Derrick Walton comes through in big moments for Michigan


Michigan 71, Nebraska 70 - #10Michigan freshman point guard Derrick Walton my be coming around to the college game a bit slower than expected this season, but the guy knows how to finish. (Photo: Pat Radigan)

At least he did on Thursday during Michigan’s narrow escape from Nebraska’s brand new Pinnacle Bank Arena. The Wolverines barely nudged out the Huskers with a 71-70 victory in a back-and-forth contest in which every basket counted. However, it was the two that Walton sank — one at the end of the first half and one at the end of the game — that especially stood out.

With five seconds left in the first half, Nebraska’s Deverell Biggs hit a layup to tie the game at 30. It was a demoralizing score for Michigan, who had watched the Huskers hit four straight threes at one point earlier in the game. But they didn’t feel that way for long. Walton received the inbound after Biggs’s make, took a couple dribbles, and pulled up for the shot just beyond half-court.

He nailed it.

The improbable basket gave Michigan only a 3-point lead heading into halftime, but the emotional lift it provided was far greater.

“It had a great impact,” Robinson said of Walton’s shot after the game. “We were a little bit down because they had just come back and they had hit a couple threes. After Derrick hit that shot, that kind of amped us up a little bit. I thought we had great energy going into halftime, and I thought right out the gates we had that same energy.”

It was an appropriate play to usher in the second half, when neither team missed all that much. Nebraska made eight of its first 10 shot attempts of the second half, while Michigan completely dominated on the offensive end for the entire frame, hitting 67 percent of its shots.

The result was a whole lot of basket-trading. Neither team could guard the other, and the Wolverines’ ineptitude guarding the high screen-and-roll was painful.

“I think both teams were doing a really good job of scoring the ball and both teams were having a tough time of stopping each other,” Nik Stauskas said of the second half.

The final 10 minutes of the game were especially gripping, with both teams throwing flurries of haymakers. Michigan got timely contributions from its two stars on the wing — Stauskas and Robinson.

Stauskas came through on a couple of screen-and-rolls with Jordan Morgan, who had himself a heck of a game — 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting. The game plan was clearly to get Stauskas the ball and run action off of him, whatever that turned out to be. The sophomore said after the game that John Beilein was drawing stuff up for him in the timeouts that they later ran for points.

“Coach Beilein, in the second half and in that one stretch in particular, he was giving me a lot of great opportunities to attack the rim,” Stauskas said. “I found J-Mo for a couple open layups and I got a couple open jumpers. So that’s all you can really ask for.”

Robinson made his own contribution, fittingly, on a play that was certainly not drawn up for him. With a minute and a half remaining in the game and Michigan down two points, Stauskas came down with a defensive rebound but had it stripped by Shavon Shields. But when Leslee Smith appeared to come up with the crucial offensive rebound, Robinson darted out of nowhere to pick the big man’s pocket at half court.

From there, Robinson took the ball straight to the rim for the dunk, tying the game.

“I thought the play that really hurt is when we got an offensive rebound with a minute and a half or whatever it was,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said after the game. “We just don’t secure it and Robinson goes down and dunks it to go up two. That one just sticks out in my craw.”

But in a game of big plays, the biggest was once again supplied by Walton. On what would be Michigan’s final offensive possession, the freshman received a dribble hand-off from Irvin on the wing and looked up to see nothing but empty court between him and the basket. Without hesitation, Walton leaped into Leslee Smith, who slid over to the block to help. Walton rose up and hit the layup with the foul.

“It was actually something he’s been working on, we’ve been working on, that particular play,” Beilein said of Walton’s basket after the game. “He just took it right at him and scored. He had some other options, he didn’t look at those other options. He looked to score.”

Michigan needed all the big plays it could get to emerge victorious against Nebraska on Thursday. While it received plenty from the usual suspects, it was Walton, with a flair for the dramatic, who provided two of the biggest.

  • jblair52

    I’m a Walton fan but we got lucky in that game.
    I thought we got a lot of calls in our favor – including that last drive where I thought it should have been a charge on Walton. Then Walton missed the free throw but fortunately Nebraska missed 3 opportunities within 10 ft.

    • Kenny

      It was clearly a good call. The Neb player were still moving when Walton was in the air.

