NCAA 2014: Michigan vs. Tennessee Recap

Dylan Burkhardt
Michigan 73, Tennessee 71-30

Michigan 73, Tennessee 71. Photo Gallery. Player Reactions. Press Conference. Photo: Dustin Johnston

Michigan’s Sweet 16 battle with Tennessee carried out according to plan for the first 30 minutes. The threes were falling, Jordan Morgan controlled the paint and the Wolverines led by double-digits for most of the second half. Nik Stauskas buried a three-pointer with 3:40 to play to put the Wolverines up by 10 and the game looked all but over.

Then Michigan started to unravel down the stretch in a fashion that was eerily reminiscent of its Sweet 16 game last year – in the opposite direction. In its next six possessions, Michigan missed two shots, made one and turned the ball over four times. Tennessee scored on five of its six possessions and cut Michigan’s lead to just one point with 10 seconds to play.

Cuonzo Martin drew up a post isolation play for his best player, Jarnell Stokes, who dropped his shoulder right into Michigan’s fifth-year senior leader Jordan Morgan. Morgan was in the right spot and got the call – the second biggest drawn charge of his career.

The Wolverines finally managed to inbound the ball and get to the free throw line, where Stauskas split a pair, and Tennessee’s desperation heave sailed over the basket. Michigan escaped and will play Kentucky (Sunday 5:05 p.m.) for a trip back to the Final Four.


Michigan’s offense was unstoppable in the first half – managing 1.45 points per trip in the opening 20 minutes – but stalled badly down the stretch, mostly due to the late game turnovers. The Wolverines rarely missed — 55% on twos, 55% on threes – but were uncharacteristically lax with the basketball. Michigan gave the ball away on nearly 22% of its possessions and the turnovers came from every direction: poor inbounding, poor decision making in transition or dribbling into traffic. Despite the turnover woes, Michigan’s 1.21 points per trip were the most than Tennessee allowed all season.

Michigan’s defense deserves a lot of credit for doing a great job on the defensive glass. Tennessee didn’t score a second chance point in the first half, managed just eight for the game and only rebounded 35.5% of its misses. Morgan, Horford, Walton and Robinson were all active on the defensive glass and cleaned up consistently.

On the other hand, Michigan’s perimeter defense was horrendous. Tennessee settled for jumpers in the first half, but realized it could attack the rim in the second. The Vols were 3-of-8 on triples in the first and just 0-of-3 in the second. They shot 59% on twos for the game and it wasn’t so much the big men inside that hurt Michigan, it was Richardson 9-of-14 and McRae (9-of-18) that got to the rim whenever they wanted.

Michigan survived with a win despite tripping over itself down the stretch. The Wolverines defense was beaten with relative ease, but this is the ninth game that Michigan has won while giving up over 1.10 points per possession. Michigan’s going to go out gunning, every game is going to be a shootout for this group but there just aren’t many teams in the country that can keep pace when Michigan is clicking.

Michigan 73, Tennessee 71-20
Dustin Johnston

Player Bullets:

  • Jordan Morgan: What else can you say about Jordan Morgan at this point? He finished with 15 points and 7 rebounds – Tennessee’s two starting big men combined for 13 points and 9 rebounds. He had some monster dunks, a critical half-hook late and then took the charge that saved the Wolverines. It’s clear Morgan doesn’t want to stop playing and who could blame him?
  • Glenn Robinson III: Jeronne Maymon couldn’t guard Robinson – not the other way around as many projected. Robinson went at Maymon with confidence from the opening tip and had his way. Maymon’s foul trouble forced Tennessee to go small, which might have been a blessing in disguise for the Vols. Robinson scored 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting, grabbed five rebounds, handed out two assist and picked up a steal in 39 minutes. He was aggressive, engaged and efficient as he continued his steady play of late.
  • Nik Stauskas: Stauskas hit some big threes but was mostly held in check by Josh Richardson. He finished with 14 points on 5-of-12 (3-8 3pt) shooting. He really struggled defensively against Richardson, was 8-of-12 on two point attempts. Stauskas was clearly the focus of Tennessee’s defense – a reason that so many other Wolverines had big games – but didn’t have his best day. The highlight of his night was a self-pass off the backboard which he caught and fired to Derrick Walton on the wing, who was fouled shooting a three.
  • Derrick Walton: Walton had something of a quiet game, but he made a lot of big plays: an early banked three, a late three from his favorite spot on the wing, a great assist to Morgan late on the ball screen (and then almost another that Morgan fumbled).  He had three turnovers, but he also had some great assists (4).
  • Caris LeVert: LeVert made some good plays, but he also made a lot of mistakes. He had five assists… but also five turned. He shot 4-of-10 (2-5 3pt) from the field and had three steals, but just his decision making was off all game. He fired up a few early threes, drove into traffic and stepped on the end line in the final 3 0seconds.
  • Zak Irvin: Irvin scored 9 points on 3-of-5 (3-3 3pt) shooting in 11 minutes. That sort of production off the bench is invaluable for a Michigan offense that’s already nearly impossible to guard.
  • Jon Horford: Horford gave Michigan a critical shift in the second half and played his best game in weeks. He had a few tough defensive rebounds and almost had a monster put-back dunk.
  • Spike Albrecht: Albrecht’s lone field goal was a floater in the lane over Maymon, perhaps the most unlikely shot in the game. He only managed one assist in 10 minutes.
  • Dustin Stone

