Game 2: South Carolina State at Michigan Recap

Dylan Burkhardt

Michigan 93, S Carolina St 59-7
Dustin Johnston

Michigan 93, South Carolina State 59. Photo Gallery. Beilein Presser. Player Video Interviews. Box score.

After a rocky start to its first game of the season, Michigan wasted no time jumping in front of South Carolina State on Tuesday night. The Wolverine offense played a flawless first half to open up a 59-23 halftime lead before slowing down in the second half and coasting to a 93-59 victory.

Last year’s Michigan team was among the best transition teams in the country because of Trey Burke’s ability to pick opponents apart on the break. Michigan doesn’t have a perfect replacement for Trey Burke (although Derrick Walton’s not a bad point guard himself) but it has an alternative approach: a stable of wings that can make plays for others, shoot the ball and attack the basket.

South Carolina State insisted on crashing the glass but came up empty handed and left itself vulnerable on defense. Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert made the Bulldogs pay. Michigan’s devastatingly efficient wing guards both posted career highs, combining for 47 points on 13-of-18 shooting, with 11 threes, nine rebounds and nine assists on the night. The Wolverines don’t have a point guard to replace Trey Burke’s production, but they might not need one with the sort of wing play they’ve had to open the season.


Michigan’s offense was nearly perfect in the first half, scoring 1.72 points per trip and posting a ridiculous 87% effective field goal percentage – connecting on 12-of-19 threes will always make the statistics look impressive. The hot shooting cooled in the second half as Michigan managed just .97 points per trip. Despite the second half regression, this was still an impressive offensive performance with 93 points on 70 possessions and an effective field goal percentage of 63%. The SCSU defense really struggled to find shooters, especially in the first half, and you can’t do that against a team as potent as Michigan offensively. The Bulldogs played some sort of amoeba match-up zone look that just didn’t work very well.

Michigan’s defense also regressed in the second half. The Wolverines stymied the Bulldogs in the first half, surrendering just .67 points per trip, but allowed a shade over a point per possession in the second half. Overall it was still an adequate defensive performance. The Wolverines forced Matthew Hezekiah to miss five of his first six shots and cleaned up the defensive glass against a very good offensive rebounding unit. It was disappointing that Michigan couldn’t force more turnovers against a team that struggles in that department. The last time SCSU turned the ball over on 13% of its possessions or less was on February 25th, 2012.

It’s a lot easier to justify playing a lackadaisical half in the second half after opening up a 36 point lead than it is to be tied at 23-23 against UMass Lowell. However, the Wolverines were outscored against an obviously sub-par team in the second half. Michigan has played one really great half and one pretty underwhelming half in each of its first two games. The Wolverines will have to raise their level of execution across the board on Sunday as they jump into the meat of the non-conference slate. First up is a trip to Iowa State on Sunday and then it’s off to Puerto Rico. Add in a trip to Durham and we’ll have a lot better idea of what this team is capable of.

Michigan 93, S Carolina St 59-29
Dustin Johnston

Player Bullets:

