Game 1: UMass Lowell at Michigan Recap

Dylan Burkhardt

Michigan 69, UMass Lowell 42-4
Dustin Johnston

Michigan 69, UMass Lowell 42 | Photo Gallery | Beilein Video & Quotes | Player InterviewsBox Score

It took Michigan a while to realize that the regular season had started but eventually the Wolverines regained their form and topped UMass Lowell, 69-42.

Last year’s Michigan team set unfair an unfair precedent for non-conference performance. That group lost just one game to a non-conference foe, the National Championship against Louisville, and scored the ball at a proficient rate every time they touched the floor. They certainly didn’t have 23 point halves against America East foes. On a night when last year’s accomplishments were celebrated during pregame festivities, a brick filled first half against a team playing its first Division I game was the last thing on anyone’s mind.

But a spirited defensive performance in the second half fueled the sort of performance that everyone expected and eventually talent won out. Caris LeVert and Zak Irvin led a Wolverine effort featuring eight different scorers after just three Michigan players found the score sheet in the opening half.


Michigan’s offense was as awful in the first half (.82 points per possession) as it was great in the second half (1.42 points per possession). The first half offensive performance was due predominantly to dreadful shooting: the Wolverines posted a 28% effective field goal percentage (36% on twos). UMass Lowell prevented transition opportunities well and Michigan sputtered in the halfcourt.  The Wolverines consistently crashed the offensive glass and got to the free throw line in both halves and that was the difference. Whether Beilein suddenly has an offensive group capable of doing both of those things consistently, or they are just a product of a massive talent gap remains to be seen.

Assists tell the story of Michigan’s offensive production. The Wolverines had just 2 assists on 5 makes in the first half compared to 11 assists on 14 makes and two turnovers in the second half. The second half numbers are something of the norm for U-M teams which made the first half performance particularly unsettling. Michigan’s offense has relied on a lot more dribble-drive action and the spacing and movement was significantly better in the second half.

The new NCAA-mandated fouling points of emphasis were on full display. Michigan attempted 32 free throws to just 53 field goals for a 60% free throw rate. The Wolverines were whistled for just 11 fouls while UMass Lowell committed 24 fouls. Michigan earned the freebies as Robinson (10 FTA), Stauskas (8 FTA) and LeVert (5 FTA) were all aggressive attacking the basket. We haven’t seen this sort of free throw production on a consistent basis from a Beilein-coached team and it’s developing into a trend against subpar competition. On the flip side, the adjusted block-charge interpretation is going to be an issue for Michigan’s defense. The Wolverines didn’t take a charge in the game and were whistled for a handful of blocks, several which probably would have gone the other way in recent seasons.

Other than a few blocking fouls, the Wolverine defense was dominant. UMass Lowell managed just 42 points in 62 offensive possessions and a handful of them were easy buckets off live ball turnovers. Michigan forced turnovers once every four possessions and kept the River Hawks off the charity stripe and the offensive glass. There will be a learning curve but this U-M team has the ability to be one of John Beilein’s best yet defensively, especially with Mitch McGary added back into the fold. Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton and Glenn Robinson III all had above average defensive games and UMass Lowell’s best guard, Akeem Williams, had as many made field goals (6) as turnovers.

Michigan 69, UMass Lowell 42-23
Dustin Johnston

Team Bullets

  • This is a team still looking for its identity and that’s not going to come overnight. The picture of a Michigan huddle above was eye opening because from the freshmen to the leader, everyone is in a new role. Robinson could be Michigan’s leader, McGary could be that guy, but right now there’s not a strong presence. Michigan’s best players on this team were either in 3rd and 4th options or in high school last year and they are still figuring out what it takes to be that No. 1 or No. 2 guy.
  • The ‘two big’ lineup was missing in action. Morgan was replaced in the starting lineup and we never saw two bigs on the floor. UMass Lowell played a very small lineup but the fact that John Beilein reverted to the Robinson at the four look this quickly shows that he might not be that tied to it.
  • Michigan’s big men don’t have to be Mitch McGary, they just have to catch the ball, make layups and rebound. That was a massive challenge in the first half as Horford, Morgan and Bielfeldt all botched bunnies around the rim. The big men were better in the second half but Horford earned the majority of the minutes.
  • We were spoiled by Trey Burke last year but it’s clear that everyone isn’t quite on the same page just yet offensively. There have been three or four passes in each game that are just off by a half foot and turn an easy basket into a miss. These are most obvious on kickouts to the wing and pick-and-roll passes.
  • Michigan had two really good ball screen baskets in the second half, LeVert to Morgan and Stauskas to Horford, but the fact that those stand out show just how different this year’s offense has been than last season. Walton hasn’t made much happen off of ball screens to this point and that will be another statistic to track.

