Game 9: Houston Baptist at Michigan Recap

Dylan Burkhardt

Michigan vs Houston Baptist_13
Scott Mapes

Michigan 107, Houston Baptist 53. Photo gallery. Beilein press conference. McGary & Stauskas react. Box score.

After a dismal offensive performance at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Tuesday, the last few days have been filled with questions about Michigan’s offense. Who can score the ball if Nik Stauskas struggles? What’s wrong with Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III? Can Derrick Walton lead the offense?

Those questions aren’t going to be answered in one game, especially against Houston Baptist, but the Wolverines showed they are more than capable of scoring on Saturday afternoon. John Beilein’s group tallied 107 points in 66 offensive possessions, setting a Michigan record offensive efficiency in the Ken Pomeroy era (2003-13) at 1.62 points per trip.

Five Wolverines reached double figures, led by Nik Stauskas with 25 and Glenn Robinson III with 17, and 12 different Michigan players scored at least one point. Michigan moved the ball well, tallying 26 assists to just seven turnovers on 36 made field goals, and played nearly flawless offensive basketball.


Michigan’s offense was prolific in the first half, scoring a ridiculous 1.93 points per trip, and slowed down a bit in the second half but still finished with its best offensive mark of the KenPom era. Michigan also shot the ball extremely well, tying a program record for made threes in a game at 16. The Wolverines shot 67% on twos and 62% on threes for a 79% effective field goal percentage – another KenPom era record. Michigan’s offense appeared a bit disjointed in the second half but that was probably due to the high number of free throws, the Wolverines attempted 20 free throws to 22 FGAs, and a few more turnovers (U-M had 18 turnovers to 1 assist in the first and 8 assists to 6 turnovers  in the second) but was still very efficient at 1.35 points per trip.

Houston Baptist mustered a heroic shooting performance during the first few moments of the first half, somehow keeping pace with the Wolverines early on despite Michigan’s offensive perfection. The Huskies made their first seven shots from the field, including three triples, but eventually the hot shooting dried up. From that point on, Houston Baptist shot just 16-of-52 (1-of-14 3-point) from the field for a 32% effective field goal percentage. The Huskies were never able to get to the line and turned the ball over often, especially in the second half, allowing Michigan to score 28 points off of 16 turnovers.

The major takeaway defensively was that Michigan’s ball screen defense still needs work. Houston Baptist’s smaller, quicker guards were able to split the hard hedge to get in the lane often. The hard hedge works defensively but the entire point of hedging is to eliminate that penetration. Splitting the hedge is a problem with execution rather than strategy and is a problem that would be fatal against better opponents.

It’s always better to play a great game against sub-standard competition than a mediocre one but attempting to extrapolate much from a 54 point drubbing, other than a nice confidence boost, is a bit foolish heading into next week’s tilt with Arizona. The Wildcats are likely to travel to Ann Arbor as the No. 1 team in the nation and have the most imposing frontcourt that Michigan will face this season.

Michigan vs Houston Baptist_1
Scott Mapes

Player Bullets:

