Game 16: Penn State at Michigan Recap

Dylan Burkhardt

Michigan 80, Penn State 67 - #7
Scott Mapes

Michigan 80, Penn State 67. Photo Gallery. Beilein presser (video). Player reactions (video). Box score.

Michigan cruised to its sixth consecutive victory on Tuesday evening, topping Penn State by a final score of 80-67.

The Wolverine offense lost Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Mitch McGary, but is still among the most dangerous in the country – now up to No. 5 nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency.

Michigan shared the ball and had four players reach double figures, in arguably its most impressive offensive performance of the season. Nik Stauskas faced little resistance driving to the basket, finishing with a game-high 21 points on 12 shots along with five assists. Freshman point guard Derrick Walton added a career high 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting, and the Wolverines got a combined 19 points and nine rebounds from Jon Horford and Jordan Morgan.

But it’s the defense that’s going to cause the coaching staff to lose sleep in the coming weeks. Michigan struggled to stop a decidedly average offensive team for the second game in a row. The Wolverine defense was just picked apart by the No. 69 and No. 91 offenses in the country and will face the No. 3 and No. 4 most efficient offenses in the country in their next two games.

No win is a bad win, but the Wolverines will have their work cutout for them with games at Wisconsin, vs. Iowa, and at Michigan State in the next 10 days.


Michigan’s offense was nearly flawless, racking up 80 points on just 60 possessions. An impressive 18 of 28 of the Wolverines field goals were assisted and they shot 68% on twos, 38% on threes for a sterling 62.5% effective field goal percentage. This was a classic offensive performance on par with the Wolverines’ best conference performances last season. The Wolverines shot the ball so well that few other offensive stats mattered. Nik Stauskas almost single-handedly got Michigan into the bonus in the second half with 11:25 to play. The Wolverines only rebounded a modest 30.8% of their misses, but turned eight offensive rebounds into 15 second chance points.

The Wolverine defense took a sideways step at best. Penn State scored 1.12 points per possession despite turning the ball over on its first four possessions (just five times in the next 55 possessions). Michigan’s defensive effort was impressive in small bursts but lacked consistency. The Nittany Lions scored 43 of their 60 points on 22 possessions that spanned three woeful defensive stretches.

  • Penn State scored on 6 possessions out of 8, from 4:47 to 1:00 in the first half.
  • Penn State scored on 5 possessions in a row, and 7 out of 8, from 19:01 to 14:28 in the second half.
  • Penn State scored on 6 possessions in a row, and 7 out of 8, from 8:52 to 5:07 in the second half.

The Wolverines surrendered only 17 points on the other 38 possessions of the game, so they did manage to clamp down at times. However, just one four or five minute lapse in defensive effort will cost a game against a quality opponent.

Michigan’s defensive problems continued to originate around the rim. The Nittany Lions shot 62 percent on 2-point attempts and there wasn’t much of a secret to their success. Penn State gave the ball to DJ Newbill and Tim Frazier and let them attack the basket. Only eight of Penn State’s 26 field goals were assisted, but Newbill and Frazier combined for 34 points on 22 shots.

It’s no secret that Michigan’s opening Big Ten schedule has been soft. The Wolverines have two road wins, but have the weakest KenPom in-conference strength of schedule by a wide margin. Michigan’s first four games might have been the easiest stretch in the conference, but its next three might be the toughest. First up, a trip to Madison to face a Wisconsin team that John Beilein has beaten just once since arriving at Michigan.

Michigan 80, Penn State 67 - #14
Scott Mapes

Player Bullets:

