Five Key Plays: Detroit at Michigan

Alejandro Zúñiga

Michigan pulled away from Detroit in the final minutes Thursday night to claim a 72-61 win. Here are Five Key Plays from the Wolverines’ first close game of the year.

1) In-and-out threes highlight poor shooting start

The Wolverines shot just 10-of-29 (34.5%) in the first half, and they entered the break down 28-27. The poor performance wasn’t a result of bad opportunities — Michigan had plenty of open looks. Things just weren’t falling.

Nowhere was that more apparent than a pair of back-to-back three-point attempts in transition early in the first half. On the first, Walton grabbed a defensive rebound — one of six on the night — and drove into the paint before dishing a difficult bounce pass to Kameron Chatman. The freshman forward had time to corral the low pass and take his shot, but it rattled out.

On the following possession, it was Chatman who grabbed the defensive board and found Walton. The guard created a look with a stepback crossover, but the ball rolled around the rim twice before falling out.

“We had — and probably a good thing — we had probably six three-pointers go in and out,” John Beilein said after the game. “And that’s a good thing because we now we know that’s going to happen sometimes. You still have to win with your defense.”

2) No calls on layups through contact

Walton and Caris LeVert attacked the paint early, but they both struggled to finish through contact that wasn’t whistled.

Five minutes in, LeVert drove through three Detroit players — including Paris Bass and an off-ball defender who both seemed to impede the guard — and fired an off-balance shot that missed everything. On the next offensive possession, Jaleel Hogan slid in front of Walton in the paint, but that wasn’t called, either.

The non-calls went both ways in the first half, and Michigan shot just five of its 20 free throws before the break. But the Wolverines got a big boost on an and-one bucket by Walton with 6:30 to play. It interrupted what was otherwise a four-minutes scoreless streak by the Wolverines, keeping them close despite the rough shooting performance.

Michigan needs Walton, LeVert and Irvin to be able to attack the basket and finish through contact and this was the first real challenge in that department.

3) Irvin makes back-to-back threes

Down five with two minutes to play in the first half, the Wolverines desperately needed something out of Zak Irvin, who at that point had only one field goal and had gone 0-for-3 from beyond the arc. Irvin had just made two mistakes on the previous two possessions. First, he had passed up an open shot, instead putting the ball on the floor and stepping out of bounds. Next, he drifted toward the basket in transition rather than staying in the corner — where Caris LeVert threw him the pass.

Coming out of a timeout, Michigan went right back to Irvin and he wasn’t afraid to keep shooting. Bielfeldt set a screen on Bass to free Irvin, who knocked down his first three of the night from the left corner. After Juwan Howard Jr. missed a jumper for Detroit, Chatman drove into the paint and kicked out to Irvin, who hit again from the same spot.

Those were Michigan’s last points of the first half but helped keep the Wolverines close at the break.

4) Albrecht fuels second-half run

When the Titans took a 34-30 lead with 18:53 to play, Michigan responded with a 13-point run that included 10-straight points by LeVert. But make no mistake: The run was fueled by Spike Albrecht.

After an Irvin free throw made it 34-31, Albrecht lobbed a perfectly weighted pass to Max Bielfeldt, who had cut to the basket unmarked. Two defensive possessions later, he stripped Bass and dished to LeVert for an open three. Then, he got the ball to LeVert again on an inbounds play for an easy layup.

The Titans silenced the run with a basket by Howard, but then Albrecht connected with Irvin on the baseline for a dunk. Then, the junior guard hit a deep three — his first of the year — to pad the Wolverines’ lead to 48-39.

Detroit never led again.

5) Detroit slaps the floor, promptly gives up 16-1 run

Having tied the game at 52 with 5:40 to play on a Howard free throw, several of the Titans slapped the court on Michigan’s next possession.

The Wolverines responded with 11-straight points, part of a 16-1, game-sealing run.

Michigan regained the lead on a LeVert free throw, and then the guard found Irvin for a contested three-pointer. Next, Walton went coast-to-coast and finished with a finger roll over Keamey. Two possessions later, the Wolverines had a three-on-two advantage in transition, and Walton made the easy underhanded pass to Irvin for another trey. That made the score 63-52 with 2:55 to play, and Michigan cruised from there.

  • Burke_Does_Work

    Someone should do a case study on the effects of slapping the floor when playing Michigan.

  • Quick Darshan

    The key play for me was Walton’s rebound and coast to coast layup. Man, was that impressive.

  • Truth

    I didn’t know slapping the floor was a thing. Is this fairly new? Like the annoying Zoolander “blue steel” stare-down after a dunk that seems to have emerged sometime in the last decade or so.

    In all seriousness, Dylan, I am concerned about your point (2), re: not finishing through contact. This seems to be a recurrent issue for LeVert and Walton especially. Part of the problem lies in technique and overall physicality, but I think a lot of their drives into heavily packed lanes are simply ill-advised. It would be unfortunate if all the “Big Three” talk (and the NBA hype surrounding LeVert) leads to even more hero-ball moves like these off-balance, triple-pump, contested Eurostep layups ten feet from the basket. LeVert in particular tends to do this when he’s “putting the team on his back” (see last year vs Duke). (I know Burke did it all the time but had a supernatural ability to create space with his body and frankly had better technique in guiding the ball through the hole.) It’s important to remember that Michigan’s offensive system is predicated on ball movement and unselfishness, and attacking the basket judiciously. If no-calls are a problem at home against an undersized mid-major opponent, they will really take their toll on the road in the Big Ten.