  • Caris LeVert: Caris knocked down his first five triples and everything rolled downhill from there. He finished with a career high 24 points on 7-of-11 (6-7 3pt), four assists, three rebounds, two blocks and a steal in 31 minutes. LeVert wasn’t just spotting up shooting, he was making plays all over the floor. His acceleration in transition is superb and his form on his jump shot has improved tenfold. He hit a pick-and-roll three after his defender went under and he was still extremely active defensively.
  • Nik Stauskas: Stauskas might not grab as many headlines, mostly because LeVert made so many threes first, but he might have actually been more impressive. There’s a maturity to his game that was absent last year. He could have hit five threes any game last year but the six rebounds, five assists, eight FTAs and one turnover were most impressive. Stauskas, like LeVert, looked very comfortable pushing the ball on defensive rebounds and showed the patience to find other players whether it was Horford for a dunk under the basket or making the extra pass for an open three.
  • Derrick Walton: Walton is still more advanced on the defensive side of the ball. His quickness and knack for the ball is impressive although he’ll learn to make the smart play instead of always going for the big play. Offensively, he’s up and down. He struggles to identify where he is on the floor when shooting for the perimeter, resulting in long twos and very long threes. He also made a poor pass against SCSU’s three-quarter court press. There are also plenty of positives, he was 4-of-6 inside the arc and did a great job of pushing the ball and getting all the way to the basket with the ability to adjust in the air. The comparison I can’t help but making is Yogi Ferrell: not the best offensive player as a freshman but still kept the talented options around him involved in the offense while excelling on defense despite his size.
  • Glenn Robinson III: Robinson just never looked dialed in. He got blown by off the dribble by Luka Radovic early in the game and promptly took a seat on the bench. He pushed the ball fairly well in transition and scored in ways that we are used to (transition dunks and open straight line drives) but he also tried to show off his diversified game. That didn’t go so well, especially in the second half. 13 points, nine rebounds and three steals is solid but 4-of-12 is underwhelming and there’s more of Robinson’s game to see but he’s not the primary option right now.
  • Jon Horford: Horford has steadily improved during the early season. He finished with 9 points and 15 boards (5 offensive), an assist and a block in 24 minutes. He’s rebounding very well and had some nice moves offensively, including a little spin move and pull up jumper from the high post. He’s gone to his jumper more and more often and while it hasn’t been falling, that could be a very nice weapon.
  • Jordan Morgan: 4 points, six rebounds, two assists, two blocks, a steal and a turnover in 15 minutes. That’s a really impressive stat-line and better than I would have guessed from watching the game. He had a great help-side block in the first half and is still a bit hesitant offensively but he gives this team some frontcourt versatility defensively.
  • Zak Irvin: Irvin missed a couple 3-point attempts early which rattled his confidence a bit (although he bounced back with an assist to LeVert, a nice mid-range jumper and a made three) but right now he reminds me a bit of Tim Hardaway Jr. early in his career (before he discovered the pick-and-roll). He’s content to wait in the corner and fire up kick out threes but not comfortable getting involved in much else. There’s more to his game and that will come, but it’s something to watch. Another concern? Rebounding. Irvin grabbed one rebound in two exhibition game and has yet to corral a board in either of Michigan’s first two games.
  • Spike Albrecht: Albrecht didn’t attempt a shot but handed out three assists in 14 minutes. He was quiet but that’s two more assists than Walton managed in 24 minutes.
  • jakelam2116

    I think I agree with the Walton/Yogi and Irvin/freshman Tim comparisons. The lack of rebounds from a win by Irvin is definitely a concern. Anxious to see how the young team handles a hostile environment Sunday.

  • gpsimms

    I will say, though, that I like Irvin on the defensive end. He seemed pretty comfortable guarding the 4, which really helps the team’s versatility.

    Stauskas does seem smarter, but also I think his improvement in the weight room is huge. He seems a step (or three) faster in transition. He was almost never a guy leading the break last year.

    Can someone please explain the Horford experiment to me? 15 boards is impressive, but he has the same hands he always has. I guarantee he won’t be hauling the ball in against high-major competition at this rate. I know Jon-Jon is a great kid who has worked his tail off to overcome injuries, but I really think when we come to high major competition he’s going to be the same thing he always has.

    Morgan, on the other hand, played 35 minutes a game on a team that won the big ten title. We know he can hold his own against the best bigs in the country.

    That said, I guess because we *know* what Morgan can do, that is the reason to give Horford an opportunity. I just hope Morgan is staying patient and keeping his head in the right place, because I really think we’re going to need him a lot more than we’ve been using him lately.

    I only watched the first half, but SCSU’s defense was ridiculously bad.

    • Kam

      Morgan has had awful hands and cant make lay ups… he also is smaller than jon…

      • umumum

        I’m glad Horford has made strides, but his hands aren’t noticeably better than Morgan’s–and Morgan is the smartest defensive big we have had under Beilein. They both have roles. I’m just tired of the Morgan bad-hands meme. Our centers haven’t been a meaningful part of the scoring for the past 3 years and won’t be this year. The fact that Morgan may blow a lay-up is really of little consequence in the big picture–and shouldn’t detract from what he provides defensively.

