Five Key Plays: Michigan vs. Oregon

Alejandro Zúñiga

Michigan never trailed Monday night at the Barclays Center, but it needed a late run to survive a stiff challenge from Oregon. Here are Five Key Plays from the Wolverines’ win in the Progressive Legends Classic semifinal.

1) Zak Irvin showcases expanded skills in first half

Zak Irvin finished with a team-high 19 points, and he did significant damage in the first half. At the 16-minute mark, the forward connected on his first three-pointer of the game, taking a feed from Kameron Chatman and firing over Joseph Young. Three minutes later, Irvin’s long-range threat forced Oregon’s Elgin Cook to overplay him in the corner, so the sophomore blew by him on the baseline for a dunk.

Irvin’s last bucket of the opening frame was a product of his improved athleticism. He received a pass from Spike Albrecht outside the three-point arc, stepped by Dillon Brooks and then finished with a finger roll around Cook to put Michigan up five.

2) Derrick Walton picks up second foul

Because of foul trouble, the Wolverines got just seven first-half minutes and no points out of Derrick Walton. The guard committed his first infraction less than a minute into the game, bumping into Joseph Young while trying to work around a screen, and was immediately substituted out. John Beilein reinserted him four minutes later, but Walton picked up a blocking foul with 8:20 to go until halftime. At that point, it was also just Michigan’s second team foul.

The two fouls meant Walton — who didn’t score his first points until after the break — sat until halftime, a decision John Beilein called a “no brainer.” Albrecht filled in well, though, helping the Wolverines outscore Oregon, 12-9, from the 8:20 mark until the half.

3) Ricky Doyle commands end of first half

Ricky Doyle was always considered to have the best inside presence for the Wolverines, and he finally demonstrated that Monday night in a 10-point performance. He was particularly dominant at the end of the first half, when he scored five points and recorded a block in a span of just three minutes.

At the 3:49 mark, Caris LeVert lobbed to Doyle in the lane, and the freshman made an athletic grab over Brooks before finishing a layup through contact. This was the play the made John Beilein realize his freshman could be in for a big performance.

“He finished a little lob pass, he finished I think it was a three-point play and he finished that in a crowd,” Beilein said. “And I said ‘alright, now we’ve got something’ because it was a big time play and they have a great shot blocking team and he took it right through their chin and finished it.”

On the next defensive possession, Doyle swatted away a Cook layup by recognizing the forward’s drive to the basket and providing good help defense for Irvin. Then, he forced Jordan Bell into a difficult shot in the paint, which he airballed, and capped off his impressive stretch with a tip-in bucket. Michigan big men have really struggled with post defense early on this season, but this was an excellent example of what Michigan wants from its big men defensively.

4) Caris LeVert, Zak Irvin provide big offense late

As Beilein noted after the game, the Ducks’ athleticism allowed them to switch on every ball screen Monday night. That strategy essentially eliminates the roll man, but it allowed Caris LeVert to have a big game.

Down the stretch, Michigan’s offense evolved into isolation sets for Caris LeVert after the switch. With three minutes to play, the Wolverines used a ball screen to get LeVert a matchup with Jalil Abdul-Bassit, then isolated Oregon’s reserve guard. LeVert drove to the basket and scored an acrobatic layup through a hard foul. LeVert had struggled to finish all game, but finally got an and-one layup to fall.

From a similar set just 90 seconds later, Walton dished to LeVert, and the sophomore guard made a cut near the paint. Oregon was clearly overplaying LeVert’s drive which left Irvin open on the wing to knock down the three.

“We had forced a couple before that,” Beilein said. “Caris had blown up a play for Zak and Zak had blown up a play for Caris. That time they were like chemistry together. We were looking to get the mismatch. They switched every ball screen there was tonight. Every one. You’re not going to see that that much, but they had the athleticism to do it.”

5) Doyle seals game with offensive rebound, putback

It was a move you usually don’t see from a true freshman who has received limited action as the backup center. With less than a minute remaining and Michigan up just three, Doyle boxed out Abdul-Bassit to grab an offensive rebound. Surrounded by three defenders, the center used a power dribble to get under the basket, got Cook to bite on a pump-fake, then buried the putback to extend the Wolverines’ lead to five with 37 seconds to play.

The Ducks missed a three-pointer on the ensuing possession, and Michigan hit a pair of free throws to escape, 70-63, and earn a berth in the Legends Classic final as chants of ‘Ricky Doyle’ echoed through the Barclays Center.

  • jakerblue

    I think LeVert’s big block was pretty critical too. Looked like the Oregon player was going in for a monster jam, Michigan plays with a ton of poise but if they got a huge dunk over Caris off transition that’s hard not to let the momentum swing a bit. The block kept the momentum squarely with UM.

    • Loved his reaction afterward too.

      • jakerblue

        he’s showing a little attitude after some big plays this year, I love it.

      • Guest

        He said FOH which is hilarious

      • gpsimms

        I was just going to post about that. His reaction to his and-1 here is pretty good too. He does the universal ‘count it and 1’ motion with his finger, but he does it kind of in the direction of Bell who fouled him while giving him a stare-down.

        He’s showing some Stauskas-like swagger, and I kind of love it.

  • blackie6

    loved Doyle’s poise to shot fake, then go up with the shot in the last segment that sealed the game…. very easy to panic, go up immediately and get blocked by 4 guys

  • Dr_ZC

    Something that will not show in the stat sheet, is that Doyle took two charges. JB’s favorite play.

  • Truth

    So … When does Doyle get the start?

  • Mattski

    That finger roll of Zak’s!

  • sp1ms

    I was totally resigned to Doyle turning that ball over under the basket on #5. True freshman, first real away game, at MSG, finishing that play and getting his name chanted by Michigan fans. Awesome. Next Graham Brown, anyone?

    • MAZS

      Please don’t remind me of the Amaker era

  • Michaeltheoriginal

    Nice job by Doyle, but much like Max’s performance it will be an up-and-down season for our centers. I really wouldn’t mind having Horford in the middle, who is averaging 12 points, 5 1/2 rebounds, and two blocks per game for a top 10 team