Five Key Plays: Wayne State at Michigan

Alejandro Zúñiga

1. Strong transition play leads to easy baskets

On a night when Michigan shot just 31.8% (7-of-22) from 3-point range and looked raw offensively, the Wolverines still scored 1.26 points per possession against Wayne State because of their ability to get out in transition. Michigan did a tremendous job forcing live ball turnovers, but also starting the fastbreak off of rebounds and strong outlet passes.

Zak Irvin got things started by taking a bobbled pass the length of the court for a dunk, showing off some of his physical gains from the offseason with the powerful finish. Spike Albrecht capped a game-opening 12-4 run with a difficult layup, using a Euro step to split two defenders. Later in the half, Albrecht jumps a pass for an easy lay-in for his last points of the game.

The junior guard isn’t done contributing, though. In the second half, he intercepted a behind-the-back pass and then dishes one of his own to a trailing LeVert for the slam.

John Beilein admitted after the game that the team is behind schedule in installing its offense, but the Wolverines’ athleticism makes them dangerous in transition. Against an overmatched Wayne State, it shows.

2. Caris LeVert demonstrates full offensive arsenal

Caveat: It’s just Wayne State. But LeVert made it look easy on Monday night.

The junior guard opened scoring with a ball screen assist to Mark Donnal, scored Michigan’s next points off a backdoor cut thanks to a nice feed from Kam Chatman, hit a mid-range jumper, took a charge, and then drained a straightaway three — all within the game’s first six minutes.

On the jumper, LeVert had no difficulty elevating over two defenders in his face at the free-throw line.

“That was one thing I worked on a lot after my foot injury, because I knew that was going to help the team most this year with teams forcing us to shoot that mid-range jump shot,” LeVert said after the game.

LeVert shot just 31% on mid-range jumpers last season, according to Shot Analytics, and improvement in that area of his game will be critical this season. His seven points in the opening six minutes got the rout going early. He finished with 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting, dishing out six assists to only one turnover.

3. DJ Wilson displays versatility 

DJ Wilson played 15 minutes off the bench and made the most of his time, finishing with nine points, two rebounds, two assists and a block.

With 12 minutes to go in the first half, he helped Michigan to a double-digit lead by beating a weak box-out attempt by Tristan Wilson to grab an offensive rebound. Then, he turns and dishes to Irvin for an open three.

Two minutes later, Wilson finds himself wide open rolling to the basket and is able to finish LeVert’s drop off pass for an easy dunk. Just before halftime, Wilson showed off the defensive length that coaches have raved about, helping on a ball screen drive and blocking a shot at the rim. Wilson struggled with defensive positioning at times on Monday evening, but he has the potential to be an above-average rim-protector for the Wolverines.

In the second half, Wilson had the opportunity to slide over to the four and play some minutes on the wing. He showed off an impressive offensive game including an impressive straight line drive and finish past Michael Lewis, a wide open corner three and even an assist to Ricky Doyle rolling to the basket. Making those plays against more stringent competition won’t be easy, but they are just a smattering of reasons why Michigan coaches and fans are enamored with Wilson’s potential.

4. Dawkins improves as game progresses 

Despite being the first forward off the bench, Aubrey Dawkins didn’t play very much Monday, finishing with only nine minutes. He looked tentative with the ball throughout the game and seemed lacked confidence to make a play with the ball in his hand.

With his first touch, Dawkins was unable to get any sort of penetration against Spencer George, ultimately handing the ball back to LeVert near midcourt. When he gets back on the floor in the second half he catches the ball on the wing again and ends up stepping on the sideline. A few minutes later, Dawkins finds himself in a role that he’s more comfortable with: catching and shooting. Dawkins knocked down a pair of right corner threes in less than two minutes time late in the second half.

Dawkins will be able to provide valuable minutes with his shooting and athleticism, but it will be worth tracking his ballhandling ability in early season play.

5. Hatch gives game meaning 

With 12 seconds left in an otherwise forgettable exhibition game, Austin Hatch, a survivor of two tragic plane crashes, scored his first point for the Wolverines and made it a night to remember.

“I just took a step off the line, got my breath, just stood up there and hit it,” Hatch said. “I’m envisioning myself counting down the top of the clock with five seconds to go in the game: Three, two, one, and I shoot it and win the game. Obviously, it didn’t win the game tonight, but I think after all that I’ve been through, it’s a pretty special moment for a lot of people.”

After the game, Beilein said he doesn’t know whether Hatch will get any more playing time this year. But Monday night, he stole the spotlight and provided an emotional conclusion to a blowout exhibition game.

  • EdMartinsGrandson

    You’re welcome for the cash

  • NorthernBlue

    DJ was the biggest surprise for me… Showed some real flashes of potential. He is going to make huge strides from now until next year.

  • Truth

    Hats off to Spike Albrecht for his three steals. Those weren’t garden-variety European train station pick-pocketings. More like high-society jewel heists with a helicopter getaway.

    Also, I was impressed by the way Abdur-Rahkman slashes to the basket. Lightning quick and cat-like. Just needs to work on finishing. He has a ton of potential.

    • MrLG

      Hats off to Truth for some colorful language!

  • Micah

    Dj Wilson looked like a monster on that two handed slam.

  • John

    I know JB has stated the fact that he is looking for the right combinations. From my viewing the rotation is going to have to be trimmed. Too many players. Tough problem to have :).
    Its only 1 game but its obvious that DJ is going to have to be on the floor. Brings too much to the table. Looks like a more talented freshmen LeVert and everyone knows how LeVert turned out. (Not comparing style).
    Chatman has to play. Going to have to be more consistent on his shot but he has to play too.
    So the way I see it…
    LeVert, Irvin, Walton (rotating with Albrecht), Chatman and Wilson have to play. They look to be the 5 best players in my opinion. The rest of the roster is going to have to fight for minutes.
    I would assume the next guys are going to be Dawkins (because he is probably a better shooter than Chatman and Wilson among the frosh. Irvin looks to still be streaky so Dawkins adds value.
    Quick doesn’t even begin to describe Rahk but he is raw. Needs some serious work. I wouldn’t redshirt but specialty player.
    Now to Doyle/Donnal/Beifeldt…one of these guys is going to be left out of the equation most of the time. Wilson is going to have to be on the floor.

  • jakerblue

    is there anyone that is better pound for pound at taking a charge than Spike?

  • gobluemd16

    Some super weak ball screens in those videos above.. An underrated skill, but Donnal, Doyle, and even Wilson are going to have to improve in that facet

    • John

      Great observation. Doyle needs a lot of work. The key to make the screen work is not to lunge after the defender. The key is to be patient and have good balance and get fully set. Wait for the right time. Doyle looked like he was a typical frosh…screening 2 feet away from the defender.
      Patience. Wait to set the pick when the time is right otherwise you are just pick’n without purpose. A good screen/pick is when the defender is going to make contact with you immediately.
      Doyle was screening and the defender didn’t even touch him at least on the play I watched.