    Kentucky it is.

  • kam

    Sooo a win is a win! ill take it! We got UK! Definitely beatable. Another big rebounding team. Glenn will have to play a great game on Randle. but also randle may not be use to guarding wings away from the hoop,. Glenn should drive on him and get him in foul trouble, Unlike maymon, if randle is out for long periods of time it will be seriously bad for UK

    • Ah

      Betting its Morgan on Randle.

      • kam

        we will see!

  • John

    Really glad to get Kentucky instead of Louisville. Given Michigan’s recent increase in turnover and (sweet lord) especially inbounding woes, Louisville and its balanced offense would have been bad news. I think Kentucky’s best is really scary (if they’re hitting from the outside like they did in the second half vs. Wichita State, watch out), but they’re a less consistent team, and given Michigan’s suspect defense, we need all the suspect shooting and tendency for turnovers we can get. Also, Morgan will probably be pissed off again, because UK has some superb big men, and I expect Morgan will hear all about how he’s going to be dominated.

    I think it’s close to a coin flip to get to the Final Four, and I’m really happy with that given how crazy loaded this bracket was.

  • kam

    also UKs big 7 foot athletic center cauly stein left the game.. said he heard a pop.. NEVER wanna see a kid get hurt, but that weakens their big front court

    • rlcBlue

      Yes, now they’re down to just one 7 footer.

  • guestavo

    Not sure how you dock LeVert for stepping out bounds and not the inbounder or the GR3 errant pass? A few of the other TOs were off of steals so net 0. Steal would have been huge if not for the quick whistle. Great first half. Only GR3 and Morgan really played complete games.

    • Adam

      lol you are relentless with Caris Levert.. Are you a relative? If he has a great game you make sure everyone knows and if he doesn’t you make excuses or point out the errors that others on the team made too

      Hopefully Caris steps up against Kentucky! Gonna need him! Go Blue!

      • kam

        to be fair spike coulda helped by giving him a better angle but caris struggled in the second half

      • guestavo

        If you can link me to where I’ve “made sure everyone knows he had a great game” then be my guest.

        • MAZS

          but even in a careless game, you fulfill expectations by putting the best spin on Caris’ game. Dakich has less love for Craft. Sometimes you need to just let it go–but you can’t.

          • guestavo

            I could say that there is spin present for players not named Glenn or Jordan that do not deserve it.

    • gobluemd16

      Maybe you can’t dock him for that single play, but to put it bluntly, Caris was pretty horrible the entire second half. He dribbled it off his foot at least 3 times, two of which were on fast breaks where we had a clear numbers advantage. I think two of those didn’t even result in turnovers, but he still had 5 for the game. Also, on the play where we got a shot clock violation with about :45 left, I am pretty sure he didn’t run the play that was called, as Beilein referenced after the game. He also got abused by McRae over and over in the second half, which may have been even worse. Hope to see a better effort from him against UK if we want to win.

      • guestavo

        I think the bigger issue is that Richardson outplayed Stauskas. That can’t happen for a player whose only utility is on one side of the ball. Caris needs to play complete game but lets not single people out.

        • Richardson had gone for 17, 15, 26 in his last three games, FWIW.

          But NIk really struggled defensively.

  • Dustin Stone

    The CBS crew already putting Michigan into the underdog role…No respect, but we thrive on that!

    • Steve

      I hope 1) that he’s okay and 2) that he can’t play on Sunday.

  • kam

    ALSO it will be tough for an average UK defense to guard the best Offense theyve seen all year with only a day to prepare especially as all freshman.. JB once said defense for freshman is one of the hardest things.. Tenn who was supposed to be great on defense struggled with a week of preparation.