    • David DeMember

      It was a block this year, would have a been a charge last year. The team has adjusted pretty well to the new block/charge which has been called differently in many games. Those refs had a hard time with some travel calls and their errors in general seemed to go both ways.

      • Steve2081

        Looked like a charge either way to me. The guy was in position and there well before Derrick left the ground despite the announcer trying to frame the call for the ref.

        • Kenny

          no, it was clear that when walton left the ground, he was still moving.

        • jturn14

          I thought it could have gone either way, but from the slow motion replay you could tell that when Walton left the ground his trajectory was taking him to the left hip of the Nebraska player but he made contact in the middle of the chest, which meant that either the Nebraska player leaned to the left as Derrick was in the air or shuffled his feet that direction. I couldn’t tell which because his lower body was no longer in the frame.

        • Northern Blue

          That may have been a charge, but the foul on Spike that got called a block was even more of a charge. Spike was standing still for 2 or 3 seconds before getting runover by the Nebraska player.

          • ChathaM

            Yep…legal guarding position, and a knee to the chops. That’s a charge.

      • ChathaM

        I agree re: the block/charge play. I watched the play about a dozen times. It would have been a charge last season. The play was a great example of how difficult (impossible?) it is for refs to decide at what point the player has started their upward motion, and compare that to whether the defensive player has established legal position. It’s a lot to ask of any official.

        • David DeMember

          “starting the upward motion” seems to be when the player takes the step to jump, not the jump itself. This is going to create some insane controversy in the tournament… JB seems to be teaching this well, we’ve got better as the season goes on. Taking charges used to be a main part of our defense and I think it’s hampered the D quite a bit… Morgan is probably the best on the team at taking charges.

          • ChathaM

            Or, are officials instructed to judge upward motion by hand and arm movement once the dribble has been picked up? I’d be interested in hearing from NCAA officials (not that I think there are any here).

      • jblair52

        Personally I thought the defender was set before Walton started his jump. If the refs called it according to the new rules – that’s great for them. But then my next comment would be that the new rule is completely stupid. haha

  • Adam

    I think Walton is improving every game and is definitely on the right trajectory. I think it is actually easier for him now with McGary out because his pre-season practice time was with the current squad. Obviously needs to work on free throws. Missed them both early in the game and the last one in crunch time.

    I love Spike but he is a defensive liability.

    Question for readers – I remember seeing Derrick and Spike out there together for long chunks in the game and I don’t remember seeing that too much before (I think with Nick or GRIII on the bench)…it seemed like our offense stagnated a bit during those times. Do you agree?

    • ChathaM

      We’ve seen that tandem from time to time over the past several games. As long as it doesn’t create a massive mismatch on the defensive end, I don’t think the offence suffers. That’s my general impression; numbers may prove that wrong.

    • They got stuck with that lineup for way too long in the first half against Nebraska, but I thought it was the defense the really suffered.

  • gobluemd16

    When that last offensive possession started, if you had asked me who I wanted to take the shot, Derrick would probably have been the last person. Definitely took guts, but was a 50/50 block-charge call. If you watch the replay, Nik was wide open in the corner after Derrick drove. Since Derrick made it, none of us are complaining, but if he got called for a charge or missed the layup, people may be saying something else. Still would have probably either given the ball to Nik or Caris in a high screen and roll.
    Also, I thought it was pretty surprising that Coach went with Zak instead of JMo on the last possession. I know he wanted to switch all screens, but taking JMo out left the putback and offensive rebounding opportunities to be had. I guess JMo wasn’t doing as well hedging the high screen (partly due to injury), but if they make that tip-in, maybe we are wondering why he wasn’t in the game. Just something I was thinking about, but I am so glad it worked out. Really great win on the road in the B1G, regardless of the opponent. Glenn, Nik, and Jordan had superb games.

  • rlcBlue

    So here’s how three Michigan freshman PGs stack up after their third conference game:

    gs mpg fg% 3fg% ft% rpg apg tpg spg ppg rec
    9 22.7 .436 .200 .625 2.0 2.4 1.9 0.4 4.4 8-6
    14 33.9 .440 .368 .714 3.7 5.6 2.9 0.9 14.7 12-3
    15 25.7 .429 .357 .692 2.4 2.8 2.0 0.5 8.0 11-4

    It’s not fair to ding Walton for falling short of Burke’s stats – that kind of a start to a career happens maybe once a generation. His numbers look just fine compared to Morris’s, though.