  • Mitch McGary: McGary was dominant with 12 points, eight rebounds, six assists, four steals, a block and two turnovers in 23 minutes. He was knocking down mid-range jumpers early but most impressive was his ability to push the tempo off of steals and defensive rebounds. That’s when McGary is at his best and he’s really only looked comfortable doing it against Florida State this year. This was Mitch’s most complete performance of the season which is encouraging with arguably his most difficult test yet coming next week against Arizona.
  • Glenn Robinson III: Robinson rarely shows emotion but he cracked as big of a smile as I can remember this season late in the first half after a big alley-oop. That was great to see because he finally looked comfortable on the floor, getting involved in the spots where he’s most effective: in transition, from the corner and along the baseline. Robinson finished with 17 points on 6-of-9 (2-4 3pt) shooting with four assists, four rebounds (two offensive) in 25 minutes. A solid step in the right direction.
  • Nik Stauskas: Stauskas was glad to see open three-point looks again and knocked down 6-of-9 long range efforts en route to 25 points. Stauskas loves playing against the 2-3 zone and it showed. He’s great at making the right pass, flashing in the middle and taking the open three-point shots. He finished with four assists on the day and played smart with just one turnover.
  • Derrick Walton: Walton shot the ball very well (3-of-3 all from long range) and got to the free throw line when he attacked the basket. His three-point attempts were good ones: they weren’t too deep and they were open off of the catch and shoot or when his defender went under the ball screen. He seemed to let the game come to him and played well overall. One of his two turnovers was an ugly one (a baseline inbound pass off the backboard) and the other came in transition but he had a solid performance overall.
  • Zak Irvin: Irvin just knows how to score the ball. The start to his career was a bit rocky but since he bottomed out against Charlotte, he’s settled into a groove. Irvin was 5-of-7 from the floor (3-5 3pt) and finished with 14 points in 20 minutes. He looks more comfortable each time he steps on the floor and his jumper is gaining some consistency, going 16 of his last 25 from the floor with 10 threes (84 eFG%).
  • Spike Albrecht: Albrecht’s patented over-penetrate and dish along the baseline maneuver works well against over-matched competition and he tallied six assists (and 0 turnovers) in 18 minutes against HBU. He knocked down his only three of the game after the defender went under a high ball screen for a solid night of work.
  • Caris LeVert: LeVert was the only bright spot against Duke but he was missing in action today. His one field goal was a great scoop layup off the pick and roll but he was just 1-of-4 from the floor with two steals , a block, an assist and a turnover. Michigan had so many other options working that it didn’t matter but LeVert is slumping with his three-point shot. He’s made just 3 of his last 18 attempts (17%) after opening the season 12-of-22 (55%). He had a rough turnover in transition and despite a few steals and blocks, he didn’t look very comfortable defensively either.
  • Jon Horford: Horford had some great plays on the low block including a turnaround jumper off glass, a left handed hook shot and a reverse layup along the baseline. He missed a couple of bunnies as well but finished but 6 points on 3-of-6 shooting and six rebounds in 11 minutes,
  • Jordan Morgan: Morgan had sequence of plays that only he could manage, throwing an outlet pass off of Caris LeVert’s back before recovering to draw a charge on the ensuing fastbreak. He missed a pair of free throws but rebounded with a couple of nice finishes off of good ball screen passes.
  • BlueBasketeer

    Nothing too positive to take away from this game, unfortunately. We already know we can kick sand in weak team’s faces, especially when threes are dropping, but unless we can produce against quality opponents, it’s going to be a very long season from this point on.

    We simply do not have the good team defense or the ability to score against a good team defense that we would need to beat an Arizona or even a Stanford. Our offense does not have the kind of floor leader that we need to make things happen against Big Ten caliber defenders, and Walton is clearly not going to be that person this year.

    • Mattski

      If you’d prefaced all this with, “Until now, we (etc.). . .” I’d feel more sympathetic toward your post. Let’s let them play the games, and assume that the team as it stands now is not the team it can become. Beilein has overachieved with far less talent than this. Putting it all together is a game-to-game challenge.

      • BlueBasketeer

        Well to be honest, I think people expecting a big leap in performance from this team by the time the Big Ten season is in swing are likely to be disappointed. Consider last year…which players were playing significantly better at the end of the Big Ten season as compared to the beginning? McGary broke out IN the tournament, but other than that, what we had in December was pretty much what we had in March. Some minor improvements, perhaps, but nothing of the type that’s going to take us from 7-5 non-conference to 12-6 or 13-5 BT this year. And whatever improvement you may project for our players has to be balanced against the same kind of improvement that MSU, Iowa, Ohio State, Illinois, Purdue, Indiana, etc. can reasonably expect. We’re just not going to make a quantum leap ahead of teams that are outperforming us right now.

        • Richmond_Eric

          WOW! Michigan plays poorly at Duke (not unusual for any team), plays poorly against Charlotte and loses at the buzzer (bad loss akin to Penn St. last year) and lose to a very good Iowa St. team in a super crazy bandbox environment in their very first test as a very young team dealing with injury to preseason All American.
          Look at what is happening across the College Bball landscape and no one is running away at this point.
          I have faith in the elite talent (and coaching) on this team and believe they will contend for B1G title, get past 2nd round of B1G tourney and capable of deep run in March.
          I remember that people were down on us going into March and look what happened.
          Young team, finding their way. Are we supporters? Or detractors?

          • BlueBasketeer

            I do support this team, actually. I don’t think that making an honest and objective analysis of how this team has played so far and how they’re likely to do going forward, with no finger-crossing or wishful thinking, makes one a detractor. Bottom line, they will finish the NC season at 7-5, maybe 8-4 at best, and with no wins against ranked teams, and at least one loss against an unranked team. That’s not horrible, but it’s not nearly as good as people projected. They have a not too favorable conference schedule, and will probably be at around 10-8 in the Big Ten, plus or minus 1. That projects to 17-19 wins for the year, and without any quality NC wins, we’re probably an NCAA bubble team, and a 8-9 seed if we get in. Faith notwithstanding, I’m not sure how you can realistically project much better than that for this team, given that we were only 12-6 in the Big Ten last year after having won our first 16 games.

