Five Key Plays: Michigan vs. Villanova

Alejandro Zúñiga

Villanova handed Michigan its first loss of the season late Tuesday night, 60-55. The Wolverines recovered after a painful first half for a thrilling finish that came down to the final seconds. Here are Five Key Plays from the Legends Classic final.

1) Michigan breaks out of slump with 7-0 run early in second half

The Wolverines finished the first half having been held without a point in the last 7:17 — featuring an 0-for-10 slump — and didn’t score in the second half for nearly three minutes. Zak Irvin finally broke the scoreless streak with a jumper from the elbow, and then Michigan heated up. Caris LeVert intercepted an entry pass on the ensuing defensive possession and got separation from Darrun Hilliard for a short jumper. The Wolverines finished the quick 7-0 run with a three-pointer as LeVert found Derrick Walton open when JayVaughn Pinkston and Daniel Ochefu left the sophomore alone to guard Zak Irvin. The three cut Michigan’s deficit to six, and the game only improved from there.

The importance of this run is magnified by just how dreadful the Wolverines had looked for the previous ten minutes. Michigan looked like a broken team and could have easily let Villanova run away with the game down the stretch.

2) Wolverines exploit Villanova’s ‘D’ for big inside buckets

Midway through the second half, Michigan got three huge uncontested baskets to go up by six. After struggling against Villanova’s trapping defense early in the game, the Wolverines finally seemed to figure it out.

On the first, Ricky Doyle slipped an off ball screen to get behind JayVaughn Pinkston, who seemed to think Josh Hart would pick up the freshman. But Hart stepped up to cover Kameron Chatman, and Spike Albrecht delivered to Doyle for a dunk. On the next possession, Villanova tried to trap Irvin near the sideline, and the double-team left Chatman unmarked on the weak side. Irvin fired a jump pass to the freshman for another slam. And then, in transition, three different players picked up LeVert, and Walton used a no-look pass to feed Doyle open for a third easy basket.

3) LeVert delivers down the stretch

Down by one with two minutes left, Michigan turned to its leader, and he delivered. LeVert scored key buckets on consecutive possessions to put the Wolverines in line for a win. On the first, Michigan cleared out to create a one-on-one against Hart, and LeVert drove to the low post, stopped, spun and sank a fadeaway jumper. LeVert got to the same spot and drained a double-clutch jumper over Hart the next time the Wolverines had the ball, putting them up 55-54 with less than a minute to go.

There was nothing special about these sets as Michigan simply ran the same action to get LeVert in an isolation situation and let him go to work. The 6-foot-7 junior had one of his best mid-range shooting days of the season and carried the Wolverines down the stretch.

4) Villanova takes advantage of Michigan’s small lineup for go-ahead score

Following a timeout with Michigan ahead 55-54 and 24 seconds left, the Wolverines sent out a five-guard lineup with Chatman at the five and the intention to switch on every screen. The Wildcats, which had a size advantage all game, took advantage.

Villanova runs a high ball screen with Pinkston as the screener, leaving Spike Albrecht on Pinkston. Caris LeVert realizes that’s a problem and is able to switch with Albrecht, but LeVert doesn’t have the strength to deal with Pinkston and the Wildcats did a great job of realizing that. Villanova reversed the ball and threw it into the post where Pinkston lowered his shoulder into LeVert and finished over him.

It’s a tough situation to call a charge, but similar calls had gone against Villanova earlier in the half.

5) Pinkston blocks Zak Irvin to seal the win

The Wolverines ran an inbounds play that nearly worked to perfection.

John Beilein said after the game that the final play actually had two primary options. One was Caris LeVert curling to the corner and the other was Irvin at the basket.Despite the final result, this is a great baseline out of bounds set. LeVert screens Dylan Ennis to free Zak Irvin under the basket and then Ricky Doyle sets a screen for LeVert who was ready to catch the ball in the corner.

Could Michigan have done anything differently? Probably not. Pinkston, who was actually guarding the inbound pass, is able to recover from his position on the baseline to meet Zak Irvin at the rim. About the only thing that Michigan could have done more effectively is have Zak Irvin catch and elevate a split second sooner. But Pinkston made the play of the game, a clean above-the-rim block to seal the game with five seconds remaining.

