Game 16: Nebraska at Michigan Recap

Dylan Burkhardt

Dustin Johnston

MICH 62 1.09 21-54 39% 18-37 49% 3-17 18% 17-26 65% 16 31 6 5 3 1 7
NEB 47 .83 19-56 34% 13-30 43% 6-26 23% 3-7 43% 7 23 10 6 3 3 18

Sooner or later it was bound to happen. Michigan had a bad shooting night. Entering their third conference game against Nebraska, the Wolverines’ worst individual shooting performance of the season was still better than the national season average. Luckily for Michigan, the dismal shooting effort came against the league’s worst offense.

Michigan couldn’t shoot much worse (although Nebraska managed to) yet still escaped with a 62-47 win in a 57 possession slug fest. Every team has nights like this one in a 30-something game college basketball season and the Wolverines proved that they are capable of winning games without the big numbers, three pointers and highlights. And that assertion should be particularly comforting to any longtime observer of Big Ten basketball who understands that league championships are often times more a measure of fight than shooting acumen.

Michigan has always leaned heavily on its primary scoring options of Burke, Hardaway, Stauskas and Robinson – the quartet accounted for 72.6% of Michigan’s offense entering the game – but tonight the Wolverines were fully dependent. Mitch McGary contributed the only two points (3%) from someone other than the “Big Four” and they came near the games closing moments. Nebraska did a great job of packing the lane to prevent the easy passes around the basket that have led to so many easy baskets this season. The result was a Michigan offense predicated on isolation situations. Just five of Michigan’s 21 made field goals were assisted and the Wolverines shot 48% on two point attempts, well below their season average.

Michigan still managed 1.09 points per possession despite its worst shooting performance of the year. The Wolverines were below average inside with 49% two point shooting and awful from three point range at 18%, totaling a 42% effective field goal percentage. Michigan’s 16 offensive rebounds were a season high but also a total buoyed by its sheer quantity of misses. But the Wolverines grabbed an impressive 41% of their missed shots and turned them into 19 second chance points. Michigan was also able to get to the free throw line often, in large part because it was in the bonus from the 14 minute mark of the second half. However, the Wolverines did leave a few points at the line, connecting on 17-of-26 (65%) of their free throw attempts (eight percent below their season average).

Michigan’s defense was solid but was facing a Nebraska offense that seemed more concerned with milking the clock than actually scoring. Nebraska’s woeful output of .83 points per possession actually topped its first two outings in Big Ten play. The Cornhuskers made just 43% of their twos and 23% of their threes for a 39% effective field goal percentage. Michigan only forced five turnovers in 57 possessions but managed to hold Nebraska to just seven free throws to 56 field goal attempts. Most importantly the Wolverines dominated the defensive glass once again, grabbing 82 percent of Nebraska’s misses.

John Beilein teams of old were oftentimes unable to overcome poor shooting nights because they didn’t do the two things that Michigan did so well in this game: crash the offensive glass and get to the free throw line. The competition wasn’t the toughest but the Wolverines got it done in both categories. Michigan outscored Nebraska 19-2 in second chance points and 17-3 at the free throw line.

It was far from Michigan’s best game and the Wolverines won’t be able to beat better teams in the league when they play like this – even at home. But a win is a win and Michigan just matched its best start in program history at 16-0. Big Ten play turns from surprisingly easy to frighteningly difficult in a flash as Michigan prepares to travel to Ohio State and Minnesota.

