Game 1: Slippery Rock at Michigan Recap

Dylan Burkhardt

Michigan 100 - Slippery Rock 62 - 13
Photo: Dustin Johnston

For about 10 minutes, Slippery Rock looked like a team ready to provide a challenge for No. 5 ranked Michigan. The Rock played physical basketball, didn’t look overmatched and hit some early shots to hang around. Eventually Michigan’s talent and depth was just too much for its Division II foe. The Wolverines stretched their lead as high as 42 points before reaching the century mark for the first time since 2007.

12 different Wolverines scored and three reached double figures in the dominating victory but Tim Hardaway Jr. was clearly Michigan’s star of the night. The 6-foot-6 junior scored 25 points on 8-of-10 (5-5 3pt) shooting and added 10 rebounds and three assists for good measure. Hardaway looked focused and confident from the outset and was nearly flawless in his junior year debut.

Just days after playing a 54 possession exhibition game, Michigan opted for an uptempo attack in a 71 possession shootout. The fast tempo did little to hurt the Wolverines’ offensive efficiency. Michigan scored an impressive 1.41 points per possession – its best regular season tempo free offensive output since March 2nd, 2010.

Pushing the pace caused a steep increase in interior shot attempts as Michigan attempted just 29% of its field goals from three point range. The Wolverine offense still made the most of its limited three point opportunities, hitting 12 of 19 (62%) triples, but also connected on 55% of its twos. Michigan rebounded over 40 percent of its missed shots but those figures were slightly inflated by McGary’s three self-miss offensive rebounds in one possession. It felt like the Michigan offense was somewhat loose with the ball but nine turnovers in 71 possessions is just a 13% turnover rate (well below last year’s average) and nothing to worry about.

Michigan’s defense was far from perfect, and there’s likely plenty of material for John Beilein to review in film sessions over the weekend, but Slippery Rock didn’t have the offensive mettle to make the Wolverines pay. The Rock scored .88 points per possession and shot just 40% on twos and 29% on threes. Slippery Rock rebounded 31% of its misses and was especially effective on the offensive glass early on. Lackluster defensive rebounding is an early red flag against a Division II team as the Wolverines will need to be much improved in this department against better competition.

Beilein’s rotation appears to be fairly established at this point. The starting lineup was unchanged and Stauskas and McGary continued to be the first options off the bench. The most notable development was that Beilein used Spike Albecht to spell both Burke and Hardaway. Albrecht replaced Burke but then stayed in the game when Burke was reintroduced in the lineup while Hardaway rested.

The most troubling development was seeing Michigan’s post players get into early foul trouble. Both Jordan Morgan and Mitch McGary picked up two first half fouls in quick succession (combining for 10 first half minutes). Jon Horford and Blake McLimans both impressed in their absence with an and-one basket and a made three respectively. Depth and physical play in the front court is a convenient luxury but is severely limited if Michigan’s bigs can’t learn to play without foul trouble.

The Wolverine offense is hitting on all cylinders and the defense isn’t far behind but Michigan still hasn’t beaten a Division I team. IUPUI (also fresh off of an opening win) and Cleveland State or Bowling Green are likely to pose a stronger threat next week but Thanksgiving and the NIT Season Tip Off can’t come soon enough as a first true measuring stick for this team.

