Game 7: Syracuse at Michigan Recap

Dylan Burkhardt
on

Michigan was already supposed to have learned this lesson.

Figuring out how to close out a college basketball game down the stretch is no easy task. But the Wolverines learned how hard it can be when they lost to Villanova at the Barclays Center last week and couldn’t afford a home loss to a rebuilding Syracuse team in a similar fashion.

The script was all too familiar. Michigan trailed at halftime after back-and-forth opening period and then stormed back into the game in the second half to take a sizable lead.

Spike Albrecht starred for Michigan as he picked apart Syracuse’s 2-3 zone defense in the final 20 minutes. He hit threes, weaved into the lane and dropped behind-the-back passes for dunks. The 6-foot junior finished with 11 points, nine assists, zero turnovers and two steals in 27 minutes and was easily the game’s MVP.

But Albrecht went to the bench shortly after Michigan extended its lead to 10 points with 7:08 to play. And just like against Villanova, where the Wolverines led by eight points with six minutes to play, things started to fall apart.

Syracuse outscored Michigan 17-10 over the game’s final seven minutes and had a two chances to win in the final minute. Even after Spike Albrecht hit a seemingly decisive three-pointer with 31 seconds to play, Michigan left the door open by missing late free throws.

This time it wasn’t Mark Donnal missing the front-end of a one-and-one in the game’s final minute, it was Derrick Walton… and then Caris LeVert.

Both players missed the front-end of a one-and-one free throw opportunity with Michigan leading by one, only to see Syracuse promptly give the ball right back. First Chris McCullough threw an outlet pass to the Michigan bench, then Kaleb Joseph dribbled the ball off the foot.

Michigan escaped on Tuesday night because Syracuse’s freshmen made just a couple more mistakes than its own, but the Wolverines won’t complain about the how or the why as they will celebrate an important early season win against a Syracuse team that, much like itself, will be much better in three months.

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There’s no real secret to beating Syracuse’s 2-3 zone. It’s not some tactical mystery that every coach can’t figure out. You have to get in the middle of the zone, draw the defense and kick the ball out to shooters. Coming up with the plan isn’t the hard part, executing it against a group of long and athletic defenders specifically recruited to play the zone is. Making contested shots with arms flooding from every which direction is the hard part.

“We thought we had a good plan against Syracuse, until you see that zone and how quick it is,” John Beilein said after the win. “You’ll have these little windows to try and get open shots or open opportunities, and they close so quickly. It took us a while to get used to it.”

A lot of the pre-game discussion surrounding this game focused on how Michigan couldn’t settle for the three. Instead, the Wolverines seemed dead set on proving that if they shot enough threes then eventually they would start falling. After making just 3-of-17 first half triples, Michigan kept firing in the second half. Eventually the threes started falling and Michigan made 8-of-16 triples in the second half, enough to fuel an offensive explosion. Because of that hot three-point shooting, Michigan managed to score 1.27 points per possession in the second half despite shooting just 31% on twos.

Michigan’s offense managed to make up for an overall very average shooting performance — 44% on twos, 33% on threes, 47 eFG% for the game – by crashing the offensive glass and valuing the basketball. The Wolverines rebounded 39.5% of their misses and outscored Syracuse 17-13 in second chance points. Winning the turnover battle was critical to both Michigan’s offense and defense. The Wolverines managed to navigate Syracuse’s trap and only turned the ball over on 11.3% of their possessions while the Orange gave the ball away on 31% of theirs.

Michigan outscored Syracuse 20-7 in points off of turnovers and the giveaways saved the Wolverine defense, which struggled in the other four factors.  I actually thought Michigan had some great defensive possessions, especially in the first half, but the numbers aren’t pretty. Syracuse shot 58% on two and 38% on threes for a 56.3 eFG%, well above its season averages entering Tuesday’s game. The Orange also rebounded 42% of their misses and scored 13 second chance points.

Michigan had no answer for Rakeem Christmas (15 points, 7-9 fg) and Chris McCullough (10 points, 5-8 fg, 12 rebounds) in one-on-one situations, but did a great job of trapping and scraping down when they caught the ball in the post. Christmas and McCullough combined to turn the ball over nine times, but the trapping also allowed Trevor Cooney to heat up in the second half and knock down four triples.