        • Kam

          He is a good defender.. But horford is a better rebounder, shot blocker and finisher.. If they both have bad hands then id give the advantage to Jon. Morgan has struggled. He plays D but is a huge liability on offense. Jon is solid on both ends

          • umumum

            I’m not going to belabor it, but Jon simply has not been a better rebounder or finisher than Morgan. If he has become one this year-great, but we haven’t really played a meaningful game yet. Defensively it is not close.–I suspect you over-value blocks. Morgan’s ability to double and hedge on the screens–and get back to his man–have been the backbone of our defense for the past 3 years. Horford often turns his back on the ball when rotating back to his man. Morgan also sets better screens offensively. Morgan isn’t a liability on offense because we don’t ask him to do much–and, again, I am skeptical that Horford will be much of an offensive factor once real games start. If he is, I will be thrilled. And lest we forget, Morgan forced the bad shot in the KU game and took “the charge” against ‘Cuse. Sorry, but Jordan deserves much more love than you appear willing to give.

          • Kam

            Yes he is. We set those picks and give him the ball and he misses the lay ups, its a problem.. and 2 blocks a game is nice. and all of morgans charges are gonna be gone because of the rule change so u have to block shots or you will get called for the block.. Obviously you are a morgan fan. Thankfully JB is the coach and can see what i see and thankfully thats why Jon is playing double the minutes!

          • UMQuasi

            I was thinking about the Morgan/Horford situation, and one thing no one has mentioned is the rule changes for this year and how that affects those two. Morgan has been a big part of our defense, but his method of rim protection is drawing charges, which will be MUCH more difficult this year under the new rules.

            With the changes, help defense will be much more about blocking shots than drawing charges, which favors Horford’s style of play.

          • gpsimms

            Agree 100%. Morgan’s athleticism is so underrated. The guy has outstanding feet for a big, and can really move. He is good in transition, and has better hands than everyone seems to think.

          • gpsimms

            Kam, you’re just wrong about Horford’s hands being better. I’ve watched the kid for four years. Even in these games so far, you can see him fumble the ball in his hands going for boards. He ends up securing them because he is playnig low-majors, but it’s not going to last.

            I hope he’s (Horford) improved more than I think, and you’re right and he has a fantastic year.

            Again, if Morgan is such a huge liability, how did we ever win a big ten title in his soph year? Admittedly, I am a big fan of Morgan’s.

          • Champswest

            Perhaps Beilein knows what Morgan can do (since he has been a starter for 3 years) and wants to get Horford as much playing time as possible to bring him along. Perhaps with McGary out, Morgan was a better fit at the big 4 than Horford. Perhaps when McGary returns, we will see Horford and Morgan sharing time at the 5.

            Neither guy has very good hands. They have different strengths. Morgan gives good help defense and passes well. Horford, with the added length, is a better rebounder, shot blocker and has more of an offensive game. They will both help this team. I trust Beilein to use them correctly.

    • Kam

      In pre season they played the same minutes and morgan played very bad

    • ChathaM

      I agree re: the SCS defence. They seemed totally unprepared for the spot up shooters that M uses, both in the halfcourt and in transition. It almost seemed like they were focused on securing the middle of the floor and preventing post play, against a team for which significant post play wasn’t going to happen. Full credit goes to the shooters for knocking down 3’s at an incredible rate (in the 1st half), but wow, many of those shots were no different than shooting in an empty gym. Maybe it was simply a case of having to pick their poison because they were overmatched physically, but if you were SCS, would you really have chosen to take away the middle and allow the 3?

  • MGoTweeter

    Only stayed for the first half but, big step forward on offense. The ball movement and spacing were much better than in game one. Especially from Levert, walton and Irvin, who I thought were the primary problems most times against Lowell when the offense bogged down. Levert and Walton both did a much better job of moving the ball and not just thinking dribble when they received a pass (maybe that was a bit of an illusion since Levert was often wide open when he caught a pass and the decision was obvious). Irvin I thought looked more in tune with the flow of the offense and understanding when to move and when to stick and spot up.

    Did not see the second half but heard a bit on the radio on the drive home so it is hard for me to know what GRIII did in the second half. In the first half I thought he let everything come to him pretty well. As I said after last game, Michigan does not need him to be the main guy. I defer to Dylan and Umhoops community on his second half play.

    I was very impressed with Horford handling his own against a decent big man. He got and maintained position very well and his outlet passing, while not at a McGary level, is steadily improving. If both he and Morgan can rebound, defend and finish open opportunities around the basket, that will be a big plus for Michigan.

    It is still way too early to tell for sure, but right now I would like to see Walton be more selective with his outside shot. At this point it just looks like there is too much going on with his body on his shot and a better option for him might be to pass up open jump shots, drive and kick to better shooters. His game is increasingly reminding me of a Shannon Scott/Keith Appling type of player.

