Game 18: Michigan at Minnesota Recap

Dylan Burkhardt


MICH 83 1.30 28-51 55% 18-31 58% 10-20 50% 17-25 68% 9 16 19 12 13 4 19
MINN 75 1.18 25-52 48% 17-36 47% 8-16 50% 17-27 63% 14 19 16 15 10 6 14

John Beilein downplayed it afterward but make no mistake about it: this was a pivotal win for his team. Michigan traveled to Minneapolis after a deflating road loss at Ohio State and beat No. 9 ranked Minnesota comfortably. Sure the Gophers scrapped back into the game but the visiting Wolverines made a clear and emphatic statement at the Barn.

For Minnesota, everything seemed to fall apart when Andre Hollins picked up his second foul with 13:55 to play in the first half. The Gophers led 13-10 when Hollins fouled Tim Hardaway Jr. driving to the bucket. From that point on, Minnesota turned the ball over seven more times in the first half and watched Michigan turn a small deficit into a solid six point halftime lead. Hardaway carried the Wolverine offense in the first half 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting.

Hollins would return in the second half but the damage was done and the Wolverines extended their lead to 19 points in a flash. Over the 20 minutes of clock time immediately following Hollins’s second foul – 13 of which he spent on the bench – Michigan outscored the Gophers 46-24 and never looked back. Minnesota fought its way back into the game late but was never able to legitimately challenge the Wolverines down the stretch despite a messy, free throw heavy, closing stretch.

Michigan’s offense is reaching scary levels of efficiency and its dismantling of Minnesota makes Ohio State’s defensive performance last Sunday even more impressive. The Golden Gophers don’t have the league’s best defense – far from it – but Michigan’s 1.30 points per possession were better than any team has managed against Minnesota since March 2010. Through five Big Ten games Michigan has scored 387 points on 317 possessions or 1.22 points per trip.

The best way to put that number in perspective: Michigan’s best offensive game in Big Ten play last season was 1.19 points per possession at Penn State.

Michigan’s shooting was phenomenal but its offensive attack was far more diverse than a simple hot shooting night. The Wolverines shot 58% on twos and 50% on threes for a 65% effective field goal percentage. Michigan turned the ball over on 19 percent of its possessions, rebounded just under a third of its misses, and attempted 25 free throws to 51 field goals.

The Wolverine offense isn’t just effective, it’s fun to watch. The attack featured a little bit of everything on the night. 19 of Michigan’s 28 makes were assisted, six of those makes were dunks and the bench produced 15 points. Michigan matched Minnesota’s 32 points in the paint but also knocked down 10 threes in a hearty 64 possession game. In a league maligned for hard to watch basketball, Michigan could be one of the most entertaining teams to watch in the country.

The three rules for playing Michigan are clear: don’t run, don’t crash the glass and don’t turn the ball over. Unfortunately for the Gophers, those three traits are ingrained in their DNA.

However, there’s still plenty of growing room for this Wolverine team on the defensive side of the ball. Minnesota scored 1.18 points per trip thanks to 8-of-16 three point shooting and dominant offensive rebounding. The Gophers rebounded 47 percent of their misses on the night – shockingly below their season average – and this was Michigan’s worst defensive rebounding performance of the season by a long shot. Haphazard ball handling cost the Gophers throughout the night. Minnesota turned it over on 24 percent of its possessions (35% in the first half) and Michigan converted those 15 Gopher turnovers into 24 points (22 in the first half). Michigan also struggled with fouls throughout, especially in the second half. The Gophers had a free throw rate (FTA/FGA) of 52% for the game but attempted 23 free throws to 29 field goals in the second half alone.

It was nice that Michigan forced turnovers but there’s not a lot to brag about with this defensive performance. Earlier in the season I questioned whether Michigan’s offense was good enough to win games in the Big Ten with an average-at-best defense. Games like this prove that might be possible – but defense would be a nice luxury.

At times it seems like one game can change everything but there’s no denying the validation in this win was something Michigan needed. Now the Wolverines take a weekend off before winnable games against Purdue, Illinois and Northwestern. Suddenly a 7-1 record feels possible before a murderer’s row stretch with games at Indiana, against Ohio State, at Wisconsin and at Michigan State in early February.