The Wolverines survived, but clearly have work to do. Next up are home games against NJIT and Eastern Michigan, followed by arguably the most difficult game on Michigan’s schedule: a trip to Tucson, Arizona.

Michigan 68, Syracuse 65 - #17
A
llison Farrand

Player Bullets:

  • Spike Albrecht: This was probably Spike Albrecht’s best game since the National Championship. He put Michigan on his back in the second half and accounted for 9 of Michigan’s 12 second half field goals (with a 10th being an assist that Doyle needed two tries to convert). In my notes during the first half I wrote down that Albrecht was passing up open shots. Maybe someone told him that at halftime because he started shooting (and making) them in the second. Albrecht bobbed and weaved through the Syracuse zone and dropped dimes or he shot right over the top.
  • Ricky Doyle: Doyle is averaged 10.3 points per game and is shooting 70% from the floor over the last four games. It’s safe to say he’s arriving right before our eyes. He finished with 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting (4-5 FT) with six rebounds in 24 minutes. Doyle led all Michigan players with a +12 plus/minus rating while Bielfeldt and Donnal combined for a -11. Jim Boeheim discounted his physicality, but Doyle is by far Michigan’s most physical big man and he’s not scared to go up and dunk on someone. He’s played over twice as many minutes as Donnal over the last four games and it would be a surprise if he wasn’t starting sooner than later.
  • Kameron Chatman: It’s still a bit of one step forward, one step backward for Chatman, but he shows more flashes every time he takes the floor. His film sessions are probably still quite eventful as he makes his fair share of weak shots or passes that you expect from a freshman, but let’s focus on what he did right. He knocked down shots in the middle of Syracuse’s zone, took a charge, grabbed nine rebounds and hit a huge corner three in the second half without hesitation.
  • Zak Irvin: Irvin scored 18 points on 17 field goals which isn’t the most efficient number, but his ability to just keep shooting regardless of the result continues to be impressive. One of these days Irvin will hit 6 or 7 out of 10 threes in a big game, but if he can hit 4 out of 10 consistently, that’s a heck of a weapon. Just get him enough shots and he’ll produce. Irvin also showed more composure with the ball against Syracuse’s pressure than I expected and he had a really nice dribble-drive through traffic after appearing to be trapped on the sideline.
  • Caris LeVert: LeVert is a player that thrives by hitting shots directly over people. That’s manageable against most teams (and is important to the entire structure of Michigan’s offense), but he struggled with his shot against Syracuse’s length. LeVert finished 4-of-14 from the floor for 12 points, but he did hand out six assists to one turnover. I thought he made some great plays during the first 35 minutes, but took a few shots down the stretch that might not have been the best.
  • Derrick Walton: Walton toughed it out and played 26 minutes with an injured toe, but he clearly wasn’t himself. He seemed to lack the explosiveness that he’s shown this season and was just 1-of-7 from the floor. He didn’t practice all week which could have affected both his shot and his comfort against the zone.
  • Mark Donnal: Donnal had a couple of really soft finishes and catches around the paint and the short corner that resulted in turnovers and blocks, but he did hit a smooth baseline jumper. That shot is obvious his sweet spot, but Michigan is going to need him to play more physically as the season goes on.
  • Max Bielfeldt:  Bielfeldt just didn’t have the size to compete and Michigan was outscored by 10 points in the seven minutes that Bielfeldt was on the floor as he finished with a rebound, a foul and two turnovers.
  • MrLG

    Everything fell apart when JB took Spike out of the game with about 7 minutes left and a 10 point lead. To me, that was a total headscratcher. It wasn’t that Michigan choked or anything, they just lost their most effective player at crunch time. I love JB, but that made no sense to me.

    • KBLOW

      I was wondering the same thing and could only figure Spike needed a rest. Hopefully as the season goes on, his game conditioning will continue to improve.

  • Jake

    Let Ricky start, I am a believer!

    • psickert

      Shouldve been a believer.

      • lsahdjf

        Maybe he always was, no need to finger-point.