  • Dr_ZC

    Just too painful to watch the last two plays. The refs let the players determine the outcome. Walton was clearly fouled before the out-of-bounds play. I was glad the refs watched the replay to see that they really missed the call, and I was hoping for a makeup call on Zak. In fact there was a lot of contact on the play. Zak is a strong player and he does not go flat horizontal on the ground without some serious body contact. I guess the refs let this one go.

    • Adam St Patrick

      Tough finish. Impossible to deny that Pinkston lowered the shoulder. Impossible not to note that Walton got fouled on that inbounds that forced Michigan to use its last timeout. Of course it wasn’t wise to get the ball to Donnal, and the refs can’t compensate for that. I guess by that point it’s fair to want a whistle on the decisive play, but so be it. The reffing in college basketball sucks, and we knew that going in. Bummer that we lost what might have been a nice resume game come seeding time, but hopefully we’ll get our ref complaints out of the way early.

      • ChathaM

        I disagree about some of the specific calls that have been noted, but college officiating is inconsistent, to be kind. The sheer volume of games on any given day compared to the relatively small pool of really good officials from which to draw make inconsistency a given. Did you see any of the booted calls in the BYU-SDSU game the other day? It was brutal. We know that we’ll get the best available officials for the bigger regular season games and in the NCAA Tourney. But, other than that, it’s a bit of a crapshoot.

  • JimC

    Yeah I’ve watched the final block (now featured on about 10 times now. I thought for sure Zak was hit & fouled, to land the way he did, but it looks like most of the force to knock him down came through the ball.
    Still I find the game and encouraging sign for the season.

  • Marc Lipton

    Every time i watch that final play, i’m both encouraged and discouraged. its a great block; but that was a grea

  • Marc Lipton

    just before MI started their run, i kept thinking about the KU-UM game; in the huddle, the boys said that they never wavered; they always expected to win the game. I wondered how our new kids would react. NCAA experience really helps. having spike and caris be able to draw on that exp made a difference. Its going to be a great year

    • JimC

      It’s funny a year ago I thought there’s no way this season will be as good as last year (reaching the title game, etc). But they won the B1G outright, made the Elite 8 again, and it was a great year.

      Now I’m thinking this could be another very entertaining year, at the least.

  • MattBuckets

    I am a HUGE michigan fan and I am the first one to call out officials when they blow big calls. But I am beside myself on a lot of these complaints. Irvin block was all ball, I give pinkston all the credit there. And on Walton that was a good non call, It was ball before arm. I am very encouraged from this game for the upcoming season, I would of loved to win it and was extremely bummed that they didnt but the officiating was not the problem. There has been by far worse officiating. We need to get over it and move on people.

    • Daoofgeek

      You are right; the BLOCK was clean but not the rest of the play. A guy is not going to go down like Irvin without body contact, and it wasn’t a little. It was a very, very bad no call–the second in as many offensive possessions for UM–that may have cost them the game.

  • Wayman Britt

    Even though UM lost, it’s exciting to think about the future for this team.

  • Corperryale

    Although I am definitely in the camp that thinks the officiating sucked, I am less bothered by the specific facts and circumstances of the Villanova game than I am by the reality that certain “elite” teams (Arizona and Wisconsin) are clearly getting bailed out of close games by refs. We will already be at a disadvantage against those teams when we play them so I would hate the see the refs pile it on to prevent an upset. (And yes, I think both teams have shown they are beatable).

  • Brian

    To be fair, the refs swallowed the whistle in our advantage too. Irvin was only that open because of an illegal screen on his man. Caris initiated contact without being set and then tripped him with his knee.

  • A2JD

    Dylan(or anyone else)- I have a mostly unrelated question. How do you post videos on Youtube that are taken directly from a video feed? I’m not super tech-savvy and I’ve been wondering about this for a while.

  • Leathead

    I thought the officiating justified the game. Both teams played ugly for the majority of the game. I didn’t see a foul on Irvin but losing our last timeout hurt with that no call on Walton. However it would have been a completely different game if Donnal makes one or both free throws. I’m upset we lost but seeing our team fight back keeps me optimistic for the season