Michigan 100 - Slippery Rock 62 - 27
Photo: Dustin Johnston

Player Bullets

  • Tim Hardaway Jr.: The Hardaway at the two experiment is working. In Michigan’s exhibition game it was obvious that Hardaway was letting the game come to him and had improved his all-around floor game. Today he found all sorts of opportunities to score the ball and took full advantage, hitting all five three point attempts en route to a 25 point, 10 rebound double-double. It has only been three early games but Hardaway looks like a different player in all facets of the game. He’s become an impact defensive rebounder, has made great passes in transition and in pick-and-roll situations. Most of all he has a confident demeanor and just seems to be enjoying the game, something that he didn’t do all that often last season.
  • Trey Burke:  Burke never seemed to find a groove in the first half, going 3-of-10 with four turnovers, but regained his form in the second half with 6-of-7 shooting to just one turnover. In the end what almost felt like a disappointing game ended up with 21 points and eight assists, not bad for an off day. His move of the game (pictured above) was a filthy hesitation crossover that left Luiz Santos in the dust.
  • Glenn Robinson III: Robinson had what seemed like a fairly quiet night but he flirted with a double-double in his first collegiate game with 10 points (5-7 fg) and eight rebounds. He’s a tremendous complement to Michigan’s other pieces because his offense comes so easily and he doesn’t demand the ball. He does all of the little things and found offense off strong cuts to the hoop, put-backs and even a heads up out of bounds play. Then he throws a one handed bounce pass in transition to Matt Vogrich for a layup to remind you that he’s only scratching the surface of his potential. He grabbed eight boards but needs to continue to be more physical at the four position both on the glass and in his one-on-one post defense.
  • Jordan Morgan: Morgan started the game perfectly, catching a pick-and-roll pass for a good finish but he never really found a groove after that point. He shot a 15-footer in rhythm and with confidence early – but missed. From then on he hesitated in similar circumstances and seemed to be somewhat indecisive when catching the ball on the block. Morgan finished with just four points and one rebound in a foul trouble limited 18 minutes.
  • Matt Vogrich: Vogrich will always be a shooter first and foremost and he fit the billing today: scoring 8 points on 3-of-4 (2-3 3pt) shooting in 20 minutes. The Vogrich-Stauskas plateau at the three position seems to be here to stay and both players have been effective. Vogrich’s release was quick, smooth and confident and the results matched.
  • Mitch McGary: At the end of the year we’re going to look back at how far McGary has developed. He’s just scratching the surface of his potential as he adjusts to the game. After playing only four minutes in the first half due to fouls, somehow McGary ended up with 9 points and nine rebounds in just 12 minutes. He knocked down an 18-foot jumper, faked a dribble handoff to slip to the basket for a layup and dominated the glass. He needs to work on finishing around the hoop (see his three misses on one possession) but his natural strength and ability is going to be a great asset for Michigan this season.
  • Jon Horford: Horford stepped on the floor and grabbed an offensive rebound, put it back up and got fouled. Then he hit the free throw and took a charge on the other end. Not a bad start for a player that Beilein only planned to play in “emergency situations” and told his coach that he still felt a bit awkward after sitting for two weeks. Later in his first half stint he caught the ball on the block and made a great pass to a cutting Glenn Robinson III. Horford missed a couple of 18-footers but looked the part of a player that will play a rotation role this season.
  • Nik Stauskas: Stauskas is obviously a shooter but it’s encouraging that he scored his first four career points at the free throw line. He’s not afraid to put the ball on the floor and make things happen and even added a three pointer late for good measure.
  • Spike Albrecht: Albrecht didn’t shoot well (1-of-5) but had a couple of very nice passes including a nice pick-and-roll pass to Horford and a drive and kick for a Vogrich three. He got on the board scoring after a steal and pretty coast-to-coast finish. He seems to be established as the third guard option at this point with Vogrich and Stauskas playing almost primarily the three.
  • Blake McLimans: McLimans gave Michigan a great first half shift. He hit a three, blocked a shot and grabbed a steal in just six minutes. He looked comfortable on the floor and shot the ball with a quick trigger off of a nice pass from Burke.
  • Alex

    Very good showing. Got to b careful the next two games as a loss keeps the Wolverines from MSG. They are in all likelihood going to be fine and hopefully should realize this potential that Dylan mentioned. Over the full course of the season of course.

  • Wayman Britt

    Tim’s dribbling problems have been documented, but when he gets a defensive board and then leads the break down the floor with the shooters filling the lane is almost impossible to stop. Today he made the defenders look silly.

  • MarcO

    Hasn’t THJr always looked like a natural 2 and been played elsewhere due to the roster? He doesn’t have the handle to be a 1 or a 3 and he’s got an incredible shot. Sounds like a 2 to me.