    • Jim

      UK isn’t really an average defense– it’s an INSANELY good half-court defense and a really suspect transition defense. They’re .796 (!) points per possession on the year in half-court, and a weak 1.159 ppp in transition. This is because they’re ginormous, so if they have a chance to set up in half-court, bad news. So Michigan’s going to need to go a bit out of their comfort zone and push the tempo, but if they can get in transition a fair amount, they should be able to score a lot.

      • kam

        well they lost a 7 footer who is their leading shot blocker. That will hurt. also having glenn pull their big man away from the hoop helps

        • guestavo

          Randle is comfortable away from the hoop but I don’t think he moves well laterally so could go 50/50

      • guestavo

        Their guards are mediocre defenders but the length/athleticism/rim protection in the front-court has hid it fairly well. WCS not playing would alter their defense significantly since he was excellent in PnR and could keep up with guards i.e. Vonleh.

  • arete

    I wonder if Branden Dawson will break his fist again to celebrate a trip to the Elite 8.

  • Chris De Sana

    Why do we struggle so much to inbound the ball?

    • Indiana_Matt

      I have wondered if Spike’s size has anything to do with it.

  • Wayman Britt

    Still having heart palpations from this game. UM is going to need a better game out of Caris against UK. They have to get at least a couple stops on defense.

  • jemblue

    “Michigan’s ____ points per trip were the most _________ allowed all season.” This line has come up in many a recap this season. I love it.

  • beelza

    If Kentucky game turns into playground ball, Michigan loses. If Beilein ball is played, that is the efficient, structured, complex and vexing sets, Michigan wins big, b/c Kentucky will be chasing shadows all night long. National Coach of the Year is John Beilein.

  • Dr_ZC

    I hope sloppy turnovers do not become a trend for the rest of the tournament. We botched so many easy passes. We could have put the game away before halftime easily.
    Now, is it me, or is Jordan showcasing his skills to the NBA scouts? He has been matched against future NBA bruisers, and has come on top, outhustling and outplaying them. Not that he is scoring and rebounding in bunches, but he is showing that he is a prime time defender. I am sure some GM’s would love to have stoppers like Morgan in their teams, so I would not be surprised if JMo turns a few eyes among the NBA team execs.

    • kam

      i highly doubt it. he’s 6’8. he’s the size of most SFs. also he hasn’t dominated any nba big men. stokes isn’t a future pro center neither was texas’s guy. he’s too small and doesn’t have the skills to be a sf or pf

      • geoffclarke

        But I could easily see him playing oversees.

  • gobluemd16

    The fact that Tennessee’s bigs were almost completely ineffective and were noticeably less active on the offensive glass, added to the fact that we shot 55% from the field, would have lent me to believe we won by 20. We really dominated the key aspects I thought needed to be close, but were still in a dog fight. The careless turnovers (most notably Caris in the second half), in addition to very little on ball defense on Richardson and McRae gave them a chance. Need to clean that up, especially the TO, but I like the Kentucky matchup. If we can run our sets, Beilein is the far superior X’s and O’s coach to Calipari, and I think we win. I think we will really thrive on offense, and just need to keep them reasonably off the boards and lock up the paint as best as we can. Easier said than done, but I would love for UK to be jacking up jumpers or anything from outside the paint. Survive and advance is the mantra! Go blue!

  • JeremyS

    Michigan has gone into killing clock mode for the 2nd half of the last two games. You can understand the reasoning: the less possessions, the less opportunities the other team has to come back. But it has been killing Michigan’s offense. It was hard to disagree with the reasoning, but the outcomes in the 2nd halves have not been good. I think Belein needs to rethink the gameplan and just let these guys play and not worry about killing clock.

  • MichiganNYC

    Is there any way that Michigan could potentially go to 2 bigs at points? I know Beilein didn’t feel he had to against 2 guys that only stand at 6’8, but Randle is as big as Morgan and then you throw in Dakari Johnson who is legit 7’0. I can’t see Michigan putting Glenn on Johnson so I was curious to know how they plan on handling Kentucky’s size

    • geoffclarke

      I can’t imagine they’ll try something they haven’t used since they had McGary and even then, sparingly. I’m guessing they’ll work more on double-teaming the post and rotations, perhaps fronting the post, and more ball pressure on entry passes. And hope again to out score by making lots of 3s.

  • Champswest

    Morgan is playing like he doesn’t want his career to end. A couple of times last night, he was the only one flying around on defense. One in particular, was the block on their big guy.
    I thought it was a no brainer that Stauskas would be UM’s Most Valuable Player this year, but now I think you have to put JMo into the conversation.