        With that said, GO BLUE

  • David Remmler

    Key positives from this game:

    1. Spike has shown he is capable of being our starting point guard and running the team at an elite level.

    2. Doyle provides more evidence that he is our most effective 5 with his physicality defending, rebounding and finishing at the rim. He likely will be a beast by his senior year if he continues to improve, probably one of the better centers in the Big Ten. He gives us hope against bigger teams.

    3. Chatman shows flashes of why he will likely be a star here, grabbing key rebounds, moving well in transition and hitting key shots under pressure from all parts of the floor.

    4. Irvin continues to show why he will probably be on Chad Ford’s draft board (unfortunately for us) with his ability to drive and finish as well as hit the three.

    5. This team shows it is capable of winning against a good team even when shots aren’t falling.

    5. This team shows it can play Beilein ball at its best with few turnovers.

    Areas of concern:

    1. Missing key free throws (we’d be undefeated now if we didn’t do this)

    2. Needing to stay healthy – we need Walton to get healthy so that we have depth (Spike can’t be superhuman every game) and hopefully we can get DJ Wilson back as well (he might redshirt but that definitely leaves us thin in the frontcourt)

  • sternum23

    Spike had a phenomenal game, and personally I think it was better than the National Championship game. Against Louisville he was chucking and hitting 3’s without any real flow within the offense. Tonight, he took the game over from a ball-handling and passing standpoint, and was clutch all the way down until the last 30 seconds. I think Beilein has to start Doyle, and against smaller teams, why not let Spike and Derrick both start the game? Overall, great win and should (hopefully) set us up for a young, 8-1 team traveling to the desert to play Arizona.

  • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

    Hell of a game by Spike. He is so smart and an awesome player.

    • psickert

      Im so glad that coach doesn’t listen to you fans, i remember when spike first signed to us and everyone was complaining. They wanted that italian kid that went to OSU. Thye did the same with Stu Douglass, Jordan Morgan , Zak Norvak and with Tim Hardaway j.r (the wanted Zegiler so bad!)… Some of you guys even dissed Doyal and now look at you guys. Smh. Im not going to say much because they blacklist people for being honest around these parts.

      • Mattski

        I have some vague sympathy for your beef, but why are you attacking JohnNavarreIsMyHero? And you’re plussing your own posts?

  • psickert

    I hope this game will finally stop people for being so critical of our recruiting. This was great game. Doyal and spike did there thing ! Go blue.

  • Chezaroo

    It’s becoming more evident IMO that Donnal is really a stretch four that is physically overmatched in the paint. His verticality and strength are insufficient to make an impression at the 5. He is what he is, but I see a very limited future for him if it is dependent on him getting minutes as a post player and banging inside. He’s a perimeter player by instinct with a nice potential as a pick and pop option ocassionally, not a lane finisher by any means.

    • Dr_ZC

      Chez, how many PNR plays we had the last 2 games? It seems that we are moving away from our bread and butter on offense, but this is probably a direct result of playing against the zone.

    • Fab 5 Legends

      at this point in his career, Donnal going to have a tough time contributing at this level, hopefully in the next couple years he gets some more muscle, and develops his game – he is very 1 dimensional right now, and Doyle brings a ton of energy which is needed

  • David

    I just watched the highlights on Mgoblue. Was anyone talking about the play where Irvin leaked out for a dunk and got undercut (w/o a foul)? Looks ugly on tape, maybe even flagrant.

    • jakerblue

      It was a pretty bad no call, especially since it was immediately followed up by a questionable foul on the other end.

  • Cory

    No minutes at all last night for Dawkins and MAAR……Hopefully they can improve over the month of December and be ready to contribute during Big 10 play.

    • Kenny

      I don’t see MAAR being a contributor this season with Walton and Spike running the show. Dawkins might get his chance.

  • Dr_ZC

    Doyle has become a man in 6 games. No disrespect to Hortford, a special kid, but he basically left after 4 years playing the post without achieving what Ricky did in 6 games. I am really excited about him. I used to go crazy with both Jon and Jordan fumbling passes down low. Ricky has great hands (despite being sweaty) and he is able to finish in traffic with contact. His affinity for offensive rebounding is astounding. He needs to improve his defensive rebounding, but I would take boxing out on defense allowing the guards to get the rebounds. His passing is remarkable as well.

