Game 22: Michigan at Ohio State Recap

Dylan Burkhardt

It was no secret that a Michigan upset in Columbus would require a nearly perfect performance. The Wolverines battled and remained within striking distance for a majority of the game but were far from perfect. The Michigan offense never gained traction and the Buckeyes outlasted Michigan with their stifling defense and a dominating performance on the offensive glass to cruise to a 15 point home victory.

Michigan’s offense could never find any consistency as it scored just .85 points per possession, well below its previous season low of .94 points per trip at Virginia. The Wolverines had just a 43.4% effective field goal percentage – 39% on twos, 32% on threes – due to their struggles to finish around the basket. Michigan’s interior difficulties were magnified by the fact that the Wolverines didn’t attempt a free throw until the 2:33 mark in the second half. Two point shooting has been an unexpected positive for the Wolverines this season, often helping to overcome inconsistent three point shooting, but this is an Ohio State defense that is allowing Big Ten opponents to make just 40% of their twos.

Michigan’s defense did a lot of things well, including limiting Jared Sullinger to 13 points on 11 shots, but was unable to hold its ground on the defensive glass. Ohio State rebounded 43% of its missed shots and turned those offensive rebounds in 16 second chance points. Despite limiting Ohio State’s stars, Lenzelle Smith Jr. grabbed eight offensive rebounds by himself and scored 17 points. Clearly the more aggressive and athletic team, the Buckeyes attempted 18 free throws which helped them overcome subpar shooting – 51% on twos and 20% on threes – to produce 1.10 points per trip on the game.

The Wolverines experimented with a number of zone looks and had mixed success. The 2-3 appeared to be most effective, slowing Ohio State in the first half, but the Buckeyes were very effective against the 1-3-1. While the zones forced Ohio State into some tough field goal attempts, they also could explain some of Michigan’s poor rebounding.

Ohio State has won 38 games in a row at home for a reason and a loss at Value City is far from shocking as this is likely the toughest game on Michigan’s schedule. On one hand it’s encouraging that Michigan played poorly and still had a puncher’s chance in the game. The Wolverines led for stretches of the first half, were down just one in the second and threatened to make a run down the stretch. On the other hand, it’s disappointing because Michigan had some chances but missed opportunities convert open looks or grab defensive rebounds. Coincidentally, the Wolverines’ fatal flaws in this game – two point shooting and defensive rebounding – are arguably the two strongest statistics on their seasonal resume.

The Wolverines earned a split despite playing two games on the road for the week. That’s acceptable but the upcoming week could be equally as difficult. First up is a home game against Indiana followed by a Sunday trip to the Breslin Center. A sweep of those games would re-establish Michigan as a legitimate Big Ten title threat, a split likely keeps the Wolverines about where they are while a two loss week would pose questions and push Michigan much further toward the cloudy mid-section of the Big Ten.

Photo: MGoBlue

Player Bullets

  • Tim Hardaway Jr.: Hardaway hit some shots, took a charge and played pretty well but he still took two or three forced threes that were essentially wasted possessions. He was Michigan’s leading scorer with 15 points on 5-of-12 shooting but I’d like to see Michigan get him more involved inside the arc. Good things happen when the Wolverines get Hardaway the ball on the curl but he needs to be a little stronger with his ball handling when he’s slashing to the hoop. Hardaway seems to be figuring things out, slowly but surely, and seems to be playing with more confidence than we saw two weeks ago.
  • Trey Burke: Playing against Aaron Craft’s physical defense is a chore unlike many others and while Burke struggled at times, he also made plenty of big plays. Finishing with 13 points on 5-of-11 (3-6 3pt) shooting with five assists and five turnovers, Burke’s performance was a bit of a mixed bag. The turnovers were frustrating but without Burke’s big threes this is game could have turned into a blowout.
  • Jordan Morgan: Morgan did a solid job on Sullinger and made himself available for some clean looks for Burke. He was 4-of-7 on the day but Michigan just can’t afford for him to miss out on easy looks when he hesitates around the hoop instead of going up immediately. He was also limited to just eight minutes in the second half after getting in foul trouble.
  • Stu Douglass: After playing one of his best games of the season at Purdue, Douglass struggled in Columbus. He had three turnovers to one assist and was just 3-of-9 (1-5 3pt) for seven points on the night.
  • Zack Novak: Novak was a non-factor in the game. He struggled with fouls and was 0-for-4 from the floor. This game was the first time Novak was held scoreless since November of 2010.
  • Evan Smotrycz: Smotrycz is still searching for his shot as he was 1-of-6 (1-4 3pt) on the game and had just one rebound in 18 minutes. He needs to be an efficient scoring option because he’s not an impact defender. If he can hit shots while he’s on the floor, that’s a change of pace that you can live with.
  • Matt Vogrich: Vogrich grabbed two rebounds and provided a bit of energy for Michigan in just six minutes of action.
  • Blake McLimans: McLimans is probably Michigan’s best screener and he also knocked down one of his two three point attempts. His weakness remains on the glass as he didn’t grab a rebound in eight minutes of play.
  • Colton Christian: Christian was thrown into action when Novak and Smotrycz both picked up four fouls and provided some energy, including a couple of strong rebounds, but is a liability offensively.
  • Mattski