Michigan 62, Nebraska 47-19

Player Bullets:

  • Trey Burke: Burke labored for all 18 points and three assists on the night. Nebraska opted to go under almost every pick and roll and while the strategy worked (Burke was 1-of-5 from three on the night) it seemed more based on sheer hope than logic (something that Nebraska coach Tim Miles essentially admitted as much) given that Burke had hit 9 of his last 16 threes (56%) entering the game. Burke should (and did) take those shots even if he missed his fair share tonight. The strategy to go under so many screens did limit Burke’s ability to create for others (just 3 assists) but the low assist total was also a product of Michigan missing a number of easy chances.
  • Nik Stauskas: Despite missing two free throws and going 2-of-6 from long range, I thought Stauskas played a very strong game. He struggled in the first half but made plays all over the floor in the second half. He hit an early three in the second, triggered a fast break off of a steal and pass ahead to Hardaway and also knocked down a three on a nearly botched fast break that was all hustle. He had a strong drive to the basket for a bucket and also handed out a pair of dimes in an impressive second half.
  • Glenn Robinson III: Forget about his back-to-back highlight dunks, we’ve seen all of that from Robinson. His first basket was perhaps his most impressive as he caught the ball at the free throw line extended and scored off of a spin move in isolation. That hasn’t been a part of Robinson’s game to date and he’ll be a pro sooner than later if he keeps making moves like that.
  • Tim Hardaway Jr.: Hardaway’s stat line is nothing spectacular – 15 points on 14 attempts and 11 rebounds – but he was one of the few Michigan players willing to attack in the first half. He didn’t have his perimeter jumper falling but continued to attack the basket, converting inside at a slightly-below average rate (5-of-11) and getting to the line.
  • Jordan Morgan: Morgan had 11 rebounds (three offensive) many of which were of the grown man variety. Several times he simply ripped the ball from a Nebraska player that appeared to have come down with the board. Offensively he was a non-factor (1 FGA) as the Cornhuskers did a great job of forcing Burke to shoot, negating a lot of Michigan’s roll action to the basket.
  • Mitch McGary: I would pay to sit in film session with John Beilein and Mitch McGary. So many things – both good and bad – happen so quickly while McGary is on the floor. In the first half he was all over the offensive glass but struggled with rushed finishes (an Achilles’ heel all season). In the second half it was all hustle including diving for a jump ball among four Nebraska players before he finally got in the scoring sheet with a great seal and finish.
  • Caris LeVert: LeVert had been shooting the ball very well but missed a pair of great looks from three point range.
  • Spike Albrecht: Albrecht is having a harder time as the season wears on. He missed a wide open three (badly) and saw minimal time.
  • Jon Horford: Horford was available but did not play.
  • MC

    that McGary picture is great! ugly as it was, we need games like this to stay grounded. can’t beat everyone by 28

  • David DeMember

    “…the Wolverines proved that they are capable of winning games without the big numbers, three pointers and highlights.”

    The scary/awesome thing is, they still had more highlights in this game than almost every game of the last decade. We’re living a Maize and Blue dream this year. GO BLUE!!!

  • Mattski

    Make another little pile of those free throws and not only is this a fairly average final margin for Michigan, but there’s a little less discomfort down the stretch. Good win though, in the final analysis. And you have to think that packing the lanes has its downside for future opponents if we’re on.

    • UM Hoops Fan

      Make two more 3s and we’d still have shot under 30% and it’s a 20 point win in a slow game.
      However, you have to give Nebraska credit for getting UM out of its rhythm (although kenpom might disagree).

  • Dr_ZC

    Morgan is a great position defender, but in the last couple of games he seemed to be out of position defensively. He will not block shots, but he simply was defending like a 3, while he was rebounding like a 4. On offense, he gets stripped of the ball often, and he has problems catching it cleanly. And of course that takes away from his scoring as defenders have time to catch up. If Morgan or McGary had some post moves, this game would have been over in the first half.

  • Matt

    I hope that this is partially a result of looking ahead to Ohio this weekend and not the symptom of a larger lack of focus. With this staff and these players, I feel confident that we need not worry.

  • UM Hoops Fan

    Michigan’s 1.11 PPP would still be 3rd in the B1G if that was their year avg (at least as of the chart published here yesterday), and a full .14 better than Nebraska’s opponents have been averaging (although I bet OSU did pretty well and Wiscy brought it down). Anyway, not too bad considering the abysmal shooting.

    • gpsimms

      Actually, we did slightly better than OSU did still. 1.09 to 1.08 or so.