  • Fab 5 Legends

    Ricky Doyle has really impressed me, he definitely deserves to be the starter and all we can do is hope the combination of Donnal/Beifieldt can give him some rest and contribute for the minor minutes their out there…Doyle deserves to play the majority of the game barring foul trouble…Energy he brings is like McGary…Donnal/Beifieldt are steps behind at this moment

  • Indiana_Matt

    Chatman is going to be special. It might not fully come together until next season, but he shows flashes of being a big time offensive threat. He can pass, shoot and drive. More experience, confidence and physical strength… look out.

    • Indiana_Matt

      Also, here is a preview of our 2016-2017 Final Four team when Chatman will be a first team all-american.

      Starters

      Thornton G
      Walton G
      Battle G
      Chatman F
      Doyle F

      Bench

      Robinson G
      Dawkins G
      Donnal F
      Wilson F
      Teske C

    • JimC

      Yeah I thought this was Chatman’s coming out party (well OK, at least for me personally because this is the only game I’ve watched start to finish).

  • Dr_ZC

    Spike is blossoming. His IQ for the game is off the charts. He recognizes defensive and offensive moves before they even happen. Everything he does on the floor, has a purpose. Nothing random. Now, I am not sure what John Stockton, Mark Price and Steve Nash did in college more than what Spike does, to make it to the pro’s. And Spike has in his resume the Kate Upton invitation, after his championship game. I am sure he is well noticed by scouts. If they do not believe in his abilities to play at the next level, I see Spike as a head coach at the next level before he is 35. Mark my words.

  • jakerblue

    hopefully they are getting the missed crunch time FTs out of the way early. Like Walton missing some key ones late at Minnesota last year but then being clutch for the rest of the season.

  • gobluemd16

    And hopefully Irvin’s elbow is fine after the adrenaline wears off! That was a dirty play to undercut him..

  • gobluemd16

    And hopefully Irvin’s elbow is fine after the adrenaline wears off! That was a dirty play to undercut him..

  • gobluemd16

    I agree completely. Irvin and Levert played the entire game; that is not sustainable. In my opinion, it hurt the play of both during the last 5 minutes of the game. I think Dawkins has looked good in his limited minutes. I don’t see why he can’t play 7-9 minutes to give Levert and Irvin each a 4-ish minute rest, especially in the first half.

  • gobluemd16

    I agree completely. Irvin and Levert played the entire game; that is not sustainable. In my opinion, it hurt the play of both during the last 5 minutes of the game. I think Dawkins has looked good in his limited minutes. I don’t see why he can’t play 7-9 minutes to give Levert and Irvin each a 4-ish minute rest, especially in the first half.

  • gobluemd16

    Haha let’s hope we can get one of Thornton or Battle first

  • gobluemd16

    Haha let’s hope we can get one of Thornton or Battle first

  • MAZS

    not for being honest, but rather for being a self-righteous and inaccurate historian. Aren’t there people in your everyday life to stroke you?

    • psickert

      Okay, call me what you want. Im a major Michigan but thats a sin,,,im not trying to get blacklisted. You are right i am a idiot who knows nothing . I am a idiot. Now that this is out the way, do you feel better ?ignore this idiot if you don’t like this idiot comments.

      • MAZS

        Why so angry?

  • MAZS

    not for being honest, but rather for being a self-righteous and inaccurate historian. Aren’t there people in your everyday life to stroke you?

    • psickert

      Okay, call me what you want. Im a major Michigan but thats a sin,,,im not trying to get blacklisted. You are right i am a idiot who knows nothing . I am a idiot. Now that this is out the way, do you feel better ?ignore this idiot if you don’t like this idiot comments.

      • MAZS

        Why so angry?

  • Madrox

    Get over yourself. Beilein has had great success taking under the radar kids and making them productive, but his recruiting track record is hardly perfect.

    Besides, you have no idea how De Valle or Zeigler would have developed had they come to U of M and played under Beilein and the coaching staff, they also could have become great basketball players.

    Besides, no one complained much about Morgan, Novak and THJ because Michigan wasn’t landing as good of recruits back then as they are now.

    This attack wasn’t because you were being “honest” but because you are making things up and criticizing some fictional “you fans” for no reason. Enjoy the win, enjoy Spike’s play and trust in the Beilein system.