Player Bullets:

  • Trey Burke: Burke missed more shots in this game than his first two career games against Minnesota combined but he was clearly back on top of his game. Burke was devastating in transition, pushing the ball whenever he could and finding his weapons all over the court. Burke handed out nine assists, most of which came in transition, to just one turnover on the night. He struggled to finish twos (2-of-9) but a lot of players will struggle to finish against Minnesota and the Wolverine leader regained his three point stroke going 3-of-6 from long range.
  • Tim Hardaway Jr.: Hardaway’s early hot shooting carried Michigan in the first half and he was lethally efficient from the field. His six turnovers stand out like a sore thumb but he did just about everything else well. While Hardaway’s handle has been criticized in the past, it hasn’t been a major concern on the season and it’s safe to chalk this up as a one game issue.
  • Nik Stauskas: Teams are going to do everything they can to deny Stauskas the ball in the half court and Minnesota did its best but Stauskas showed that he’s gaining confidence with his counter moves. It was great to see Michigan open with a great curl to the basket to get the Canadian going but his full arsenal was on display. He got to the line with a great backdoor cut, put the ball on the floor for a blow by dunk and was aggressive throughout. Stauskas was just 1-of-4 from three point range but handed out three assists and grabbed two steals in a complete performance.
  • Glenn Robinson III: Robinson didn’t score in the first half but didn’t pout, instead he responded with a pair of big dunks and a three in the second stanza. It doesn’t seem like anything can affect Robinson’s demeanor on the court but even he couldn’t help celebrating his 360 dunk with a salute in the midst of a deciding Wolverine run. Do you think it was a coincidence that he unfurled the 360 against Minnesota (a team with a high flyer known for the 360 dunk)? Speaking of Rodney Williams, Michigan’s freshman left him noticeably frustrated throughout and Williams finished with just 11 points on 4-of-12 shooting with four turnovers.
  • Mitch McGary: McGary’s offensive versatility shines in comparison to Jordan Morgan. He went 4-of-5 from the field including a nice 10-foot jumper and several dunks and layups. He’s a player built for the Big Ten, ready to throw his body anywhere and battle all over the court. He’s going to make mistakes – fouling jump shooters, being overaggressive, not grabbing a defensive rebound in 20 minutes – but he’s going to make enough plays to make up for it. McGary stuffed the stat sheet with eight points, two offensive rebounds (which led to 5 points), three steals, a block and an assist in 20 minutes. Most importantly, he seems to steadily play better on a game-by-game basis.
  • Jordan Morgan: Morgan might react better to half time pep talks than any other Michigan player in recent memory. He played soft to open the game, getting blocked by Trevor Mbakwe twice and finishing with no points and one rebound in the first half. He responded by going 4-of-4 in the field in the second, scoring nine points and grabbing three rebounds in 10 minutes.
  • Caris LeVert: LeVert stepped on the floor in the first half and left Austin Hollins wide open for a three, then he gave up two free throws to Maverick Ahanmisi. Beilein sat him on the bench immediately. But with six minutes remaining and Robinson in foul trouble, LeVert got the call. Thrown into the fire of a Minnesota comeback effort, LeVert stepped up. He knocked down a big time three pointer 23 seconds after stepping onto the floor and then got on the floor for a loose rebound before being crushed by Mbakwe (and made both free throws). LeVert made some mistakes but stepping up off of the bench, especially after his woeful first half, was impressive.
  • Spike Albrecht: Albrecht had seven minutes to make an impact and he succeeded. He handed out two assists, stood in the post and took a charge and even connected on a floater high of the glass late in the second half.
  • StatSheet hasn’t updated the Four Factors chart. Hopefully be up soon.

  • JeremyS

    Burke was by far the best player on the floor. He was outstanding. I feel the difference in the game was Tubby’s decision to put full court pressure on Burke the entire game. He handled it with such ease and that turned into so many easy buckets for the wolverines. Minnesota should have backed off early in the game. I think it would have prevented those big runs.

    So, the question that keeps coming up in my head is Craft that much better than Burke, or did Burke just have a horrible game? I guess we have at least one more time this year to find out.

    GRIII’s dunk was the#1 play of the day on sportscenter.

    • DoubES

      I don’t think “better than Burke” is the right word or phrase, as I think Craft is just Burke’s kryptonite. Craft (and the OSU game plan) are really effective at shutting down the ball screen, which is one of Burke’s primary strengths. Specifically, I think it is Burke’s ability to drive off a screen, more so than passing out of it, that works and OSU shut that down well.