  • Nik Stauskas: Stauskas played a tremendous offensive game. He continued to excel distributing the ball off the ball screen (5 assists to 0 turnovers). He continued to attack the basket off the bounce (4-of-4 2-point shooting, 5 FTA). He also knocked down 3-of-8 triples and grabbed six rebounds for good measure. His defensive effort, like that of many of his teammates, left something to be desired (DJ Newbill abused him mid-way through the second half), but this was Nik’s most efficient offensive game this season against a reasonable opponent.
  • Derrick Walton: Walton exploded out of the gate with Michigan’s first eight points of the game. He shot the ball very well, 6-of-9 (2-5 3pt) for a career high 16 points and he continues to develop – but more so with his scoring ability. Walton has strung together his best four game stretch of the season, and is is shooting 66% on twos and 46% on threes in Big Ten games. His emergence seems to coincide with Michigan initiating more offense through Nik Stauskas. Walton is playing more on the wing, catching the ball and attacking the basket – almost as an off-guard. He needs to continue to improve his assist and turnover numbers going forward as he had some frustrating giveaways tonight.
  • Caris LeVert: LeVert was just 2-of-6 from the floor, but he made other things happen offensively. I was very impressed with how he let the game develop in the first half. Penn State was almost daring him to shoot, but instead he attacked the lane and found his teammates. His first half stat line was 4 assists, 2 steals and 2 shot attempts.
  • Jon Horford: Horford looked extremely comfortable after an underwhelming effort at Nebraska. He caught the ball in a number of tough spots and finished with 11 points on 4-of-5 and seven rebounds. He knocked down a jumper, finished a number of great passes in the screen and roll game and played solid defensively.
  • Glenn Robinson III: Robinson missed a lot of shots that he usually makes – he was just 3-of-10 on 2-point attempts – but it was encouraging that he kept attacking. The 6-foot-6 sophomore did hit 2-of-3 3-point attempts, grabbed five rebounds and handed out three assists. Michigan dialed up a new set featuring an off-ball screen to free Robinson for a 3-point jumper at the top of the key – another nice wrinkle in the offense.
  • Jordan Morgan: Morgan had 8 points, two rebounds, an assist and a block in 22 minutes. He had a great hook shot, a superb outlet pass, and a couple of nice finishes for a solid effort on the night.
  • Spike Albrecht: Albrecht knocked down a deep three, but missed the mark on his next two. Overall it was a quiet night for Michigan’s backup point guard.
  • Zak Irvin: Irvin seems to be rushing things a bit offensively and he’s just 2-of-7 from the field since his scoring outburst at Minnesota.
  • Wayman Britt

    Always good to get a win. Plenty of season left I understand, but here is how I look at the next three games:
    – win all three: contend for Big Ten title
    – win two: be a top 15 team in the nation
    – win one: trip to NCAA tourney
    – lost all three: NIT bound

    • Adam

      I think you are oversimplifying things. First, if they won even two they would be in contention for the big ten. Second, losing all 3 would not send them to the NIT. This is their toughest stretch and could still get to 10-11 big ten wins even with 3 losses, which would get them in the tourney

      • Mattski

        Oversimplifying slightly. But if you look over the upcoming schedule, our margin of error for the NCAAs still looks pretty small to me.

        I’m liking this team’s mettle, and impressed with how Beilein has made it work this year. I want to see us play with the same composure on offense we did last night–play Wisconsin tough and then beat Iowa at home, which I really think we’re capable of.

        • Iowa at home is huge, but at Wisconsin and at Michigan State are probably the toughest games on Michigan’s schedule. Losing them wouldn’t really be the end of the world.

          Home games (against anyone) and road games against bottom half teams are the ones that you really have to win.

    • mistersuits

      Michigan will be the underdog in all three contests. Their expected B1G record is still hovering around 10-8, which includes losing the next three. But they’ll still make the tournament with that mark.

      Not losing @Nebraska or vsPennState was more important to making the NCAA tourney than any of the next three games any of which would be a steal for Michigan.

      Love this team, but we packed away our super high expectations along with Arizona and McGary’s back.

      • kam

        although it would extremely tough, i think we can win at Wisky. It would take great defense and we would have to hit our shots.. I saw against IU, Wisky struggled against the dribble drive. We have guys who can attack the paint better than IU minus Yogi

        • mistersuits

          Indiana was playing at home. Huge difference between there and in Madison where no one ever wins, ever. Even if you are winning things happen: see Iowa this year, Ben Brust last year.

          @Wisc, @MSU are the two hardest games on the schedule all year. Much harder than vsArizona, @Duke or @ISU. That’s not to say Michigan can’t win, but it’s just super unlikely.

          • kam

            i agree, but my point wasn’t that IU won or where they played.. It was that they exposed a major weakness of theirs.. And i think Dukes environment is tougher than madison but Wisky is a better team. I also think ISU has a louder crowd.. But i definitely wouldnt bet on UM winning @ Wisc

          • Cory

            Purdue, of all teams, went in there and won last season.

      • robpollard

        Yep, U of M absolutely needed to go 4-0 to start, and they did it. That win over Minn is a real nice addition to their resume.

        Love the way Walton is improving; now we need Irvin to step up — we’re going to need multiple 3-pt bombs from him to have a good chance against these Top 20 teams.

      • Chezaroo

        I’m not thinking UM will be an underdog at home to Iowa, if you are referencing a listed point spread.

  • kam

    Nik was great offensively like always but for those who said he might be our best defender or he’s good defensively this year we saw that he cant guard the main wing. He does an ok job on the 3rd option but he would get destroyed by the 1st options in the BIG.. Glenn although struggled offensively I’m glad he was aggressive.. Walton seems to be getting better and better. Caris played his best game defensively and it was against good guards. Hope that continues.. AND the bigs I’m very happy with! Irvin needs to add something to his game besides a 3 point shot because when he’s off he is kinda useless on offense.

