Five Key Plays: Arkansas at Michigan

1. Jordan Morgan’s hot start

There hasn’t been a Michigan basketball player who has undergone a more shocking transformation in recent memory than Jordan Morgan. With the guidance of this coaching staff, the redshirt junior has made himself one of the most reliable, smart and tough big men in the Big Ten conference. Against Arkansas, Morgan happened to stuff the stat sheet, as well. From tipoff, Morgan played with purpose, and his inspired play to start the game lifted his team and set the tone for how Michigan was going to play for the rest of the game. Morgan immediately went to work on the offensive boards. After a missed 3-pointer by Trey Burke, Morgan sheds Arkansas’ Marshawn Powell and leaps between two more Razorbacks to snag the offensive rebound and score the reverse put-back. On the very next play of the game, Morgan hustles back on defense and is in perfect position to draw a charge on BJ Young. That sequence is a perfect illustration of what Morgan brought to the table for the Wolverines on Saturday: toughness and intelligence. The Detroit native ended up with 12 points and 10 rebounds — six offensive — on the night.

2. Michigan builds a comfortable lead with an 8-0 run midway through the first half

For the first few minutes, this was a tight game. Michigan and Arkansas were trading baskets, neither able to get any real momentum going either way. Then, Michigan was able to assert itself, starting at around the 14-minute mark in the first half. It was at this point the Wolverines first showed they were clearly the better team. It started with a play Michigan fans are seeing more and more of: Nik Stauskas, supposedly a pure shooter, putting the ball on the floor and taking it to the rack with confidence. Stauskas saw his opening when his defender overran his rotation and used his quickness and length to get to the rim. The second play in the run came off a tough rebound by Tim Hardaway Jr., and what results is what makes it so dangerous when Hardaway is able to grab defensive rebounds and get into space. After starting the break and using his speed to draw all three Arkansas defenders up court, he dishes a perfect pass off to Glenn Robinson III, who slams it home. Hardaway then shows the damage he can do when he steps into his shot and gets proper elevation by knocking down an open 3-pointer. By the time Caris Levert makes an excellent pass in transition to Morgan for the lay-in, Michigan is up by nine points, and the Wolverines held on to that lead through the end of the first half.

3. Michigan starts the second half anemic on offense

The Wolverines were uncharacteristically turnover-prone during the first few minutes out of the locker room to start the second half. Arkansas didn’t press Michigan as much as many originally thought they would, but the Razorbacks were able to force a few miscues during this stretch, after which Michigan’s seven-point lead was cut to just two. The game was relatively close for the majority of the remainder of the game until Michigan was able to pull away at the end. After a miscommunication between Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III leads to the first turnover, Trey Burke almost gets his pocket picked. After he passes to Morgan, the redshirt junior unwisely attempts to dribble past his defender and ends up coughing up the ball. On the fast break, Trey Burke elects to take the ball to the hoop himself rather than dump it off to an open Mitch McGary and ends up getting stuffed. On the ensuing out-of-bounds play, Burke throws the ball away, which leads to an Arkansas fast break. Michigan essentially out-offensed Arkansas, and when its offense sputtered, Arkansas crawled back into the game. This likely won’t become a larger issue — Arkansas is one of the best teams at forcing turnovers in the country, and Michigan remains one of the best teams at avoiding them, with a turnover percentage of just under 16.

4. Spike Albrecht hits a big 3-pointer

Ahead by just four points with seven and a half minutes left in the game, Michigan found a spark from an unlikely source: freshman backup point guard Spike Albrecht. Albrecht is largely judged by both Michigan fans and coaches by what he doesn’t do: namely, turn the ball over. His role on the team so far this season has been to spell Trey Burke when he needs a breather and not mess anything up when he’s in the game. He’s filled that role perfectly and, at times, has overachieved at the point guard spot. His play against Arkansas was everything Michigan fans could as for as the Wolverines outscored the Razorbacks by five points during the eight minutes that Albrecht was on the floor. On this play, Tim Hardaway Jr. made a pretty easy read: after coming around his pick, he saw that Albrecht was wide open and dumped the ball off to him. Albrecht knocked down the open shot which extended the lead to seven, an;d other than two Arkansas free throws immediately following the shot, the deficit didn’t fall below six points the rest of the contest.

5. Jon Horford’s monster defensive possession

If Jon Horford can churn out a few more defensive stands like the one shown here, he will undoubtedly command significantly more playing time. You can’t keep a guy like this off the court if he has the ability to completely shut down a talented big like Hunter Mickelson one-on-one. Horford’s body is resembling his brother Al’s more and more, and his strength is evident in the way he was able to move Mickelson out of his desired post position on both blocks. On the first, Mickelson had all the momentum and was streaking toward the basket — Horford stopped him in his tracks without fouling and blocked the shot. On the second, Mickelson attempts to establish post position through a pretty good drop step, but Horford is quick enough to meet him there and long enough to cleanly block the shot. To top it all off, Horford comes down with a tough defensive rebound despite getting slapped at and held by multiple Arkansas players, which was eventually called. It seems as though Horford is the clear choice as Michigan’s best one-on-one defender in the post. Horford, like Albrecht, made a valuable contribution off of Michigan’s bench late in the game to help seal the victory.

  • AndyS

    I really thought Horford’s defense made a significant impact on the game. Once he came in and was able to stop Arkansas on the block, Michigan was able to pull away and create a lead that Arkansas was never able to overcome.

    • John

      Horford had their big man on lockdown. He kept blocking him, and if he wasn’t blocked, his shot was significantly altered. He did a great job.