      • UM Hoops Fan

        Thanks for the, you know, actual stats. Maybe there’s something to this Nebraska defense after all. And despite our horrible shooting, it’s still the best offensive performance against Nebraska in the first 3 conference games.

        • ChathaM

          I buy in to the Nebraska defence. I thought they were very good last night. They had to foul a fair bit to get the job done, but you can’t avoid fouling Michigan if you’re going to play tough defence.

          • gpsimms

            Even though Purdue sucks, this is what kind of worries me about them. I hate Purdue and think they play thuggish defense, so we’ll definitely struggle against them with road officials, I think. Same goes for MSU.

            On the other hand, both Purdue and MSU crash the offensive glass, which gives us a chance in transition, which is a mistake. I think the way Nebraska gets back is definitely what I would do against us.

  • ChathaM

    Sometimes, a team plays well, but just shoots poorly. I think this game is a perfect example of that for Michigan. N made a concerted effort to dictate tempo, and they did a great job of it, not even allowing M a single fast break opportunity in the first half. But, M didn’t panic and force a lot of shots; they took what the defence (not much at times; I thought N played very well defensively) gave them, and simply missed shots. In the second half, as N players got tired, the pace got a bit frenetic at times, which led to some fast break chances for Michigan. But, overall, the game was played at N’s pace, mainly because they didn’t turn the ball over or try to crash the offensive boards. N played well; they just have very few scoring options, which is why they’d lose to M 19 out of 20 times.

    I can see this being exactly the type of game pace when M plays Wisconsin later in the season.

    I’m tired of the occasional comment re: Morgan not being effective in certain games. Morgan brings the same thing to the table in each game; tough defensive play and 100% rebounding effort. You simply can’t judge Morgan by his scoring numbers. There are games where he can get some good looks off of ballscreens, but that won’t happen in a game like last night’s, where the opponent is mainly focused on clogging the lane and forcing perimeter shots. Morgan is not going to post people up and score. A couple of times last night, he was trying to post, and he did get good position, but he still didn’t get the ball. It is simply not part of the offence. I’d love to see him develop a post game and pose yet another threat to the defence. But, that’s probably not going to happen. Morgan has to be appreciated for what he is.

    • eddieben

      I agree on everything above. Regarding the Morgan post-up and the lack of a post-up option in the offense….I’m wondering if we will be saying the same thing about McGary in the future. Will we want more scoring from him, despite his animal instincts in every other facet of the game?

      • Dr_ZC

        If I were JB, I would like to have that option open as an alternative, in case the outside game is not working. If nothing else, this can open the outside game when the opposing defense collapses around the post. To have this as a viable option, JB will need to work on the high-low action with two bigs down low.

        I would not expect Morgan to do more offensively, but I would like to see him more consistent on defense. In the last two games, he seemed to be out of position, which is kind of strange, because position defense is his big asset.

  • gpsimms

    It’s surprising that we were so ineffective in all the iso situations. You would think that just about all 5 of ours on the court could take all five of theirs in one on one situations. But Nebraska didn’t help much and none of our guys were super efficient in one on ones.

    • section13row15

      Dont forget also that #32 was as wide as 3 people so there was no chance of getting into the lane when he was in the game. Even Derrick Nix would have been impressed with that behemoth. Lol!

  • gpsimms

    Sidenote: I don’t agree with Brian @mgoblog all the time in basketball, but he is so right about the Stauskas swag. I loved the pose after the scrappy play of him/McGary leading to a three.

    It’s so funny/awesome to see a skinny, white Canadian be all swag-ish.

    Of course, I’d prefer he get his swag on without getting T’d up anymore. Hopefully he learned from that.

    • gobluemd16

      I agree, he is incredible in his knowledge of football, but this site and its information are FAR superior to mgoblog’s in terms of basketball insight

  • UMICH20


    File a cease and desist on Scout on them discussing basketball. The Beav’s hoops analysis after every game makes my brain hurt.

  • kainkitizen

    Hey Dylan and Michigan Fans, Dick Vitale wrote up a great story about the team. here is the link.