      Going further, I think that is a weakness partially due to Trey’s height. They ran a ball screen for Stauskas last night, and he easily passed it over the top to the roller with his 6’6″ frame. Trey is not going to get any taller but if he could improve on passing to the roller, maybe with slip passes, he could go from awesome to…awesomer.

      • Mattski

        Y’know, we lost that game, so Craft beating Burke becomes the meme. But I think Trey may have bested Craft statistically in that game. I just tried to go find the stats and couldn’t, but see at ESPN that Burke had 15 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, a steal and a block, not a bad afternoon for a bad afternoon. Craft had 4 assists to match Burke. . . did he have 15 points?

        • Mattski

          That put Burke two points off his season average of 16, IIR Dick Vitale’s Magic Johnson comparison correctly.

        • DoubES

          Burke was 4-13 from the field against OSU, so 15 points off of 13 shots is not very efficient. His 4 assists (7.2 avg) and 4 TO (1.9 avg) were uncharacteristic. Overall the team had assists on 44% of made baskets versus their 55% season average. Those stats and the eye test made me feel like Craft (and the help defenders) played a major role in slowing Trey down.

          And to your last point, Craft isn’t supposed to do for them what Trey does for us, so there is no reason to compare their stat lines. Burke is central to our offense with his ability to score and create opportunities for others. Sure, the loss wasn’t only because Trey had a below average night (OSU’s team defense created a number of turnovers from other players), but it was a big factor.

          • Mattski

            All good observations; no doubt it was a relatively down day for Burke. My reply was to the notion of Craft being “better than Burke” (which of course means direct comparison) and really meant to echo yours. It will be fun to see what happens when OSU comes to A2.

  • It’s weird living in a world where a Michigan basketball player has a 360 dunk in live action during a B1G road win over a top 10 opponent. It’s weird, but I like this world.

    • jemblue

      Chris Webber did a 360 when he was here, also in a road game. Don’t recall whom the opponent was.

      • FL Wolve

        I immediately thought of Webber’s dunk when Robinson did his. I thought Webber did it against OSU but I could be wrong.

        • MH_20

          You are correct, sir! The last clip in this video shows Webber going 360 on OSU:

          • jemblue

            Great compilation. Boy, he was a monster in college.

          • MH_20

            You’re not kidding, it was like any time he was within five feet of the basket that ball was getting dunked, hard.

            I was trying to find the 360 dunk on its on and stumbled on that highlight reel. I could watch it 50 times and be wowed every time.

    • What an exciting win, when Glenn turned around and realized everyone else was watching…show time 360 and he made it look effortless. This is Michigan?

      So impressed with Trey’s performance. Timmy carried us first half. Mitch was a monster in this game. He just controls the paint and has such a presence that really impacted the Minny bigs.

      Minny shot like 70% first half, we took their best shot and they made multiple runs but Michigan kept stopping runs.

      Still slightly worried that with Trey on the bench, we struggle with pressure on the ball defense.

      What a great win! One of the most fun games I’ve watched as a Michigan basketball fan for the past 16 years.

      Go Blue

  • jakelam2116

    Excellent writeup, as usual, Dylan. I was very impressed with how opportunistic the Wolverines were last night. Whenever they had number — whether off a turnover (most likely) or defensive rebound (rare) — they turned it into a great scoring chance, which they most likely converted, on the other end. Burke was awesome and unselfish. He made all the right plays. I only identified maybe one forced shot. Much different player from Sunday (give Craft his due).

    Huge plays from Lavert in that second-half stretch.

    Thoughts on Horford? This seems like the perfect stretch (week off, then easier opponent) to get him back in the rotation.

    • Champswest

      I kept waiting for Horford to enter the game. It seemed like a perfect game for him (I.e. rebounding, shot blocking, etc.). Was that just a coach’s decision to not play him?

  • Mith

    I really think coaches have it wrong when they sit a guy for the rest of the first half when they get 2 fouls. Why sit a guy for 13 minutes because he “might” foul out later? In a sense it’s like he already fouled out because you just lost 13 minutes from him. Why not play him and if he eventually fouls out, well then you lose those 13 minutes(or whatever)? Some would argue that you would rather have the player at the end of the game, but what good does it do if you lose control of the game early and then have to catch up the whole game.
    I just don’t get it, but it seems like something all the coaches do.

