Game 9: Arkansas at Michigan Recap

Dylan Burkhardt

Michigan 80, Arkansas 67 - #23Dustin Johnston

Michigan’s win over Arkansas was John Beilein’s 100th at Michigan but the head coach is certainly more excited about the future of his team and the wins that might lie ahead. Nine games into the season it’s becoming clear that this is probably the best team that John Beilein has ever coached and the best team in Ann Arbor since the early 1990s.

The Wolverines didn’t necessarily play their best game but still managed to win comfortably on their home floor against a dangerous SEC opponent. All five Michigan starters reached double figures, led by Glenn Robinson III’s 17 points and Trey Burke’s 16 point, seven assist effort. Jordan Morgan played a strong game down low with a 12 point, 10 rebound double-double. Beilein went nine deep on his bench early and often as Michigan simply overwhelmed Arkansas with its offensive rebounding and efficient offense.

The standard to which we have to judge Michigan’s offense against is bordering on ridiculous. The Wolverines coughed the ball up on nearly one-in-five possessions and had a frustrating drought early in the second half yet still scored a sizzling 1.25 points per possession. As we sit and nitpick Michigan’s performance we have to remember just how good this team is. To put things into perspective, last year’s team scored the ball as effectively as Michigan did today just once last season.

Michigan’s winning combination hinged on offensive rebounding — something else that last year’s team simply wasn’t capable of. The Wolverines rebounded over half of their missed shots and scored 15 second chance points. This team continues to prove that its no typical Beilein led perimeter oriented offense as Michigan scored over half of its points in the paint and attempted less than 30% of its field goals from three point range. Michigan shot 50% on twos and 38% on threes for a slightly below season average effective field goal percentage of 52% but did attempt 14 more free throws than the Razorbacks.

There’s obviously great balance to Michigan’s offense with a blend of unselfishness and scoring ability across the board. John Beilein has had previous teams that pass the ball well and can flat out score; the difference is that this team can also rebound. Offensive rebounding multiplies the production potential of Michigan’s offense. If the Wolverines can consistently be an above-average to good offensive rebounding team, they will be nearly impossible to stop on the offensive end.

On the defensive end of the floor, there’s still plenty of work to be done. Arkansas shot the ball extremely well from outside, making an astounding 59% of its threes. Michigan’s defensive rotations broke down fairly often and the Razorback offense was explosive at times. At the end of the day, allowing Arkansas to score 1.05 points per trip isn’t an awful performance but it’s not the sort of performance a top five team should expect at home. The Wolverines did a good job of limiting BJ Young, 9 points on 10 FGAs, but continued to struggle defending athletic versatile four men like Marshawn Powell. Michigan’s ability to defend twos – 39% – without fouling – 4 FTA – was pivotal to countering the hot three point shooting.

This game was played at Michigan’s pace, 64 possessions, and the Wolverines deserve plenty of credit for slowing down Arkansas’ full court offense. The Razorbacks scored just two points on the fast break and were never able to truly discomfort Michigan despite a few uncharacteristic turnovers.

Michigan will have a tune-up against Binghamton on Tuesday before heading back to New York City next weekend to face West Virginia at the pristine Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn in its final game against a high major foe before Big Ten play.