  • gpsimms

    Wisconsin’s guards looked really tough in the first half of the IU game. Brust and Gasser both showed surprising ability to beat IU guards off the bounce.

    As always, Ryan got his guards isolated on the block for some post ups, which they were effective on. I see Caris and Nik getting worked on defense in Madison. Ryan’s offense has always given us fits, and this is his most talented team in a while.

    • mikey_mac

      It doesn’t help our cause that JB has basically admitted he doesn’t bother to practice new strategies for UW’s specific unique style, since they only play once or twice a year.

  • Azad

    in our 14 remaining big 10 games, 7 come vs the 4 best opponents we’ll face in the Big 10- home and away against MSU, Wisconsin, and Iowa…and @ OSU. If we could even manage to go 3-4 in that stretch, I think we have a very good chance of winning 12 conference games. We have not had a truly elite win in the post Burke/Hardaway ‘era’, and now without Mcgary…I think it’s really hard to say right now. I think we will definitely hold our own at home but this 3 game stretch, especially the Wisconsin and MSU road games will tell us a lot.

  • JM610

    Have a hard time figuring out how much of our defensive struggles are schematic vs. talent based. Seems like our big men are always chasing guards around 30 feet from the basket while the lane is unprotected. All the switching worries me as well

    • I thought Michigan defended the ball screen pretty well. The bigs hedged well and weren’t whistled for many fouls – I don’t remember PSU scoring much with the roll man either.

      The bigger problem seemed to be a) in transition b) in isolation situations when Michigan’s guards couldn’t stay in front and the bigs couldn’t provide viable shotblocking help.

      • Chezaroo

        Dead on Dylan. Transition defense not only includes stopping the ball, but also matching up to prevent limited looks on wide open three attempts.

      • geoffclarke

        PSU didn’t need to ball screen as much because they were beating their man in iso. There was at least one possession where I think Horford over-hedged and we were split for an easy layup. We’ve got to try to find some sort of defense we’re good at…if we’re not good at ball screen or iso on the perimeter, then we have to be better in help defense. But ideally, we need to be better all around. We have the athletes…just need the mindset.

  • gobluemd16

    Lot of thoughts: First, I want to give a shoutout to JMo, he has been so good since Mitch went down. When was the last time he missed a bunny at the rim or we had to complain about him finishing around the basket? Nik was fantastic again on offense, Derrick played better, and Caris was actually pretty good on the defensive end. Any B1G win is a good one, and we led the entire game.
    The defense on penetration was hardly better. There were stretches where it definitely improved, but as noted above, they went on way too many spurts where we couldn’t stop them at all. We go through multiple stretches like this every game, it seems. Layup after layup or wide open jumpers off of kick outs. If we play D like this, we aren’t going to beat Wisco, MSU, or Iowa (OSU’s offense is much worse than those). The offense can definitely hold its own, but these teams will do a much better job of containing Nik and Glenn on offense, and we will need to get a lot more stops if we want to win.
    The charge call is basically dead, or ruined at least. That block call against Caris in the second half was the textbook definition of a charge. Refs just have no idea what to call at this point, and it changes every single game. Also, it seems like any impediment to a player driving is called at this point (mostly with the body), yet in the game PSU players were reaching at Michigan players with no call. I noticed this a ton in the Kentucky/Ark game as well. Refs can’t seem to do things one way within each game, much less from game to game. I don’t like watching games this way, I’ve gotta be honest. I shouldn’t have to think about the refs so much and worrying about how they will impact the game.
    Sorry for the long post, can’t wait to see how we stack up against the top teams these next three games. I actually think Iowa may be the worst matchup, but it’s at home.

    • gobluemd16

      Shoutout to Dylan, Joe, and company as well, you guys continue to put out so much and such great content.

    • Kenny

      I don’t blame the refs, it is the stupid rule change. it is much easier to determine if the feet are set at the contact rather than when the driver going upward, it is simply humanly impossible to see both event at the same time. It just takes away too much from the defense and the refs have to be easier on the reaching calls. I think that Beilein and his staff are very slow responding to this change, which contributes to the demise of our defense.

  • mmmmFAZpizza

    Next 10 games are nuts!
    @ Wisconsin
    vs. Iowa
    @ MSU
    vs. Purdue
    @ Indiana
    vs. Nebraska
    @ Iowa
    @ Ohio
    vs. Wisconsin
    vs MSU

    Dylan, could this be the toughest 10 game stretch in the land??

