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.
Photo: Dustin Johnston
- 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.