Michigan 80, Arkansas 67 - #2Dustin Johnston

Player Bullets

  • Jordan Morgan: Morgan set the tone early on and played arguably his best game of the season. He caught the ball well and finished off of the pick and roll but he dominated the offensive glass. Morgan grabbed six offensive rebounds in 23 minutes and seemed like he could have had more if he wasn’t limited in the second half with two fouls.
  • Trey Burke: This wasn’t Burke’s best game and he still clearly outplayed a projected lottery pick. Burke settled for a couple long threes, something he loves to do against the 2-3 zone, but was fairly steady throughout. His late offense helped seal the game  and continued to be nearly impossible to keep out of the lane with his hesitation dribble moves.
  • Tim Hardaway Jr.: In past seasons, Hardaway struggled to play good games when his shooting stroke wasn’t on. He did just that today. Hardaway was just 3-of-10 (1-4 3pt) from the field but grabbed nine rebounds, handed out three assists and got to the free throw eight times. He continues to be comfortable as a scorer more than a shooter and was pivotal in Michigan’s great rebounding performance.
  • Glenn Robinson III: Robinson quietly accumulated 17 points and six rebounds in 29 minutes. He hit a pair of early threes but the rest of his scoring around the hoop, either slipping in behind the Arkansas defense for dunks and layups or grabbing offensive rebounds. Robinson’s production continues to be timely and efficient as he blends in between Michigan’s other talented pieces.
  • Nik Stauskas: Stauskas can miss shots. It is still a surprise when he misses and if this is a “bad shooting” game for him at 2-of-5, he’s going to continue to be a game changer all season. His dribble drive game continues to be one of the more impressive and unsung elements of his game. His most impressive drive of the day, a behind the back dribble and finish over three defenders.
  • Mitch McGary: It’s tough to gauge what exactly you will get from McGary on any given play. One time down the floor he’ll look rushed and have a pair of layups blocked. The next time he’ll catch the ball with composure, pump fake, dribble and rise for a dunk. As game slows down his consistency will increase but 6 points and five rebounds off the bench in 15 minutes is a solid luxury.
  • Spike Albrecht: Michigan didn’t miss a beat when Albrecht checked in the game as he fared well against the Razorback’s pressure defense. He knocked down one of his two three point attempts and handed out an assist without turning the ball over in eight minutes.
  • Jon Horford: Horford has to make the most of limited opportunities and he continues to do just that on the defensive end. His strongest possession defensively featured a pair of blocked shots before corralling the eventual defensive rebound. He’s not necessarily making an impact on the offensive end but he might be Michigan’s best one-on-one post defender.
  • Caris LeVert: LeVert still drifts a bit on both ends and is obviously playing catch up. He made a great play at the top of the 1-3-1 forcing a turnover before dropping off a great pass in transition rather than forcing a contested layup.
  • bluedc

    Another major difference between this year’s team and prior teams is that when the game is tight they are not settling for three pointers. The second half was a good example – when the game got close you saw drives to the hoop to stave off the run. I think this is a good sign. Stopping momentum is key during these situations and having the ability to get to the hoop is crucial. Great game – can’t wait till big ten season.

  • Jon

    What does TR mean in the StatSheet box score?

    • jemblue

      I believe it’s Team Rebounds (when two players grab a rebound at the same time).

  • Donkey with Donkey face

    I believe it is Team Rebound…

  • billiam

    I noticed that we sometimes make bad decisions on the fast break, trying to push it too hard. Burke had a trailing McGary on one of his fast-break lay-up attempts and instead of passing for the easy dunk, he forced the shot up and missed. Someone else, I think THJ, did this as well. LeVert obviously did the opposite, and thus the assist.


    • Chazer

      Agree 100 percent…..Trey’s gotta give up the rock……he must reward the big man for running the floor…..get the left handed thunder slam!

  • CDeSana

    Any idea where I may be able to catch a replay?

    • David usually has them up within a day

    • section13row15

      It’s called DVR

      • Joel_C

        maybe, just MAYBE not everybody has DVR

  • Wayman Britt

    I love Horford’s game today. He brings a great spark off the bench, especially on the defensive end. The depth is great.

    • JimmyZ5

      Likewise. He’s going to be very valuable.

    • Mattski

      All three big men bring energy–each one of them can fire up the crowd. It’s great.

    • jemblue

      Horford had as good a zero-point game as you will ever see – five boards, three blocks and a steal in 10 minutes. He really gave us a lift.

  • gobluemd16

    Great write-up, I agree with the poster below who mentioned the fast breaks. I feel like on two or three occasions today, there were one or more trailers the lead guy could have dropped a pass to, but decided to go up one-on-one instead and either missed or had to shoot free throws. I still think Trey is overdribbling some in the half court, but we are definitely nitpitcking now. This team is so much more talented than last year, it is really, really exciting. They don’t have to play their best and still win by double digits.