    The offense has rarely operated on all cylinders this year, unfortunately; canny defense has helped to keeps us in many games. And can we think of a time when the 1-3-1 really worked this season, people with better memories than me? 

    Agree that Morgan’s missed shots hurt (as did Christian’s), but the o operates better when Morgan is in there, IMO; eight minutes in the second half is murder.  And I don’t think it’s just Novak’s lack of athleticism; he has seemed almost to play cowed the last two games; is he worried about being too aggressive?

    Some people were on Stu because of his drives; c’mon, that’s the O; I’m not sure he even stepped out. 

    Finally, what is Smot’s percentage since B1G play opened? Gotta be rock bottom. He STILL may be the key to this team winning down the stretch.  

    • bird

      He definitely stepped out.  I’m not saying that because I’m on him.  I agree that those drives are coached moves.  They’re scary, but it seems like they work pretty well often enough.

  • Alex

    Goodbye Columbus. Hello Ann Arbor.

  • ScottGoBlue

    Better team won. We’ll learn from this and should have a shot when OSU comes to Ann Arbor. I was encouraged by what I saw from bench guys: McLimans (had more 3-pt looks he could have launched), Vogrich (good energy on D and boxing out), and Christian (ditto D and box out, plus a couple scoring chances).

    Hardaway ran a pick-and-roll effectively. Need to do that more because it opens up 5 good scoring looks: Hardaway for 3 or driving, Morgan rolling, or kick-outs to 3-pt snipers

    • ScottGoBlue

      Make that 6 good scoring options.

  • Jengoblue

    This is off topic, but, Dylan, are there still copies of the highlights videos from last season? I wanted to watch the Zack Novak one the other day, but the video was down. Could you possibly re-upload them? 

  • rlcBlue

    Looks like Indiana may go for 100 today – hope they’re tired and overconfident Wednesday.

    I definitely want to see us finish in the top 4 of the conference and get the bye in the Big Ten Tournament. Indiana is the strongest threat to edge past us, so the game on our home court is really critical.

    • rlcBlue

      Boxing out may be a focus in practice – IU rebounded 60% of their missed shots against Iowa today.

  • gpsimms

    one could say that smotrycz actually is an impact defender.

    • vaneasy2338

      I was just gonna say that smotrycz not being an impact defender isn’t the problem. the problem is well our entire defense suffers with him out. I’m not trying to kill the kid he can also be a major mismatch when he is shooting well, but his defense makes it difficult to keep him on the court. It’s that bad.

  • Zok

    1 rebound in 18mins for Smot is a joke. Thats the reason why we loss right there, OSU’s role player is grabbing 8 off rebs and scoring 15+ on putbacks bc we can’t get a rebound. If smot is not making his shot he’s gotta come off the floor.

  • Wayman Britt

    I am not worried with the off day Zack and Stu had, they will bounce back. But, I am worried about Smot.  If he can’t make his shots, why have him on the floor.  His defense is a huge liability.

    I cannot believe I am saying this, but with Horford out maybe Blake should get more of Smot’s minutes.  Hopefully, Smot starts playing with some assertiveness and urgency.