  • David

    Our offense has great efficiency when you look at KenPom, but we still seem to have a lot of late clock situations.

    I wonder if it would be prudent to try to pick up the tempo, especially on rebounds. Burke can obviously push the ball with the best of them.

    • David

      One more thing: As great as Trey is playing, he seems to have a bit of the “Stu Douglass syndrome” — great shooter whose percentage is brought down by too many unnecessary NBA-type threes.

      He’s 14/39 on the year (35.9%) but could easily be shooting 40%+ if he took more judicious threes.

      • jemblue

        Yeah, he’s definitely got too quick a trigger on the NBA-rangers. The possessions where he dribbles the air out of the ball and then jacks up a three tend not to end that well.

      • AADave

        I agree. He still has this tendency. It’s basically a hail mary and a wasted possession. Hopefully, he improves in this area. Otherwise, it might really cost Michigan in a close game.

      • Chazer

        He really does have the ball in his hands for alot of minutes but he has it on a string. I don’t like the limited ball movement type offense but JB has discussed this new style of BB in his pressers…..seems like the wings are spreading the floor with the high PNR..NBA style ball.

        I will say though the kid can ball and hits the rack hard, he was on the floor after several quality finishes. JB loves the point to control the game and Trey is doing a great job.

        WOW…these kids really get it and Great job by the bigs! I know the B10 is tough but I see Blue hammering the boards every game…..This team will be a tough out every night!

        The key is to be very good in March and you can bet this is the goal!

        Go Blue!

        • David

          I’m fine with Trey having the ball most of each possession. I just think his efficiency would be even better if he reduced the 2-3 contested NBA-range threes he shoots each game.

          I’m not a hater at all with Trey. When I first saw him play last year in the holiday game against Bradley, I thought it was obvious he’d be a pro.

  • AADave

    I’m very impressed with Horford. He’s really added bulk over the last couple years. I see him being the starting center as a senior. He’s another great example of Beilein’s ability to identify and develop raw talent.

    I also like Hardaway’s rebounding and passing. On the play where Levert dumped it to McGary, Hardaway made it happen with a steal and outlet pass. Although his shooting numbers don’t show it, he had another strong game – driving to the basket, drawing fouls and doing just about everything else.

    • rlcBlue

      I don’t know if Timmy got credit in the boxscore for that steal, but Horford made it happen by getting his hands on the pass. Hardaway did make an excellent outlet pass, which is something this team really does well.

      With two key plays belonging to bench players, a third one containing a Horford steal leading to a LeVert assist, and the one negative key play being starters turning the ball over, we can safely say that the quality of the bench play is not a concern at this point. We’ll have to see how much the quantity can be increased without a drop-off. I have to say that Spike playing 8 minutes without a turnover against Arkansas is extremely encouraging. LeVert and Horford both are flashing the kind of defense that will get them into games, and if they can contribute any offense they’ll get longer runs as the season progresses.

  • AADave

    Actually, I should point out that both Horford and Morgan have obviously put in hard work and made great strides since coming to Michigan.

  • John

    Does anyone have the video of Mcgary’s pick? That had to have been one of the best picks I’ve ever seen from a Michigan bball player.

  • Kool Breeze

    I know this is going sound crazy, but Spike deserves more minutes. Dude plays so efficiently, I love his game.

    • Sewd

      Word, Kool Breeze. Ever notice how he doesn’t get hung up on the double-team either? He just splits it or heads back the other way.

  • ChathaM

    I’d mentioned in the game thread that McGary turned his back on Burke, and that was why Burke ended up getting stuffed on the FB attempt. That was wrong. Burke got stuffed on a baseline shot in a halfcourt set, after he looked to pass to McGary, but McGary had turned his back. The FB stuff in set 3 here was all on Burke.

    • rlcBlue

      I can understand why that happened, though. McGary ran down the court on the break, wide open, calling for the ball, and Trey just ignored him. After about five seconds McGary decided his role was to rebound the shot that Burke seemed determined to take, so he started boxing out. Hopefully the two will work out the kinks on the teammate-anticipation front.

  • Troy

    Can someone tell me who the real old man is that always sits two seats to Coach Beilein’s left, at home games? Also, are Blueitt and Booker the only two offered and uncommited 2014 prospects? Thanks!

    • Bursley_Blue

      Well for the Arkansas game it was Lloyd Carr. In the past it’s been Gary Moeller among others.

    • Steve2081

      Yeah right now we only have those two offers out. Vince Edwards is supposed to be visiting soon and he is expected to get an offer when that happens.

    • elreymateo

      al glick

      • gobluemd16

        Yup it is Al Glick, comes to all the games.. Lloyd Carr was sitting next to him for the game, I believe

        • SamGoBlue

          Comes to most of the games…he’s actually the owner of Alro Steel, a pretty big steel corporation. He’s getting pretty old as everyone can see and used to not make it down to his seats very often, but now that the team has been playing well he makes it out quite a bit.

          • http://twitter.com/cedsed justin sedlecky

            and you used to work for him

  • mstein23

    Spike also had a nice assist to Glenn soon after his 3 pointer. Along with the previous Stauskas 3, those two plays by Spike helped turn the game in Michigan’s favor. I love the way Spike plays. He won’t get much run, but when he does I’m very confident he’ll make a positive play or two that will make a difference in the game.

  • Joel_C

    Key Play 3b was Arkansas hitting shots from everywhere in the early-mid 2nd half to capitalize on our anemic offense and almost take the lead. Or you could label it a defensive breakdown, if you like.

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