    • Mattski

      Couple of great passes on the break early on in the game:

      I know that Trey got stuffed on one break, but in his defense it has to be noted that he has surprised several teams by just blowing by for the fast-break shot so far this year; just didn’t work out a couple of times this afternoon.

      • ChathaM

        On the fast break where he was stuffed, it looked to me like Burke wanted to dish to McGary, but McGary turned his back and Burke was left with no option but to try to force up a shot.

    • James

      My main complaint about Burke is that he gets overly selfish with less than 10 on the shot clock.

  • patentlyblue

    Is concern about the bench’s production valid at this point?

    • John

      is this a serious comment? Michigan has one of the deepest benches in the country. a backup pg with a near 6 to 1 turnover ratio. a long 2 guard (levert) who can defend. Mcgary and Horford as talented big men. The only concern about the bench should be getting the enough minutes so they stay sharp.

      • James

        Spike’s TO/assist ratio is now 10-1, which would be 2nd nationally. McGary is 2nd nationally in off reb pct and 3rd in the conference in def rebounding pct. Horford would be in the top 10 in conference in block pct. What are we supposed to be concerned about? That one of these guys will transfer due to lack of PT?

    • Matt

      There are multiple ways to contribute to a game off of the bench. Stop looking at only the points scored column on the stat sheet. Better yet, watch the actual game.

  • umnyc

    Love this team and am extremely excited to see them grow as a unit. I truly think we’re only scratching the surface of their potential. The nucleus of Burke, THJr, Morgan, stauskas, GRIII, McGary can clearly match up with anyone in the nation, but I think the addition of Albrecht might be the key to this teams success. Having both him and Burke in there together during the Arkansas run really helped us keep our composure.

  • ChathaM

    It was fun to play a fellow major school and have a decided size advantage; just another thing that we simply aren’t used to as M fans, but that will come into play at times with this year’s roster. In the first half, Arkansas had no answers for the size difference on the glass, as their rebounding efforts didn’t match that of our big guys. Mickelson’s foul issues hurt as well. If a team is bigger than you, and works a bit harder on the glass, what happens is exactly what happened in the first half. I believe Arkansas is a good team, but that they’re one solid scorer short of being really good. The quickness of some of their guys’ hands is amazing. They give you no time to think, and that was a factor at times today. I love the way they push the pace, but their fast break did seem a little disjointed at times. That’ll likely smooth out as their season goes along.

    I thought that M handled the full court pressure beautifully. After Ark scored, it was very smart of the M player throwing the ball in (often Hardaway) to delay taking the ball out of bounds. I assume the idea behind that was to allow our guys to set up where they needed to be, and to calm the pace just a bit. I’m not sure whether the trail official started their 5 second count during that delay (they should have), but in any case, there were no 5 second violations against the press. Once the ball was in bounds, they seemed to know exactly where the 10 second count was, and stayed completely calm in advancing the ball over half. That was all very well done, even by less experienced guys like Spike and LeVert. Once the press was broken, there were very few poor, rushed decisions to attack, and the guys simply settled into their halfcourt offence. Top notch coaching.

    The post depth is outstanding, with Robinson, Morgan, McGary, and Horford all very active players. I doubt we’ll see many (if any) opponents with as many active posts. Horford’s mobility and bounce is especially impressive, if only because I didn’t expect it at all. We know how hard Morgan worked in the off-season. I’ll bet that Horford worked just as hard.

    Is there any other program (with a good team this year) that gets productive minutes from 5 freshmen? That has to be a strong measure of the strength of a freshman class.

    It was tough to tell on TV, but it looked like there were plenty of empty seats in the upper level on the ends. Is that correct?

    • gobluemd16

      Only behind the end where the band is. There were I think 2 sections that were pretty empty and those are student seats. All other sections were 95-100% full, I’d say.

      • BlueFront

        Really disappointing to see the empty student seats behind the band. Come on students, it’s only a two hour time commitment! Kudos to the students that did show up though. The Maize Rage is a big contributor to Michigan’s home court advantage.