    • Champswest

      I was going to post this same point. I have long argued against sitting a guy early (especially a key guy). The coach is self imposing a disqualification period that may exceed an actual one that might never occur. I think Hollins ended up with only 3 fouls for the game.

      • Mith

        Right, he only had 3 fouls for the game. I can see sitting him if he gets 3 fouls in the first half. Or if there was only a few minutes left in the half when he gets his second foul. But for 13 minutes I think is crazy.
        I know JB has done that too, but I think it’s nuts.

    • Mike

      If the player gets a third foul he has to play timid all second half as well. Coaches would prefer to just ride out the first half with said player on the bench, allowing the player to play aggressively in the 2nd half. Playing scared of fouling/trying to avoid any contact doesn’t help the team at all, especially against a good team like Michigan.

  • Mattski

    Now that the team is through this first spate of really challenging contests, the schedule doesn’t look that daunting anymore. It’s that Saturday-Tuesday at Wisconsin then at MSU pair of games that look like the biggest challenge left. Two days to rest before a trip to the Breslin could be tough, but I’m sure the adrenaline will be pumping, tired limbs or no.

    I too am keen to see if Horford gets some action in upcoming games. But we had–what–16-17 points from our bigs last night? And McGary is really coming on.

  • sane1

    I didn’t realize that GRIII was in foul trouble. Dickie V can be a real distraction from the game sometimes. He adds a lot of enthusiasm but doesn’t keep up with game like he should.

  • ChathaM

    This was one of the best officiated games I’ve seen this year. As intensity and contact increased in the 2nd half, the refs didn’t adopt a “let ’em play” attitude, and called the game the way it should be called. The final 10 minutes took forever to play because of that, but it was necessary, with the way the game was being played. Their judgement of contact was excellent; the play that really stands out was the loose ball where Mbakwe jumped onto LeVert. That play is often let go, but it’s clearly a foul, and they got it right. The only call I had a problem with was the carry on LeVert. The replay was clear; there was no violation on that play. It just looked funny/awkward, and the official was fooled.

    I’d love to see a UM-Syracuse match-up, as I don’t think UM can be zoned effectively. The one zone possession that Minny played was a disaster; similar to most possessions where teams have zoned UM this season.

    Excellent point re: this game lending perspective to the OSU defence. Minny’s halfcourt defence was spotty, at best, with open looks everywhere, often after only one or two passes/cuts. The main reason UM’s offence got back to clicking the way it’s been clicking all season is that it was being guarded by a normal defensive team. I’m anxious to watch OSU-MSU tomorrow, just to see if OSU can limit the State offence the way it limited UM last weekend.

    It was a very good decision to not squeeze in a January non-conference game, and I’d like to see that decision become permanent. This week off will be beneficial, given the heavy last two games. The last thing the players (especially the freshmen) would have needed was a non-con game this weekend. The B1G is tough enough without an extra game squeezed in.

  • Chabvis

    This was the first time this year where it just looked like Morgan was overmatched. When he got blocked by Mbakwe twice on consecutive possessions early, I was a bit nervous. Then McGary came in and was awesome. He has sparked so many runs for us at key moments and I thought him coming in immediately made a difference again. It is so fun to watch McGary out there just running around knocking people over and making plays.

    I also thought it was interesting at the end (around 5-6 mins left I think like Dylan said) when Robinson was in foul trouble, Beilein brought in Vogrich for one possession. THJ got ripped from behind by Vogrich’s man and then he immediately brought LeVert in. It seemed like Beilein momentarily lost his trust in LeVert and then immediately changed his mind. After LeVert drained the 3 it was clear he made the right choice.

    Huge win for us.

    • jturn14

      Gotta give J-Mo credit fr turning it around in the 2nd half. Bacari definitely got in his ear at halftime, and he was much stronger around the basket offensively and defensively.

      • Chabvis

        Yeah definitely. He played significantly better in the 2nd half. It was also pretty interesting that Beifeldt came in rather than Horford. I don’t know if this is just due to Horford still recovering from his injury or if Max is ahead of him at this point, but after seeing Morgan get blocked I thought that Horford and his length might end up being a key for us in the game.

  • north17

    does anyone know what jon horford’s status is?

  • toblav

    It’s amazing how playing Minny just once on the road is changed from a disadvantage to an advantage with this win.

