Game 24: Michigan at Michigan State Recap

Dylan Burkhardt

Michigan at Michigan State 14
Photo: Dustin Johnston

The energy and anticipation in the Breslin Center was never more obvious than the opening five minutes of play. The game was tied 2-2 at the first media timeout and both teams had accumulated more turnovers and missed shots than points. After those frenzied early moments, both teams settled in and Michigan State took control of the game. Michigan fell behind by as much as 14 points in the first half and were able to shoulder some of the Spartan attack but never quite battle back.

The Wolverines inexplicably crept back into the game and found themselves down just eight points after Trey Burke buried a halftime buzzer beater. However, that was as close as Michigan would come. The Wolverines consistently remained within striking distance for the final 20 minutes and made just enough shots to evade the Spartans’ knock out attempted and creep within three or four possessions time and again. Despite the valiant effort to remain in the game, the Wolverines could never make a breakthrough and Michigan State had all of the answers.

Most of those answers came from the Spartans’ leader: Draymond Green. Green appeared healthy and was the best player on the floor, finishing with 14 points and 16 rebounds (equal to Michigan’s team wide rebounding output) in 38 minutes. Both times that Michigan cut the Spartan lead to eight points in the second half, it was Green that scored the retaliatory bucket. Green guaranteed victory after Michigan State’s loss in Ann Arbor and he did more than enough to backup his guarantee.

In the preview I wrote that it’s sometimes hard to put a quantitative measure on “holding your own” on the defensive glass. This game makes it pretty easy to define “failing to hold your own”. Michigan State rebounded a resounding 48% of its missed shots and scored 16 second chance points. The Spartans crashed the glass on every make and four different Michigan State players grabbed at least two offensive rebounds on the game.

Michigan State’s dominating offensive interior presence extended beyond the backboard. The Spartans made 61% of their twos and were consistently attacking the basket, attempting almost 80% of their field goals inside the arc and earning 20 free throw attempts. This was vintage Michigan State offense, and the only reason this game wasn’t a blowout was because the Spartans turned the ball over on a quarter of their possessions.

Michigan’s offense was a constant struggle. Simple things like passing, catching and cutting became a laborious process and fighting that battle on every possession can certainly wear on a team. Michigan was rattled early, turning the ball over eight times and scoring just .75 points per possession in the first half. Michigan State was well prepared defensively and eliminated a majority of the defensive breakdowns that we saw in Ann Arbor. There were no easy lanes to the basket for Trey Burke or any easy offensive production in transition. Michigan made just 46% of its twos and 32% of its threes for a 47% effective field goal percentage. You have to concede the fact that you are going to have to take some forced shots late against Michigan State and you can live with that, but that makes every open look significantly more important. The Wolverines missed a lot of those open looks.

After the game Trey Burke admitted that “Michigan State was the better team tonight” and it’s tough to disagree. The Spartans got to more loose balls, dominated the glass and executed their game plan more effectively. Similar to Burke in Ann Arbor, Draymond Green was the best player on the floor and made winning plays for his team down the stretch. The Wolverines needed to play their best to pull off the upset in East Lansing but their performance was far from it.

Another road trip is next on the docket for Michigan, this one to Lincoln, Nebraska. Suddenly Michigan’s standing in the conference is precarious. The Wolverines are tied for third and Ohio State is just two games ahead in the loss column. However, there are six other Big Ten teams that are within two games behind the Wolverines. Michigan should be favored in both games this week (also host Illinois on Sunday) but any slip up could allow the Wolverines to sink dangerously close to the middle third of the league.

Michigan at Michigan State 25
Photo: Dustin Johnston

Player Bullets:

