Game 9: Arkansas at Michigan Recap

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.

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