Game 14: Michigan at Northwestern Recap

Dylan Burkhardt

Michigan 94, Northwestern 66 - #5
Broken Ankles // Dustin Johnston

MICH 1.38 94 34-57 60% 21-35 60% 13-22 59% 13-19 68% 10 31 17 12 8 2 14
NW .97 66 24-59 41% 14-31 45% 10-28 36% 8-17 47% 10 15 19 12 7 4 12

Just when games were supposed to become more challenging, Michigan’s offense demonstrated that it was capable of reaching new heights. Northwestern is an average team trending toward the league’s cellar without its two best players but the offensive clinic that the Wolverines executed in front of a pro-Maize and Blue crowd in Evanston should serve as a warning shot to the rest of the Big Ten.

John Beilein has managed to surround the nation’s best point guard with a versatile combination of scoring threats that are nearly impossible to contain on any given night. Trey Burke set the tone, scoring 13 of the game’s first 20 points to give Michigan 16-4 lead before finishing with 23 points and five assists, but he allowed his supporting cast to shine as well. Tim Hardaway Jr. (21 points), Jordan Morgan (12 points and 13 rebounds), Nik Stauskas (10 points) and Glenn Robinson III (10 points) all reached double-figures as the Wolverines extended their lead to 20 points just 10 minutes into the game. When the smoke cleared, Michigan’s 94-66 win was its most lopsided Big Ten road victory since 1964.

Michigan’s 1.38 points per possession was its best against a Division I opponent this season and it can beat anyone in the country when it shoots the ball that well. The Wolverines made 60 percent of their twos and 59 percent of their threes for a 71% effective field goal percentage that remarkably isn’t even their high water shooting performance of the season. But beyond the hot shooting, Michigan’s ability to exploit Northwestern’s weak defensive rebounding is what gives this offense an aura of sustainability. The Wolverines rarely missed but were still able to corral 40% of their misses when they did. Those second chances – half of which were credited to Jordan Morgan – are an invaluable boost to the Wolverine offensive attack. There will be off-shooting nights before April and Michigan’s offensive rebounding will be the difference in two or three games this season.

It’s tough to know what to make of Michigan’s defense in a game like this. Holding the Wildcats to .97 points per trip isn’t awful but is far from awe-inspiring either. Much of that production came with the game essentially out of hand but this game isn’t going to eliminate any nerves about a potentially suspect Wolverine defense. Michigan did clean up its defensive rebounding woes from its last outing (although Tim Hardaway Jr. grabbed just one rebound), securing over 75% of Northwestern’s misses on the evening. The Wildcats connected on 45% of their twos and 36% of their threes for a 49% effective field goal percentage, all of which falls almost directly in line with their season averages of 46/38/51%.

While John Beilein is certain to praise Iowa and Nebraska over the next week, it’s tough to look at Michigan’s next two home games as anything other than minor distractions before the first true Wolverine test: a Sunday afternoon trip to Columbus, Ohio on January 13th.

Michigan 94, Northwestern 66 - #27Michigan 94, Northwestern 66 - #9Michigan 94, Northwestern 66 - #26
Dustin Johnston

Player Bullets:

  • Trey Burke: Burke puts games to sleep before they even begin. By the first media timeout there was no question who was the best player on the floor and just how this game was going to play out. The plays that Burke makes are often times simply impossible to guard whether it’s a step back three, a crafty drive to the bucket or an assist in transition. He was noticeably upset by his two back-to-back turnovers around the 13 minute mark in the first half and responded by not turning the ball over for the rest of the game. Enjoy the show while it lasts because Burke has been simply terrific.
  • Tim Hardaway Jr.: Hardaway showed no signs of rust or a lingering injury, scoring 21 points on just 6-of-8 shooting. His first three triples came from the exact same spot on the floor but he branched out to the other wing to hit his fourth consecutive triple in the first half alone. He was dialed in but also aggressive pushing the ball and slashing, getting to the free throw line six times and handing out four assists.
  • Jordan Morgan: Forget about elbow jumpers or a mid-range game, this is the sort of game that Michigan needs from Morgan every night in league play. He dominated both backboards (5 offensive rebounds, 8 defensive rebounds) and finished effectively (6-of-8 around the basket). Michigan has flash, flair and creativity at every other position on the floor but Morgan is the glue to hold everything together in the middle.
  • Nik Stauskas: Stauskas actually struggled with his perimeter shot (his 2-of-7 performance accounted for over half of Michigan’s missed threes) but he was effective slashing to the basket. Northwestern’s over aggressive and extended 1-3-1 zone provided ample space for Stauskas to utilize his pump-and-drive. He was 2-of-4 inside with three assists (with an important goose egg in the turnover column).
  • Glenn Robinson III: Robinson’s makes all came at the rim en route to his quietly efficient 10 point (4-4 fg) and five rebound performance. He had his fair share of freshman moments defensively guarding Northwestern as he struggled to defend Jared Swopshire for stretches in the second half.
  • Mitch McGary: “Over active” isn’t necessarily the label you want when attempting to defend an offense predicated on the back cut. His defensive eagerness led to two steals and a block but also three fouls and a couple of easy baskets on backcuts. McGary will also have to continue to develop discipline when defending the post and finishing around the basket against bigger and more athletic squads in league play.
  • Caris LeVert: Burning LeVert’s redshirt looks smarter after every game. The lanky freshman might shoot it from his chest a bit but he drilled two triples, grabbed two rebounds and handed out two assists in 15 minutes of playing time.
  • Max Bielfeldt: Bielfeldt is a strong offensive rebounder but his lack of height and athleticism limits his ability on the defensive glass. He still was very productive with four points (1-1 fg, 2-4 ft) in four minutes. He needs to finish more confidently at the basket but in the meantime uses timing well to draw fouls around the rim.
  • Spike Albrecht: Albrecht did very little in his seven minutes of game time as the only play that stood out was an errant back-door pass turnover.
  • Tyler Carter

    With Beilein at the helm, I’m slightly less concerned that our biggest flaw is defense. If anyone can make major in-season adjustments to how a team defends, I’d put my money on him. He’s way too smart to bask in the offensive output and ignore defensive shortcomings. Adjustments will be made every day and this team will only get better.