  • Trey Burke: Burke’s success in the second half of the Big Ten schedule is going to be about his ability to adapt. Michigan runs so much of its offense through the freshman guard that he’s going to be the stop priority on every defensive scouting report. He shredded Michigan State in Ann Arbor, abusing Adreian Payne on the ball screen, but this time Michigan State got the best of him with a consistent hard, physical, hedge and a compact defense around the basket. Burke found the roll man once, maybe twice, but finished the game 4-of-11 for 11 points with four assists to four turnovers.
  • Tim Hardaway Jr.:Hardaway’s stat line tells the story: four points on 1-of-10 shooting with one rebound, two assists and a turnover. Hardaway isn’t the first wing scorer to struggle against Michigan State and he won’t be the last but that doesn’t change the fact that his prolonged slump and mental frustration are a serious concern for this team going forward. Michigan doesn’t have another option – Hardaway is the only true wing scorer for this team – and John Beilein’s only real option is to hope he shoots his way through it. The most frustrating aspect of Hardaway’s slump might be the affect it has on his performance on the other end of the floor. He had just one rebound in 32 minutes and had several less than inspiring defensive plays.
  • Zack Novak: Novak left everything on the floor offensively, scoring 14 points on eight shots, but Draymond Green got the best of him on the other end of the floor. Some of Green’s makes were contested, some were open, but he was the star on the court and Novak didn’t have much answer defensively.
  • Stu Douglass: Similarly, Douglass provided a strong effort even if it was lacking the scoring output. Douglass finished with five points on 2-of-6 (1-3 3pt) shooting with five assists, three rebounds and zero turnovers. It wasn’t always pretty but several times he put his head down and made something out of nothing late in the shot clock, often finding an open shooter.
  • Jordan Morgan: Morgan was physical down low but he was eventually overwhelmed. He had only two defensive rebounds compared to Michigan State’s primary five men (Nix and Payne) who had four offensive rebounds combined. Morgan also struggled defending the pick-and-roll as Michigan seemed to be late on a number of interior defensive rotations. He did score 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting, all around the basket, and stepping up and knocking down 3-of-3 free throws was also impressive.
  • Evan Smotrycz: Smotrycz’s misses seem especially agonizing because they were mostly good shots. He wasn’t forcing things, he found open shots within the flow of the offense and he missed them. Smotrycz was almost automatic in February but something is off whether it’s legs, confidence or anything else.
  • Blake McLimans: McLimans checked in for one minutes at the end of the first half and played some solid defense before surrendering an offensive rebound. He can do some nice things, proving himself as a shooter recently, but he continues to be a liability on the defensive glass.
  • Matt Vogrich: Michigan went to Vogrich a couple times with Hardaway’s struggles but he could never find much and wasn’t better than Hardaway defensively by any margin either. He scored two points but they were a layup in the closing seconds of the game.
  • Carlton Brundidge: Brundidge was sick and did not travel with the team.
  • Wayman Britt

    Next two games are huge, two losses next week and the team could spiral out of the tournament.

    Bacari needs to work on Tim’s mental game.  Tim’s shooting problems are effecting every aspect of his game. 

    • Spiral out of the first round Big Ten Tournament bye… maybe. Spiral out of the tournament? I don’t see it at all.

      • JimC

        Thanks Dylan, you always seem to be the voice of reason around here.  (Though I do understand Wayman’s worries.) 

        I was expecting an 8 or 9 point loss at MSU.  The result is really no surprise at all.

    • DUK3D3V1L

       I disagree. Hardaway’s issue was the fantastic defense by Dawson. This and the fact that MSU just has overall better offense than UM. Rebounds were a huge factor – Izzo preaches rebounds, and if you are going to play against him, you need to expect that. The better team won, and they should have won at UM as well.

      • maxwell’s demon

        Go Canes!

      • johnnyumfan

        Hardaway had numerous open looks that had nothing to do with Dawson. Hardaway shut himself down. And the better team did win at Crisler, or did you forget that UM led that game for 30+ minutes.

      • q-sac

        was dawson guarding him the last 8 games too… either hardaways having a monumental slump or he’s just not as good as thought after a solid freshman year.

        and not sure how “they should have won at UM.” sure msu’s more talented but its not like they beat themselves in ann arbor. michigan D’d up down the stretch and msu couldn’t score late so they lost.

      • Sarah

        The better team really? State has played bad games too. Life on the road is hard. And if they had to deserved to win that game they would have. All our games are winnable not guaranteed but winnable. Go blue. We have an easier stretch than the other teams ahead of us.

    • Mattski

      I don’t see how they fail to make the NCAAs, and they’ve been good at bouncing back from losses, too. Don’t see them moving deep into the bracket without Hardaway and/or Smot finding their shots, though. 

      It will be great to have some bigger people on the floor in future years. 

  • gpsimms

    It’s too bad.  Zack and Stu played pretty good games, but they just aren’t able to create enough shots.  Timmy just has to take 10+ shots a game, whether he wants the shots or not.

    As much as his trash talk was getting tiring, Day Day really had himself a game.

    So did Nix and Payne.  They made tough shots over Morgan that they had not made in other games.

    It’s sad, but Timmy’s hot finish last year is starting to feel like an abberation. 

    • JimC

      Weren’t we undersized at every position too?   It seemed like it, anyway.

    • Jeff

      One of the problem’s I’ve had with Hardaway is that he continues to take bad shots essentially every game. He shoots contested threes outside of the offense early in the shot clock pretty much every game. I think if he cut down on the bad shots and took  6 or 7 shots a game the result would be better and maybe he’d start to get some confidence back.

      • Most of the shots he missed yesterday were going to the basket… to his credit. He took a couple of bad threes but just couldn’t finish around the hoop.

  • ChathaM

    I loved MSU’s offensive game plan. They were very conscious of getting their shots inside of 15 feet, and for the first 30 or so minutes, they consistently did that. I remember consecutive possessions midway through the second half where Thornton and Wood attempted 3’s that were likely outside the game plan, but aside from that, it was excellent execution. If these teams meet again in March, I’d expect the exact same game plan. “We’re bigger and stronger than you, now deal with it”. Great coaching; usually, it’s a simple game.