    • MGoTweeter

      not in Michigan’s offense under Beilein. The 2 spot has traditionally been closer to the 1 in terms of ball handling and setting up plays. Beilein likes to have two strong ball handling guards out there to handle pressure and prevent teams from just taking away one guy and thereby preventing the team from getting into the offense. The 3 spot has been nearly interchangeable with the 4 during that time as well.

      TH Jr’s potential next level spot is probably the 2 though.

      • FL Wolve

        This hasn’t always been the case though as JB used to trot out Novak at the 2 regularly. IIRC, I think we had Novak at the two when we beat UCLA and Duke in the same season. Hardaway’s handle is considerably better than Novak’s. I really like Hardaway playing the 2 this year.

  • MGoTweeter

    A lot of good in that game including a very nice opening night crowd. I was impressed by Slippery Rock and they seemed to just run out of steam and get a little down on themselves when Michigan started making a run to put the lead up to about twenty. But they had several guys that were very good on offense and they made a number of challenged shots especially early. Michigan helped them out for a good bit early as well by failing to box out and pretty much every possession.

    I think that was the best overall game that Hardaway has played at Michigan. I agree completely with Dylan that he seems a lot more comfortable with his role at the 2. I think a lot of that is just getting his hands on the ball on every single possession whereas at the 3 the play sometimes goes away from that spot and therefore it can be a little harder to stay involved mentally.

    Burke did seem to force a few things and has a few really ugly turnovers but he also had a couple where he made the correct play but his teammates just were not in sync with him. I have no idea why his shooting was so haywire early.

    Robinson at the 4 seems to be working very well on offense, but I am concerned about how it will go on defense. GRIII got dominated several times in the post and although the player he was defending was a beast, I just cannot see him being good enough down there defensively to stop guys like Watford, Thomas, Mbawke or Belsabe. So the big question becomes can Michigan play two bigs effectively and stay out of foul trouble? As well as can the offense continue to function with two bigs out there?

    The last big thing that stood out to me, is the depth Michigan has. Horford played ok in his time even though he looked awkward out there. McLimans really played well especially defensively. Those guys are 9 and 10 off the bench right now and I feel comfortable with either getting minutes. McGary, Stauskas and Albrecht are all quality options with some big time potential. I definitely think there will be some games this year where either McGary or Stauskas leads the team in scoring. Heck McGary might end up being the team leader in rebounds this year even if he is limited by fouls.

    Lastly, I guess it is official that Levert will be redshirting unless someone gets injured.

    • Kenny

      I am not worrying too much about GRIII’s defense down the road. Right now he plays exactly like what ThJr did in his first dozen games. Tim was a very mellow kid just like Tre is now, but eventually found ways to pump himself up during the games. Tre is still adjusting to the college game, and is a bit intimidated to fully unleashed his abilities. I believe that he will step up big time half way into the season just as Tim did two years ago. It is no incident that THJr took GRIII under his wings, history will repeat.

    • FL Wolve

      I agree with you about GRIII’s defense. Even in the exhibition games, he looked a little shaky playing the 4 on defense. He’s got the size and athleticism to play the 4 but I think he’s going to need a little seasoning down there.

  • MGoTweeter

    forgot to mention this as well, Darius Morris got some extended run last night. Scoring 10 with 5 assists and 5 rebounds in 27 minutes. Probably his best day as a pro and hopefully he can continue to make an impact with Nash out of the lineup.

  • GregGoBlue

    Caris LeVert definitely on the way to a redshirt as well, btw. Wasn’t in the rotation. That we can afford to redshirt such a long and talented kid is encouraging for those of us who have been watching M Hoops for awhile.

    • Kenny

      The fact that Spike has a very good understanding of the game and can play both 1 and 2 makes the decision making much easier.

  • Ben

    Andrew Wiggins- talked to him a little bit last night at the Marshall game. I told him someMichigan fans would love to have him. I asked if hes heard from Michigan and he says he got some mail….so I told him to call the coaches. I told him to watch out for Michigan that we are going to be good. Coaches need to call Andrew.

  • JimC