          • Dyenimator

            In order to go 7-5, they’ll have to lose to Arizona and Stanford. Both games where they’re favored. 8-4 is probably the most likely scenario. But 9-3 is more common than 7-5.

          • Kam

            They wont be favored against Zona

          • KenPom likes Michigan by two against Arizona.

          • Kam

            i don’t really like KenPoms system haha. I don’t really think its that accurate. Just my opinion though

          • Usually very close to Vegas lines, at least opening lines.

          • Dyenimator

            Exactly. Vegas stands to lose millions if they’re wrong. They’re usually not.

          • mikey_mac

            Vegas sets a line hoping 50% will bet each side. If the action instead trends one way, they add odds onto the bet to correct. Vegas doesn’t lose.

          • jkuofm27

            Wins against Zona and Stanford I think would really change perceptions. I think they should beat Stanford, but Zona is going to be tough. I think their height and multiple inside threats are a bad matchup. Is UM going to play a two big lineup? Because if they do they have struggled mightily on the offense side with that lineup. I think McGary will need a 20 and 15 night and stay out of foul trouble on the defensive end in order to beat Zona.

          • mikey_mac

            Did you notice how much 2-big lineup UM played on Saturday? They were clearly getting some reps in. I think there was even briefly a Morgan/Horford combo.

          • MAZS

            Objective?? You apparently have a very high opinion of your opinions because what you opined is the very definition of SUBJECTIVE–as are most all posts here. Your initial post was IMHO intentionally negative and intended to elicit responses. Oh–and I think you are wrong–that’s my opinion.

          • BlueBasketeer

            Ok, let’s hear your projection for the rest of the season. Why do you think they will win significantly more than 19 games, given that last years team was 12-6 in the Big Ten, despite winning their first 16 games, spending a lot of time in the top 5, and finishing as the national runner-up, with the National Player of the Year.

          • MAZS

            I don’t have to makes projections–and I’m not interested in yours. I can simply enjoy the season as it evolves. You bring raw negativity. Others here detailed why you may well be wrong. We start 4 sophs and a frosh–and as you noted we lost the POY, who also was our point guard. There was every reason to expect a learning curve and that we wouldn’t necessarily start as strongly as last year–when we played no top non-conference teams on the road. I don’t know if we will be as good as we were last year–at least how we finished–but I am comfortable that we will be highly competitive and that this will be a entertaining season. That should be enough. You act like an bitter ex-girlfriend–with my apology to women everywhere.

        • guestavo

          We’re the 8th youngest team in the NCAA. Have you watched NCAA? Every top team is struggling.

          • BlueBasketeer

            Well, no…every top team is not “struggling”, unless by “struggling” you mean “not winning every game by at least 20”. Wisconsin is not struggling, Ohio State and Michigan State are not struggling, Arizona is not struggling, Syracuse is not “struggling”.

          • AlwaysBlue

            Arizona has played 1 away game, Wisconsin 2, Syracuse 0 and Ohio State 1. Michigan has played 2 in famously hostile venues against what are now ranked teams. There is no need to reiterate their youth or injuries but to say they aren’t going to continue to get better, or to neglect putting their schedule in context isn’t fair.

          • guestavo

            Have you looked at their schedules? Arizona has had multiple close games to multiple mid majors. MSU just lost last week. Idk if you are aware, but not all schedules are built the same. Like I said, Ohio St best win is the unranked Marquette on a neutral floor.

          • BlueBasketeer

            Quality of opposition notwithstanding, it’s hard to put down an undefeated team as “struggling”

          • guestavo

            Struggling, no. Ahead of the pack by any kind of margin? Definitely not.

    • Bad opponent? Yes. But you can’t knock Michigan for playing essentially a perfect game.

      • BlueBasketeer

        Not knocking them for how they played today at all. But just saying that it really gives no indication that they can stand in against quality competition, any more than any of our other easy wins against cupcakes has. And while we played as close to a perfect game on offense as you could get against anyone, our defense was far from perfect, as you yourself noted.

    • Chris De Sana

      Very interesting thread….taking the position of expecting the least and hoping for the best rarely plays well it appears.

  • rlcBlue

    Which bigs were getting beat on the hard hedge? If it was McGary, no surprise – he still needs work. If Horford, a little disappointment – he should be good at this by now. If Morgan, complete and utter shock.