    MSU’s defensive intensity throughout the first half was incredible. UM did miss a couple of easy ones, as Beilein said, but for the most part, they couldn’t get looks. I still remember how MSU’s national championship team was able to keep that sort of intensity for 40 minutes. It’s probably too much to ask of this year’s team, but that’s what it will take for them to reach the Final Four, IMO.

    It’s hard to believe that’s the same team that lost at Northwestern and at Ilinois. That’s just life on the road, I guess.

    I agree that there were several late defensive rotations in the first half by UM. MSU ran their stuff well, but the openings shouldn’t have been quite as wide as they were.

    Watching Smotrycz, I can’t help but wonder whether McLimans could be more productive. Obviously, we have to defer to Beilein here, as he sees these guys practice every day. But, if Smotrycz isn’t going to knock down shots, I’d prefer the taller player out there. In any case, I see Smotrycz as the #1 candidate to see his playing time take a serious hit next season.

    The past two weekend road games have been frustrating to watch. But, you can’t overreact to these things. After spending two of the last three games trying to get looks against OSU and MSU, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the offence look extremely smooth at Nebraska on Wednesday.

    • Indiana_Matt

      I agree about the frustration but even more so with the sentiment that you can’t overreact as a fan. I think when you look at our schedule, the OSU and MSU road games stand out as probably our toughest contests. Losing them is not fun, but c’mon. The sky is not falling. I think we have a great chance to, WORST case, be waiting around on selection Sunday with a 22-11 record. I hope we do better, of course, and think we can. But there is really not much chance of this not being a successful season.

      Let’s take care of business this week. Go Blue!

      • Quaint06

        No, I don’t think there’s any chance of this not being a successful season. But I don’t know if I’d call 22 wins the worst case scenario. Some of the easier teams we face, we face on the road, so I don’t know if I’d count all of them as gimmes. Although, I can see us with 21 at the end of the reg. season with the 22nd in the tournament.  It’s nothing to take for granted, though.

  • Michigan4

    Its games like this that really show just how offensively challenged we truly are.  Its very tough to score when you only have one player (Burke) that can create his own shot and shots for others.  IMHO, Beilein has realized that with the physical nature of the Big Ten, you must have multiple players that are able to manufacture their own shots.  Bringing in players like Tre Robinson, Nik Stauskas, Zak Irvin, and Derrick Walton will help give our lineup multiple options and help to alleviate the offensive struggles when the 3-point shot is not falling.  I think Timmy is clearly trying to do too much and become a player he simply is not.  Next year, once more offensive weapons arrive on campus, do not be surprised to see THJ become the player we all hoped he would be this year.  But people, the sky is not falling.  MSU (and Michigan) is undefeated at home this year for a reason. They are a great team that thrives off of the energy their home crowd helps create.

  • MFan12

    A game like this shows how crucial Horford’s injury is to this team and how much of an  impact McGary and Robinson will have next year. 
    REBOUNDS. We can not grab rebounds, one of our best rebounders is a 6’4 shooting guard/power forward and a 5’11 point guard. Morgan, Smotrycz, and McLimans aren’t getting it done. I think with the additition of a Mitch McGary’s “Novak-esque” hustle, plus his ideal 6’10 height, and robinson’s nba athleticism. We atleast make this a game decided by 2-4 points. 

  • JDiesel

    My first trip to Breslin and it was pretty impressive.  Props to the Michigan section which made some quality noise and even sang a nice happy birthday to Beilien.  Tough game.  Obviously the rebounds (as noted by many) killed us.  We also missed several lay-ups, particularly in the second half, which really stalled any chance at a comeback.  Big game at Nebraska, who seem to be playing a little better of late.  Would be nice to reel off a few victories.

  • goblue85

    I bet right now, hardaway will break out his slump and have a career day against ohio at home just watch.  And I will love every minute of it.   Were ok, this team is better at this point than last year.   We have an opportunity to get two w’s this week lets do it.  Believe.  GO Blue!

  • SamGoBlue

    Any chance we can get a freeze frame of Tom Izzo running about three or four feet onto the court while we had the ball on that end of the floor? It appeared as though Trey Burke was looking to go right and Izzo was almost standing in his path, preventing him from driving. It was the most appalling thing I think I have ever seen a coach do on the court that got nothing from the referees.

    • ChathaM

      This is an excellent point. When I officiate a game, I’m always very conscious of a coach standing on the court during the first half. As you said, they can act as a 6th defender in some cases. I’m not saying that any coach does this intentionally, as coaching can be an intense, emotional business, but it’s definitely a factor. In the second half, I’m conscious of it, but it’s not as big a deal to me if a coach is a half step on the court, as he’s only potentially getting in the way of his own offence.