    • ZRL

      Agreed. I’d be concerned if we were getting beat one on one, but most of our defensive screw-ups seems to be missed rotations, which will get better as the freshman get more experience.

      As good as our offense is now, it has the potential to become even more efficient as we improve on defense given the way we score in transition. That’s scary.

      • gobluemd16

        Definitely agree here. I was going to post how a lot of the mistakes on the defensive end have actually been made by the freshman as it regards to rotating and also switching on screens. As amazing as they have been on offense, they can and will definitely improve on the other end as the season progresses.

  • Is itme or is trey burke trying to solidify a lottery spot ?

    • And or poy honors. Michigan could become guard u
      . Walton & Irving coming in,next wing in line ? Who knows. Its late & I’m
      way too excited about the future. Belein has his pieces
      In tact for yrs to come.

    • David

      I am no NBA draft expert, but what I can say is that Trey isn’t just making the other teams look inferior — he’s making them look silly. The games look like varsity vs. JV out there.

  • DeepBlue83

    As easy as this game was, our interior defense continues to be a weakness, one that may come back to haunt us on nights when we’re not shooting 60%. On the other hand, our bigs, especially Morgan, haven’t been getting into foul trouble nearly as much as last year, so that may be a fair trade. Still, would like to see Horford back sooner rather than later, as he was about our only frontline guy playing some D.

  • Mattski

    A lot of people seem to have the same takeaway from last night: playing that well and still so much obvious room to grow.

  • Champswest

    Other than having a lock down defense, my biggest concern is player fatigue (see Burke, 2011), especially the freshmen. I would like to see the starters get more rest and the back-ups get more PT (especially Skip, Caris and Max). It would also lessen the risk of late game injuries in blowouts, like this game. Skip isn’t at the point that he could run the show in B1G play if Burke were to miss a game with the flu or an injury.

    • geoffclarke

      Skip? Anyway, to your point. I agree that it would be nice to see some of the bench players get more run, but I’m not concerned about fatigue (Keith Appling isn’t on our team). Last year Burke averaged 36.1 mpg. This year he averages 33.1. The most minutes of any of our freshmen is GRIII at 30.9. Anyway, I’m not so sure it’s how many game minutes that tires out freshmen, it might be just the long, grueling season.

    • Mich Fan

      Another thing to consider on Burke, as I agree he really looked worn down in UM’s final two games last season, is that he was/and is responsible for UM’s late shot clock management. Last year, due to our limited offensive capabilities, Burke had a lot of instances where he had to create at the end of the shot clock, and those can tend to sap a players energy.

      This year, Michigan is having a much easier time scoring its points, and Burke doesn’t have to constantly try to create and end of shot clock opportunity for himself or someone else, that combined with his already excellent conditioning will keep him a much fresher player this year as the season wears on.

      That said, I’d still like to see Spike play maybe another 2-3 min per game spelling Burke, with Michigan’s dominance thus far, the experience will only help Spike develop, and at some point this season, due to foul trouble or whatever, he’ll be needed to step up.

    • Devin

      Spike, not Skip haha

  • DingoBlue

    Some quick KenPom notes after last night:

    1. Michigan’s AdjD is now 38th in the country, not championship caliber yet IMHO.

    2. Michigan’s AdjO is now 1st in the country, obviously championship caliber.

    3. Trey Burke is KenPom’s 3rd best player in the country behind Mason Plumlee and Russ Smith.

    • geoffclarke

      How does our AdjD stack up to other B1G teams or top teams in the country? How does our (AdjO – AdjD) stack up?

      • That’s essentially what KenPom’s overall pythag ranking is and Michigan is 8th nationally. IU (1) and Ohio State (6) are ahead while Minny is right behind at 12. MSU and Wisconsin at the back end of the top 20.

      • cary bear

        In the overall top 20 on kenpom, we are 17th for AdjD. In the Big10, we are 7th in the big10. Obviously, our AdjO is #1 in both respects. Of note, is that the spread between the defenses is narrower than the spread between the offenses. For o, it is 12.2 from #1-#38 and for d it is 8.3. Not sure if that is significant, but it may be the case that our D appears worse than it is because of the more closely packed rankings.

    • geoffclarke

      Also, what was our AdjD last year? I’m hopeful that as we need to play better defense, we will. What was our defensive rating against Pittsburgh and NC State and how did that compare to their AdjO this year?


    In games like this, I wouldnt mind seeing UM run a little post offense and get McGary/morgan involved. I counted a number of times mcgary was posted up and couldve received the ball in the post.

  • Shaun Spillane

    Many people might dismiss last night’s offensive display based upon the weakened opponent, but to put it in perspective, only twice last year during B1G play (conference tourney included) did a team top 94 points: Indiana dropped 103 on Iowa (1/29/12) and Michigan State dropped 95, also on Iowa (1/10/12). IU and MSU played both those games at HOME.

  • DeepBlue83

    Didn’t realize until I looked at the box that Morgan had a double double in only 21 minutes of PT. Sure helps to stay out of foul trouble.

  • CDeSana

    Did anyone else notice the killer crossover that Caris put on his defender? For some reason i have a feeling that he will see far more minutes at the point over his career than Spike (or is it Skip?) will.