    • Michigan4

      I completely agree with this.  At this point in time, Blake is shooting the ball better, is a much better defender, actually knows how to set a screen, and doesn’t turn the ball over every other time he touches it.  Neither one of them can rebound very well, but at least Blake can block the occasional shot.  No moral victories, but I think this team has proven they can play with anyone, anywhere.  We desperately need Horford back.

      • mikey_mac

        Smot is leaps and bounds better at rebounding than Blake.

        • Eyerunthis

          The stats don’t really bear this out, at least not to this degree.  Smot is averaging 0.24 reb/min on the season versus McClimans at 0.20 reb/min, so he does have a decent advantage there.  However, McClimans has the edge in conference games at 0.21 to 0.19, and while this is a smaller sample size, it is a more recent sample and could better characterize their current form.

  • jturn14

    Seemed to me that the 2-3 zone worked really well the last 10 mins of the 1st half, and then Coach B switched it back to man-to-man at the start of the 2nd and  Zack, J-Mo, and Smot started picking up fouls.

  • Blazerine

    Well the game is over and my emotions have worn off. First off thanks Dylan for mentioning that Ohio hasn’t lost at home in 38 games…makes me feel alot better knowing that no one else is beating them at VALUE CITY either.

    Next, the two seniors. Trust me I love Novak and Douglass as much as the next guy…I love their leadership and appreciate the fact that they came to Michigan knowing full well that well…we weren’t going to be very good for atleast the first few seasons. But back to my point…if they’re the leaders they need to PRODUCE on the floor. They’re getting tons of minutes and to be on the floor providing little to no offense…is just unacceptable. 

    I could break down every player and my thoughts but chances are you all have already stopped reading my post by now anyways but here’s my thing. I KNOW we’ve been successful with the high screen and roll but the coaches NEED to devise alternatives. Run some SET plays, get our players MOVING without the basketball as opposed to camping out at the 3 pt line waiting for pick and roll action to get an open look, MAKE YOURSELF an open look. IMO that is on the coaching…when something isn’t working you need to adjust. 

    I like that we showed alot of defensive looks…but how come we never tried any different offensive looks?!?

    Let’s beat the Hoosiers and go from there.


    • ChathaM

      I thought that UM generated enough open looks to stay close to OSU, and that they simply failed to knock down enough of them. Combine that with the fact that OSU speeds you up into committing a few more turnovers than usual, and it’s a recipe for a loss. The fact is that there will not be as many open looks against OSU than there will be against the vast majority of teams. That has to be accepted before you go into a game against them.

      After almost every game this season, I’ve thought about how much I’ll miss Novak when he leaves. I still feel that way. But yesterday, I was also thinking about how you simply need bigger athletes to consistently compete against a national power like OSU, and that’s what we’ll start to get next season.  

  • Mattski

    If Smot or someone doesn’t find a consistent three I’m not sure we travel too far down the stretch here. Perhaps Hardaway is the sleeping giant, slowly waking.

  • Skinzkid

    I think the number 1 problem right now is that Hardaway has under performed this year.  Sure he’s the leading scorer most games, but he also shoots 3 times more than anyone else and misses a tonnnn.  You would think with the amount of 3 point shots he misses that he’d start trying to get to the basket, but it just doesn’t happen enough.  I’m hoping he will break out of this funk and start to tear it up, but i’m nervous that he won’t and we will continue to struggle.  We’ll see…

    • Eyerunthis

      We see this wish for THJ to take it to the rack more frequently, and it’s obvious why when you see his struggles with 3P% this year. This sounds good in theory, and in the long run might be best for his overall development, but I feel like he is fairly turnover prone when he tries to beat his man 1v1. I use the word “feel” because that’s all I’ve got to evaluate it and I could be very wrong. It would be great to see some advanced stats like Pruiti uses over at Grantland for his rookie evaluations and really see what his PPP is when taking it to the hoop versus shooting treys.

      I say this because other than taking better shots, what does a shooter do to improve? Personally, I think the biggest improvement he could make is on the defensive end. Again, I’m swimming without a statistical paddle, but I think he can be somewhat weak on defense and on the glass, and since he’s one of our better athletes, that’s disappointing.

  • Kool Breeze

    Can anyone tell me if we have burned Carlton’s redshirt?  If he is getting zero minutes now, not sure why he was playing garbage time minutes earlier in the season.  I agree he isn’t ready, so why was he playing?