        • gobluemd16

          Exams are definitely part of it, but attendance should be better regardless. We are so fun to watch and we are #3 in the country, come on!!!

          • ColinNer

            Agree with exams but I will be surprised if the upper bowl student section is ever completely filled. I am convinced there are a good number of students who have no idea they bought tickets.

          • gobluemd16

            This game definitely wasn’t as big of a draw as NC State (night game, better opponent) and there was about half of two sections not filled, so you may be right. I think for the bigger home Big Ten games like Ohio and Indiana (last day of Spring Break), the place will be packed to the brim.

          • rlcBlue

            I’m sure the place will be packed to the brim on March 2, but how many of the packers will be wearing green and white?

      • Quick Darshan

        I continue to be disappointed by the amount of empty seats. It’s ridiculous. Some it was masked by the pom-poms that were placed on each one. A team this good and this fun to watch should have better attended games.

        • ColinNer

          I think the attendance has been strong this year and this game was no exception. As mentioned, the two empty sections are for students who bought tickets and never showed up. The athletic department needs to address this but it is too late for this season. Other than that there were just a few empties which are going to happen in anywhere except a few of the most traditional basketball school (Duke, UNC, Kansas, etc.)

  • Champswest

    Last year, Arkansas hit their first 11 shots. This year, by my count, they made their first 5 and then missed the next 8.
    A win against a pressure team will be a good learning experience for us and help us down the road.
    The depth continues to impress. Can this team continue to play at this level (or higher) all year long? I think that they can, due to the depth and versatility.

  • Joel_C

    Off-topic but congrats to Eastern Michigan on beating Purdue at home today – they’re my 2nd favorite team to root for in bball and football even though they’re usually pretty bad, so it’s nice to see them get a B1G win (pun intended) even if Purdue is having a down year. Hopefully they have a shot to win the MAC and make the tourney for the first time since 1998.

    As for the Boilermakers, I don’t know if they’ll even get to 10 wins this year….the conference schedule will be pretty brutal for them. Penn St may even be better.

  • Mattski

    We’re looking tough, but we’ll need to be. That January 10-27 stretch with games at OSU, Minnesota, and Illinois is going to offer a very stiff challenge.

  • A2JD

    Even though the NC State game was against a better team, I think I enjoyed this victory more because Arkansas’ best punch came early in the 2nd half and Michigan had to respond to get the win (instead of just managing the clock). They did and they did it well.

    There also don’t seem to be any weak links on the court in this current rotation. Maybe Vogrich will come around and join the level of play/confidence everyone else has but he hasn’t shown that yet this season. Caris seems calm and capable out there. I’m sure it was a tough call for the coaching staff to have made but it looks like it was a move that was best for the team.

    GO BLUE!

  • A2JD

    I also have to say that CBS gave Michigan a lot of props yesterday and had Beilein audio clips all throughout the game. I hope that was helpful in recruiting.

  • CDeSana

    After watching the replay of the game there a few things that come to mind.
    – We are getting better at feeding the bigs on the pick and roll but still missed a lot of easy scoring chances. In fact in the second half JMo was getting a little frustrated as he knew he had a easy path to the basket.
    – We also have the ability to create serious match up problems in the paint yet rarely take advantage of them. More than a few times our bigs were being guarded in the paint by a 5ft10 guard and we never gave them ball.
    – Our depth at handling the ball is our strength; take a look at how many people easily handled ball pressure (Burke, THJr, Stauskas, Spike & Caris). What other team has so many options to keep players fresh yet handle pressure?
    – GRIII is barely scratching the surface; when he breaks out (which may not even be this year) he is going to turn heads with his inside – outside abilities.

  • Mattski

    Curious what some of the good bball minds here took from Beilein’s “wired” comments to his players during the game yesterday? Really nurturing approach without being milquetoasty, I think. . .

  • Tom

    Dylan – you missed in the recap a bullet about the student who made a half court shot at half time for $500! Surely Beilein has added him to the practice squad to test the kid’s range!