  • MGoTweeter

    Great win. The two big keys last night as compared to Ohio (besides Ohio just being a better defensive team and smarter with the ball) were that Michigan diversified the offense a little bit and defensively did a much better job taking away penetration.

    On offense, Michigan went to several wrinkles that they have rarely used this year. With the way teams are slowing down the pick and roll its important to have these options. The first was the use of the wing curls to get the wings the ball in a space that is tough to defend with the way teams are defending on the perimeter. The second was straight post ups. Michigan went to Morgan early in a post up iso and twice went to McGary. I don’t think they scored any points off these looks but it is good to see it explored as an option. Lastly, we saw a return of some back cuts including the one that got Stauskas to the line.

    I actually do not think the defense was quite as bad as the numbers say. I thought Michigan did an outstanding job of limiting post touches and a much improved job at stopping dribble penetration. Minnesota was able to get some open looks from three but they also had to make several that were pretty well guarded. Also we saw Michigan create some turnovers. Yes Minnesota was sloppy, but Michigan players were active on D, stripped the ball and stepped into passing lanes several times lat night. Free throws and offensive rebounds were a problem, but the former was more of a result of the way the officials called the game and the latter was still below Minnesota’s season average.

    One additional point since I jumped on this situation last night re:Morgan/McGary. Morgan really responded in the second half and is still a better overall defensive option. But offensively, with the way teams are defending the pick and roll, McGary may need to start seeing the floor more. The pick and roll is such a vital part of Michigan’s offense and teams are taking it away with hard/soft double teams on Burke and helpside rotating to the possible roll under the basket. Basically leaving the only open options a skip pass to the far corner over the top of the double team or the roll man spotting up for a ten footer. McGary can make that shot but Morgan is certainly less than confident with it. Michigan was able to create problems with the pick and roll game in previous seasons when teams defended this way by using more of Smotrycz and going to the pick and pop.

    • Mattski

      Good observations; I too was very heartened by the D, and a little surprised that the numbers seemed to suggest otherwise. That was a pretty good offense that Michigan beat last night.

      • UM Hoops Fan

        I think the defensive numbers are skewed a little bit (or accurately reflect, depending on your stance) the last few minutes. Minny had 6 of its 14 ORBs in the last 6 minutes. They scored 16 points in the last 6 minutes — which would project to 106 pts over 40 minutes. Up to the last 6 or 7 minutes, the D might not have been stellar, but it was better than the final numbers indicate.

        In my view, the game was pretty much done by then and Michigan was just trying to get out of there. On the other hand, I understand if someone wants to take this as Michigan getting exposed or something. Either way, the last 6 or 7 minutes changed the way the final numbers look.

  • Mattski

    Does anyone know where I can see Hardaway’s first three of the night? That–and Stauskas’ lay-up–really helped set the tone. But I also thought it looked like Hardaway both had a man right in his face AND just caught the ball and shot it almost at the same time–looked unreal and I would like to see it again.

  • Ben

    “The three rules for playing Michigan are clear: don’t run, don’t crash the glass and don’t turn the ball over.” This kind of explains why we have been able to beat MSU 3 out of 4 times with less talent the past two years. We should win both those games this year.

  • Mattski

    The Chris Webber Michigan highlights that MH_20 posted below are worth four minutes’ of peoples’ time, if they haven’t seen them. They really demonstrate what a fabulous and ferocious player/group of players he and the Fab V, by extension, were; their like, it is safe to say, had not been seen on the national stage before. They also suggest why people saw them as something of a threat to truth, justice, and a certain kind of American way of life. That’s what some of us continue to prize in their legacy which, of course, it would be nice for the university to acknowledge one day despite Webber’s transgressions. Not absolving Webber or anyone, and not trying to initiate an argument, just mostly want to point to how revelatory I feel those highlights are.

  • gobluemd16

    With all of this success, I am starting to get a bit worried that coach BA and Jordan may be getting some calls after this season..

    • rlcBlue

      Me too. I wonder what the contingency plans are? C.J. Lee is still a grad assistant, right? I can imagine that he’s the understudy for Jordan, but I don’t know who might step in for Alexander. I’d be interested to hear from someone with access (are you there, Dave Merritt?) how the program is preparing for this side-effect of success.

  • rlcBlue

    So I was disappointed that after the jersey switch Vitale couldn’t come up with “Dodici Burke”. And he calls himself a paisan…