    • ben

      Mostly McGary

  • Indiana_Matt

    “Robinson … cracked as big of a smile as I can remember this season late in the first half after a big alley-oop. That was great to see because he finally looked comfortable on the floor.” Hooray for that!

  • BlueBear_E

    I strongly disaggree with people that are predicting a .500 B1G record, based on the play that we have seen so far. Yeah, they have been disappointing, but I see so much potential for improvement and we have the coach staffing / culture to make it happen. Here are the reasons we will see big improvement against top 25 type teams IMO.

    1. Our freshman that are logging minutes will get better. Irvin is a scorer and he will show that against good competition as he gets more comfortable and confident. And I have to believe that Walton is going to reduce the number of passes he is throwing into the stands and into the wrong side of the back board. Its freshman growing pains for both. These guys have also shown good defensive talent and instincts. These two will make less mistakes as the season goes on and will earn more minutes. And I think we will be better off on both sides of the floor because of it.

    2. The sophomores are going to learn how to play without Burke, but its going to take some time. Stauskas has shown that he can be comfortable as a facilitator. Caris and McGary have shown flashes of being able to create for themselves and others. Its a work in progress. We have had four competitive games and lost 3. Maybe that’s because we are asking all 5 of our true sophomores to do things that they didn’t have to do last year.

    3. We can still have a top tier offense even if GRIII never becomes efficient as the ball handler in pick and rolls or in ISO situations. Seems like that is what everyone wants from him, but I don’t think that we need him to do that. LeVert, Stauskas, and Walton should be ball handlers in pick and rolls anyway. What is wrong with asking GRIII to do the things that he is already good at. Every team needs a guy that can score when the play is not run for him. If the other guys play the way they are capable, GRIII can go back to doing the things he does best. Then we would see a change in attitude and body language.

    4. The emphasis on eliminating the clutching, grabbing, and hand-checking that was called good B1G defense in the past is going to negatively affect our biggest conference foes more than us.

    • Chris De Sana

      For the most part agree but the biggest concern of many here is that we will struggle in the paint on both ends of the floor. And over all defense is average at best.

  • guestavo

    Did people not watch MSU, UK, Kansas, UCLA, OK St lose this past week? Tons of other supposedly top tier teams struggling to pull it out against mid majors. Sure, we could have played a cupcake schedule like OSU but we will be better for being proactive in forcing the growing pains and figuring out our flaws to shore up. We are not alone in these growing pans. I have yet to see any team pull away from the pack so far…

    • Chris De Sana

      Guestavo, I am pretty sure everyone here understands that it is early in the season and we have a very young team in fact one of the youngest in the country. That said it should not stop any fan from expecting more especially from those that have been there before (returning letter men).

      • guestavo

        I don’t think *everyone* does because I hear these complains that seem to be in a tone that would indicate otherwise.

  • Chris De Sana

    A few of my biggest take aways from this game.
    – Mitch is getting back in game shape, next weeks test against another highly ranked big from his class should be good viewing.
    – GR3 may never be more than a 3 or 4th option offensively. If he can not create his own shot in a game like this it just may not be in him. That said playing within himself may not be a bad thing so maybe we just need to temper our expectations. I did love to see him smile and have fun.
    – Anyone else notice Nik slowed down when at the line? Took a deep breath and them went into his one dribble and shoot.
    – Walton played more in control, probably because HBU did not press the pace or will not able to press the pace. This will be a challenge he need to handle if we are to be successful in the long run.
    – Caris is the ultimate team player, does what is needed and he was not needed on the offensive side of the ball.
    – Irvin continues to impress and will give us more off the bench this year than we got from the position last year on both ends of the court.
    – Horford may have more potential in the post then most give him credit.
    – Our defense still needs work.

  • sonique

    Sorry, but the picture at the top is disgusting. That guy needs to get his business out of McGary’s armpit…

  • mikey_mac

    I think it’s pretty clear this will be a team that wins when it plays good defense. UM is so much more effective when it generates offense and confidence off its defense.

    We won’t always be able to rely on poor shooting opponents, though. The biggest areas for improvement: the PNR defense needs to step up as mentioned in the post, and LeVert and Albrecht need to stop their matador acts.

    • Kam

      Caris usually covers the best wing so he will occasionally get beat.. Spike just isn’t a good defender so he also will get beat. You will have to live with that

      • mikey_mac

        I understand LeVert tends to have tougher assignments, but he doesn’t just get beat by excellent players. He’s getting beat by just about anyone who drives against him.