    When Stu is in the starting five, they seem to play more effective basketball than having Smot in. Smot’s really hit a dry spell — I definitely would like to see Douglass stay in the starting rotation. We need the experience.

  • GregGoBlue

    In the battle of Morgan (3-star unranked power forward) vs. Nix/Payne (#8 and #3 centers in the country respectively according to Rivals) in Dylan’s pre-game piece, I think Morgan unequivocally won. Morgan simply outworked and out-toughed the competition, not to mention he was in better physical condition. We’ve seen this time and again: when Morgan is playing aggressively, he’s one of the toughest bigs in the B1G.