It took a tournament record 14 made three-point field goals but Michigan beat Long Beach State by 24 points to open the Puerto Rico Tip-Off in style. The Wolverines didn’t play flawless basketball but had too much talent and shooting ability for their mistakes to catch up to them.
Michigan jumped out to an 18 point lead in the first 11 minutes of play but allowed Long Beach State to hang around. The 49ers abandoned the various zone looks they utilized in the game’s opening 10 minutes and managed to cut the deficit to 13 at the half with their man-to-man defense. Six Wolverine turnovers in their first 20 possessions of the second half allowed Long Beach State to cut the lead to nine points with nine minutes remaining but the Wolverines had one more answer.
Michigan regrouped after a 30 second timeout followed by an additional stoppage for a clock error. Nik Stauskas buried a three and from that point on the Wolverines never looked back, outscoring the 49ers 24-9 over the final nine minutes to run away with an 85-61 victory.
Michigan’s offensive statistics resemble a classic Beilein-offense with lots of threes, few turnovers, efficient twos and not a whole lot else.
Over half of Michigan’s field goal attempts originated from three-point range (52.5%) and the Wolverines connected on 14-of-30 for 47%. The two-point shot attempts were good ones and Michigan made 61% of its attempts inside the arc for the game. The Wolverines didn’t turn the ball over but didn’t make much of an impact on the offensive glass or at the free throw line either. Michigan’s halfcourt offense, especially against LBSU’s man-to-man, never looked quite in sync but it’s tough to argue with the results – 1.27 points per trip. That recipe works against teams that don’t have Michigan’s talent but will have to improve as the season wears on.
Defensively, Michigan was far from perfect. The Wolverines held Long Beach State to .92 points per possession but looked average when they weren’t forcing the 49ers into turnovers. Long Beach State did turn it over on 22.5% of its possessions which led to 25 Michigan points. Late closeouts, especially from freshmen, cost Michigan in the first half as LBSU went 6-of-13 from three-point range. The 49ers hot shooting cooled in the second, 2-of-9 from long range, but the effective close outs will be high on Michigan’s list of necessary improvements. (To be fair, I did write in the preview that Michigan should let LBSU have the long range shot.) Long Beach State only rebounded 18.2% of its misses on the night and three of its six offensive rebounds were on missed free throws.
Long Beach State played well enough to force the Wolverines to play the game out but this was the sort of confidence building win that Michigan needed heading into a more difficult Friday game. Caris LeVert and Glenn Robinson III both had strong performances and the Wolverines shot the ball very well as a team. That being said, it was a step in the right direction and not a perfect performance. Whether Michigan plays Florida State (up 66-40 right now) or VCU they are going to play a team with significantly more athletic ability and talent.
- Nik Stauskas: Stauskas is a five-tool offensive player and he’s been demonstrating his whole skill set lately. He stuffed the stat sheet with 24 points on 7-of-10 (4-6 3pt) shooting with four rebounds and three assists. When Michigan needs a basket right now, John Beilein is calling No. 11 – evidenced by Nik’s huge three out of a timeout after LBSU cut the lead to nine.
- Caris LeVert: LeVert looked like the player that we saw in Michigan’s first two games. He hit a great pull-up to neutralize a 9-0 LBSU run and he’s probably U-M’s best player off the bounce. Stauskas is explosive driving in a straight line but LeVert’s ability to change pace and direction and get to the paint is impressive. LeVert’s full stat line speaks for itself: 20 points on 8-of-13 (4-7 3pt) shooting, five rebounds, four assists and zero turnovers in 34 minutes.
- Glenn Robinson III: Robinson looked much more comfortable offensively. He was 2-of-4 from long range and found some of his range with his mid-range jumper, finishing with 14 points, four assists, two offensive rebounds and a steal. That’s the good news, the bad news was his defensive rebounding. Robinson didn’t grab a single defensive rebound in in 35 minutes. Robinson is going to be the best athlete on the floor most times the Wolverines take the court and they need him to box out and be a presence on the defensive glass.
- Mitch McGary: Michigan was trying to rest him but McGary needs way more touches whenever he’s on the floor. He had three FGAs in 14 minutes and made all of them: two turnarounds in the post and an athletic putback. McGary also had four rebounds, a backdoor assist, a block and a steal. John Beilein admitted he’s easing McGary back into things but sooner or later, Michigan is going to half to rely on him.
- Derrick Walton: Walton still seems to be playing the game a little too fast. He knocked two early threes but then kind of fell in love with the long shot. Michigan doesn’t need him to take seven threes, even if he did end up with three makes. He struggled to finish at the rim (0-of-4), looking for contact and ending up with his shot in the second row. Seven defensive rebounds is impressive as he showed not just a nose for the ball but the ability to push the tempo after grabbing the board. That ability still gets him into a trouble a bit as he drove straight into a charge in the second half. He deserves credit for helping ice the game with a made three and then a drive-and-kick to LeVert for another three on the ensuing possession.
- Jon Horford: I thought Horford did a good job defensive against Jennings early in the game. He also knocked down a nice short jumper in the short corner against the zone. On the other hand he took an ill-advised long three and threw an awkward pass in the middle of the zone that was turned over. Zero rebounds in 12 minutes is nothing to write home about either.
- Zak Irvin: Irvin looks like he’s over-thinking things on the floor and that’s causing him to hesitate on offense – cutting and passing a step slow. He’s also one of the most-guilty Wolverines at not getting a hand up when closing out on shooters. Irvin received kudos from Beilein after the game for bouncing back after a bad turnover and coming right down the court and burying a three.
- Spike Albrecht: Albrecht didn’t have his jump shot (1-of-4)but Michigan’s offense runs smoothly when he’s on the floor. He finished with two points, three rebounds, two assists, a steal and a turnover.
- Jordan Morgan: Morgan played 10 minutes and scored three points via an goaltend-plus-foul but he looked a bit out of sorts offensively.