Player Bullets

  • Glenn Robinson III: Robinson tallied 15 points (4-8 fg, 0-3 3pt), 7 rebounds, four assists, three steals and a turnover in 36 minutes. He played mostly the four spot, was noticeably more aggressive on the glass and was Michigan’s most consistent performer. He looks very comfortable with his mid-range jumper (Michigan looks for that shot often on OOB plays) and he got to the line often. He also had a couple of post catches for good measure. Robinson is never going to be a guard, he’s not going to run 10 ball screens per game and initiate the offense. But his game is more versatile and you can see his comfort level increasing steadily.
  • Caris LeVert: LeVert got the start and led Michigan in scoring with 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting with an assist and two steals. LeVert missed a few shots early and seemed a bit rattled but he was perfect from the field in the second half. He played 35 minutes tonight and I can’t see how John Beilein takes him out of the starting lineup. He had a great ball screen pass, drove the lane consistently and had a ridiculous and-1 finish on a baseline cut.
  • Zak Irvin: Irvin still looks like a guy adjusting to the offense. He’s not always in the right spots offensively and still looks a bit tentative. But man, he’s a talented scoring option off the bench. Irvin scored 10 points in nine minutes in the second half including a pair of threes. He plays under control with the ball in his hands, has a smooth jumper and a capable mid-range game. Expect his role to grow rapidly over the next month.
  • Derrick Walton: Walton’s stat line was quiet: 6 points (1-4 fg), 4 assists, 4 rebounds and 3 steals in 27 minutes. In the half court, he’s still trying to figure out when and how to attack. He’s better in transition (where he had a nice euro-step for and and-one) and has the knack for getting fouled while attempting threes. But where he shines is on defense with his quickness, hands and nose for the ball are all impressive. Right now it’s his defense that keeps him on the floor but his offense will improve.
  • Nik Stauskas: Stauskas only played 25 minutes (4th most among U-M players) and was just 1-of-5 from the field. His ability to get to the free throw line was impressive but his play was a bit loose on Friday. He made an early three but never found his stroke after that. Beyond a nice ball screen pass, his second half was below average. He had one shift that included two blocking fouls, a giveaway at the top of the key for an easy bucket and then a poor 18-foot jumper floating toward the baseline. He appears to be a bit of a downgrade defensively compared to LeVert, Irvin and Robinson on the wing.
  • Spike Albrecht: Albrecht gave Michigan a lot in his 12 minutes off the bench. He knocked down an open three, took the ball to the rim and threw a nice pass to LeVert for a layup. His vision and three-point shooting ability make him a perfect back up option but defense is always going to be a concern.
  • Jon Horford: Horford is Michigan’s starting center. He started every exhibition and played 22 minutes tonight, scoring five points and grabbing 12 rebounds (five offensive). His rebounding has been great, but it will need to be tested against stronger competition. He obviously has confidence with his jumper but it’s still a work in progress. His two makes were a 12-foot face up jumper and a ball screen dunk, both nice but I don’t think Michigan needs Horford taking eight shots. His hands need to get stronger around the basket, but right now he’s the most consistent option Michigan has.
  • Jordan Morgan: Morgan had a bucket and three rebounds in 12 minutes but he also missed a layup and mucked up an opportunity around the rim.
  • Max Bielfeldt: Bielfeldt got a chance in the first half when Michigan’s other bigs were struggling, but wasn’t able to change the flow of the game.
  • MGoTweeter

    Agree with pretty much everything from a team stand point. Defense ranged from above average (most of the first half) to exceptional (most of the second half). This team has some real potential on that side of the ball with it’s length, supreme back court defenders (walton and levert), and paint defender, mcgary, when he returns. Offense is a big work in progress. It seemed like everyone was just trying to make the play on their own, which led to a lot of possessions where guys would over dribble and go no where. It might take this team half the season to figure out what the focus of the offense should be. I have a feeling that once McGary returns, the focus is going to be any pick and roll where he is involved. Until that point, there might be several games where the offense causes headaches.

    Individually, I think a couple of things are starting to become trends for me. One is that Stauskas and Irvin are close to the same player on offense. I am actually much more down on Irvin right now than you are Dylan, but their most efficient role on this team is pretty similar. Both are really spot up shooters, with Stauskas right now offering a little more of ball handling and driving on offense, and Irvin offering more on defense. The one part of Irvin’s game I am down on is just his youth. He made several bad errors in terms of floor spacing tonight that cost Michigan buckets.

    Along the same lines, Walton and Levert are very similar on offense in terms of the errors they make. I didn’t think either had a bad game necessarily, but both of them have the problem of over dribbling without going anywhere. One of the great things about Trey Burke and even Darius Morris was that even thought they often dominated the ball, they were constantly probing the interior of the defense with the dribble. Rarely did they ever take the ball from the wing and simply dribble to the top of the key without threatening the middle of the paint. Tonight both Walton and Levert did that in various ways. They also both missed rotation pass opportunities because they thought dribble first when they got the ball.