    Excited to see how the team handles a big step up in competition this weekend and a road environment.

    • Kam

      In the 2nd half GR3 was forcing shots trying to prove himself it seemed which resulted in a air ball some badly missed shots he just struggled in the 2nd half

    • guestavoe

      I like Walton’s court vision a bit better but I can see those comparisons.

  • jlustig22

    That is amazing about Irvin. He has yet to grab a single defensive rebound in the 4 games. That’s 76 total minutes and not one defensive board. I think the Hardaway comparison is pretty spot on. He has show the ability to shoot but not much else at the moment. He has only one assist and no steals or blocks so far. I think he will get there and develop some semblance of an all around game. It took Hardaway a while to do that.

    I really like the all around games of Stauskas and LeVert. They are knocking down threes and really driving well too. I like the way the whole team is driving and kicking.

    • I think Michigan has a pretty good track record for bringing wings along though. Hardaway, Stauskas, Robinson… early on in their careers were just shooters but have slowly become more involved in the offense.

      Sort of a safe and easy way to ease them along in the offense until they become more comfortable.

      • jlustig22

        Good point. That makes a lot of sense. I had no idea LeVert would be this good so obviously that puts less pressure on Irvin to be a huge factor at least early on.

      • mikey_mac

        The comparison to THJ only goes so far. Up until the shot goes up on offense, they are probably pretty similar.
        But THJ never had a game as a freshman where he had zero rebounds. The minutes are slightly in THJ’s favor (he had a bigger role on his freshman team), but not nearly enough to excuse Irvin.
        THJ also contributed more in terms of assists, steals, blocks.

        It’s early, but we’ve got a lot more to see out of Irvin.

    • GoBlueNYC

      Haven’t watched enough to make my own assessment, but coaches have been putting out the word that Irvin is a really good defender; if so, that also sets him apart from THJ, especially early in THS’s career.

  • Kam

    Cant wait to see Nik guarding Jabari parker ;)

    • guestavoe

      Hopefully Caris and GR3 handle Hood and Parker.

      • Kam

        Honestly that is gonna be tough both are 6’8 and 215+ but yes.. we cant allow Nik to get switched on them. That will be a rough game defensively for Nik because they also had sulliom a SG who can score. so no matter who NIK guards it could be trouble

  • BlueBasketeer

    Not a bad game, but still some concerns…as noted, only one assist for Walton in a wide open scoring game, and no rebounds for Irvin. A bit too much reliance on three pointers, and a defense that isn’t very disruptive. This team can shoot, but it’s not clear what else they can do really well. Shoot free throws, maybe, and that may be a bigger factor than some people expect this year. 53 fouls were called in the Kansas-Duke game, 29 against Duke, so they are definitely whistling all of the hand checking that Duke has always gotten away with in the past.

    Still, without McGary, it seems likely that we will struggle against tougher competition.

    • guestavoe

      Our defense looks more than fine, especially under the new rules.

      Also if you shoot well then the dribble drive game opens up ten fold.

    • dinomite

      I didn’t watch the game but assist in basketball can be deceiving . Walton could have broke down defenses, drawn people to him and pass it out to a person who pass it to a wide open person. The play was still initiated by him but someone like Irvin my get the assist.

  • guest

    Where is the GRIII that the ESPN rep said was the best player he saw all offseason (better than the frosh even). Parker and Wiggins were lights out last night. Basically KU Burke game type performances…

    • arsenal926

      pretty unfair to judge a player based on his performance during a blowout win. At this point in the season, Michigan hasn’t even begun to run plays on offense so even if GR3 scored 40 points against South Carolina State would it have event meant something? My answer is no.

      This weekend should be a great test for Michigan’s young team, but its tough to know what type of team Michigan will be until at least 10 or so games into the season.

  • Will Gross

    LeVert and Stauskas looked phenomenal. Zak Irvin has a very slow release on his three pointers; even when other guys got him open looks, his slow release mean the shot was still contested strongly. Needs to be fixed.

  • Champswest

    Irvin might be one of those players that takes a little longer to adjust to the college game and Beilein’s system. LeVert seemed lost much of the time last year, even late in the year. Fortunately, we don’t need him to be a major contributor right away.

    I thought Beilein had an interesting comment about getting LeVert on the floor, but who do you take off (especially after McGary returns). Good problem to have.