    • Champswest

      Wow. We could easily be 8-6 (or worse) after that stretch.

      Nik might be the best all around player in the Big Ten. He can score from 3, attack the rim, find the open man, draw fouls, rebound and handle the ball under pressure. He is having a great season, so far.

      • Chezaroo

        Perhaps the best Offensive player, but all-around player suggests he has some prowess on the defensive end, which he does not.

        • Champswest

          So, who would you put ahead of him.

          • Chezaroo

            Offensively, no one. All-Around, Adrien Payne when healthy.

  • mazs

    A few short thoughts:
    1. On paper–and often on the court–Penn State looks like an easy win. But they have played almost everyone tough in the Big Ten. So I think this is a solid win–albeit one we had to have.

    2. It most definitely looked like PS was daring Caris to shoot the 3. It was nice to see him hit one. It will also be interesting to see if this becomes a defensive scheme. As Caris has been our best perpetrator, it is nice that Walton, GRIII and, obviously, Nik have begun penetrating better of late.

    3. Both of Spike’s misses were from the corner. I don’t recall him having shot many 3s from there in the past. Unlike Irvin, it might not be an optimal location for him.

    • guestavo

      Really hoping Caris’ shot returns to him.

  • Chris De Sana

    Nice write up.

    A few points I would add is that I really do not like the way we look when both Spike and Walton are in the game, if we were getting pressed and were turning over the ball or maybe to handle the ball late in a game OK but other times it is not a good look IMO.

    -NIk’s game continues to grow and yes his defense is better but still needs work. -Walton continues to improve hope that stays the course against the better teams.
    -GR3 looked way better and even seemed vocal. I realize his shooting % was not great but I do not recall him taking more than one bad shot. The 3 from the top may be a nice new look but for some reason he never got the ball on the low post like he had previously.
    -Both Horford and JMo seem to be taking turns on which game each looks better but we all have to admit they are giving this team a chance to win with their improved play. And they appear to have more offensive ability than many give them credit, JMo and his jump hook and Horford with his 8-10 ft jumper. We really should feed the post more if they kick it back out.
    -Caris did play within himself but it sure would be nice to see him hit the wide open 3.
    -Irvin is a case of the chicken or the egg, if he hits his first shot he gets more minutes if not he goes right to the bench. He needs more minutes, not sure how that happens unless he eats into some from Caris and Walton.

    All in all we will see what we have over the next few game that is for sure.

    • guestavo

      1. Not a fan of the two PG look either but Irvin isn’t shooting well enough to get those minutes
      2. Nik’s defense is still horrible, saying it’s improved is just a way to mitigate that fact
      3. GR3 is hovering around 60& TS, he is an efficient player even by nature
      4. Our 2 bigs are playing awesome and I think they are the least of our worries. They do a great job offensively and for as much pressure that our perimeter defense put on them, they do a solid job defensively/rebounding.
      5. If Walton keeps growing offensively then Spike’s minutes should decrease imo , as long as Irvin isn’t a net negative when he is out there

      • Chris De Sana

        Irvin may not be shooting well enough, but he is a far better defender than either of them.

        • guestavo

          Far better defender than who? Spike? Sure. Caris? Not sure what game you are watching. Caris has a DRTG of 99, second behind GR3 as far as wing/guards go. Irvin? He’s behind Nik as a defender going by DRTG lol. He doesn’t have the length of lateral quickness of Levert nor does he cause turnovers anywhere near the same clip as Caris. Caris is also our leading defensive rebounder from the wing. So once again, Irvin’s only utility is his jumpshot and without that, it’s a no go. Spike isn’t too shaby on the offensive end, you know? He has the second highest ORTG after Nik. Shooting and improved defense by Irvin.

          • Chris De Sana

            Better than Spike. And according to the Coach probably the best on ball defender on the team.

          • guestavo

            Really? I’ve seen JB quoted as saying Caris is our best defender (it’s really Glenn) and that he guards our best player.

            Caris has to keep improving his passing from penetrating, which it seems he is doing, to get minutes at PG. Irvin could slide in at the 2 for those vacated minutes but he has to be hitting his shots and defending well, otherwise Spike is a better offensive player.

  • Chad Jones

    DW is growing up nicely, Irvin is doing exactly what Tim Hardaway Jr did his freshman year, you never know what you will get plus he is very streaky. Stauskas playing the best basketball. GR3 I like how he started 0-5 but found his stroke later. Hats off to Morgan and Horford playing well in their new roles. Saturday will be a monumental task. I think Michigan needs 1 of these next 3 to stay on course for the NCAA’s. That most likely being home to Iowa. Get 2 of the next 3 and a B1G title could be a new goal.