    Last individual thing, Horford and Morgan, please just go get and catch the ball. Both of these guys can be very productive bigs, even when they are not scoring, if they just grab the ball and hold on to it.

    I actually think the first half of this game might be a good thing for this team in the long run. I think the coaches found out that the offense needs a little more structure and guidance, and the players found out that they need to bring the effort especially on D to live up to expectations.

    • Kam

      well you said what almost everyone needs to improve on but glenn… what do u think he needs to improve on? In my opinion i think he becomes too passive at times. He needs to take one dribble pull up more often! He has made that pull up this year. with his athletic ability he should be able to get that shot.. But i agree with your points!!

      • MGoTweeter

        Honestly, I don’t think GRIII is ever going to be an aggressive player in terms of being a ball dominant player. Nor do I think he needs to be for this team or himself to be successful. He is at his best as an attacker off ball rotation, spot up shooter and offensive rebounder. I am not sure he has the quickness or ball handling ability to be a great player one on one when the defense is set.

        I like his one or two dribble pull up game, but it is tough to be efficient off that. I would be intrigued to see him in the pick and roll game, but I also don’t know if he has the pass play making ability to make that work consistently.

        One thing I was very happy to see tonight was that they got him some post touches against mismatches. His ability to turn, elevate and shoot over smaller players is tough to guard. I would love to see that become a staple of the offense this year.

    • gobluemd16

      Thanks for this, really helps as a kind of extended recap because I had to miss this game. Your opinion is obviously well-respected here

  • jlustig22

    Like Irvin’s game a lot but he might want to attempt to grab a rebound at some point. He has managed to grab one offensive rebound total in the 3 games so far. That’s 55 minutes of action. Obviously a very small sample size but hopefully not a developing trend. He’s definitely a very skilled offensive player though.

    The halfcourt offense clearly needs work. They scored a lot more in the 2nd half because they were able to get out in transition. It’s an adjustment for everyone because the offense basically ran through Trey last year and now there’s a lot more added responsibility for some guys. I definitely see improvement in Robinson’s midrange game. He can still be more aggressive but he’s making progress. Levert has been really impressive. Fun to watch him develop.

    The big guys can’t be frustrate to watch at times when they don’t catch easy passes or finish point blank layups. Horford was much better in the 2nd half. Morgan is going to have to adjust to the new rules since he likes to take charges because he can’t block shots. He won’t get those calls this year like he has in the past.

    • Kam

      Offensive rebound? why would a wing get an offensive rebound. How about defensive. Offensive rebounds is usually more of a big mans thing. The wings have to watch for their man leaking out on the break.

      • jlustig22

        Yeah. I meant his rebounding total for the 3 games consists of 1 offensive rebound and zero defensive rebounds. Not so much worried about offensive rebounding but to play 55 minutes and not grab a single defensive rebound is pretty hard to do.

        • Kam

          oh wow didn’t know that.. Thats really bad!

  • Champswest

    How long will it take before we say “man, I wish we had Trey Burke right now to take the ball and make something happen”. About 15 minutes into the first half of the first game. We need to develope more aggressive offensive play. Our 3 most aggressive players last year, were Burke, Hardaway and McGary and none of them played last night.
    This team will be a work in progress for awhile, but they have the talent and depth to become pretty good. I love the defensive effort.

    • guestavoe

      In what world was McGary one of our top 3 most aggressive players, outside of the NCAA tourney?

  • ChathaM

    The new charge/block rule (ie.- the defender must have established legal guarding position by the time the offensive player begins his upwards motion) will be a problem for all teams this season. We’re going to see a lot of head-scratching in pretty well every game this year, until players get used to the new rule. I believe the new rule makes it more difficult for officials to call the play, as the start of the upwards motion is far more a judgement call than the point where a shooter’s feet leave the floor (the old rule). My guess is that the officials will give any benefit of the doubt to the offensive player (which I think we saw last night), and that we’ll see very few charge calls early in the season. It’s going to crush guys like Morgan, who specialize in taking charges. They’re going to get so frustrated.

    I thought one key to the second half defence was keeping the ball out of Akeem Williams hands after the first pass. UML simply didn’t seem comfortable without the ball in his hands. Williams is small, but he can really play, and I won’t be surprised to see him playing pro ball at some level once he’s done at UML.

    On larger budget telecasts, there must be one person whose sole responsibility is to keep the running score at the bottom of the screen updated. Last night, you’d have guessed that the commentators had to do that job as well.

    I didn’t make it to the game, but it looked like the crowd was solid. I’m sure a lot of that had to do with the banner-raising. Do you think there’ll be much of a crowd on Tuesday for SC State?