    • psickert

      Im not trying argue with you because i’m not trying to get banned, if you dont like what i posted , don’t read my post. Just like anyone else that on this b site i “SHOULD” be able to speak my mind without the bigotry. Now you need to get over yourself. It obvoius that you took a internet comment to heart. Oh well. I guess im banned now.

    • psickert

      You need to get over yourself. Don’t tell me that noone complained about zak,stu or morgan. A certain popular pister told morgan’s mother who.pisted on here and this othee site (won’t mention the site)that her son wasn’t any good. Me and a.certain popular poster argued over Zack Novak . He said despite what Zak did in highschool that he wasn’t good enough to play for michigan *Cough cough sane1* and a lot of people complained about Stu Douglass not starting his junior year. So you get ovee yourself . Don’t try to attack if you don’t know what you are talking about. Like i said, if you don’t like what i posted …don’t read what i type..simple and plain-problem solved. I swear i hate hypocrits ….

  • Madrox

    Get over yourself. Beilein has had great success taking under the radar kids and making them productive, but his recruiting track record is hardly perfect.

    Besides, you have no idea how De Valle or Zeigler would have developed had they come to U of M and played under Beilein and the coaching staff, they also could have become great basketball players.

    Besides, no one complained much about Morgan, Novak and THJ because Michigan wasn’t landing as good of recruits back then as they are now.

    This attack wasn’t because you were being “honest” but because you are making things up and criticizing some fictional “you fans” for no reason. Enjoy the win, enjoy Spike’s play and trust in the Beilein system.

    • psickert

      Im not trying argue with you because i’m not trying to get banned, if you dont like what i posted , don’t read my post. Just like anyone else that on this b site i “SHOULD” be able to speak my mind without the bigotry. Now you need to get over yourself. It obvoius that you took a internet comment to heart. Oh well. I guess im banned now.

    • psickert

      You need to get over yourself. Don’t tell me that noone complained about zak,stu or morgan. A certain popular pister told morgan’s mother who.pisted on here and this othee site (won’t mention the site)that her son wasn’t any good. Me and a.certain popular poster argued over Zack Novak . He said despite what Zak did in highschool that he wasn’t good enough to play for michigan *Cough cough sane1* and a lot of people complained about Stu Douglass not starting his junior year. So you get ovee yourself . Don’t try to attack if you don’t know what you are talking about. Like i said, if you don’t like what i posted …don’t read what i type..simple and plain-problem solved. I swear i hate hypocrits ….

  • ChathaM

    I was lucky enough to have good seats last night, and what really struck me was exactly what Beilein described; that zone is a beast. Most of the SU players are so long that there often don’t appear to be any gaps at all to attack. The number of contested jumpers that UM had to take weren’t a function of poor zone offence, but a function of the incredible length and coverage of the defence.

    SU is not good offensively, but the zone will allow them to hang around in a lot of games this year. I think a consistent scoring trio of Christmas/McCullough/Cooney can make them a good team. But, the turnovers were horrendous, and have to stop. I can’t think of more than a few of the 19 turns that UM truly “forced”. There were times when it looked like Boeheim didn’t even want to watch, and I can’t blame him. I already appreciated Beilein’s emphasis on taking care of the ball, but I appreciate it even more after last night.

    When Valentine blew his whistle in the 2nd half when a SU player had the ball on the baseline and was close to being out of bounds, then had to take it back and give the ball to SU for a throw-in, that was a classic TV Teddy moment. I was laughing pretty hard, and the people around me must have thought I was crazy.

  • ChathaM

    I was lucky enough to have good seats last night, and what really struck me was exactly what Beilein described; that zone is a beast. Most of the SU players are so long that there often don’t appear to be any gaps at all to attack. The number of contested jumpers that UM had to take weren’t a function of poor zone offence, but a function of the incredible length and coverage of the defence.

    SU is not good offensively, but the zone will allow them to hang around in a lot of games this year. I think a consistent scoring trio of Christmas/McCullough/Cooney can make them a good team. But, the turnovers were horrendous, and have to stop. I can’t think of more than a few of the 19 turns that UM truly “forced”. There were times when it looked like Boeheim didn’t even want to watch, and I can’t blame him. I already appreciated Beilein’s emphasis on taking care of the ball, but I appreciate it even more after last night.

    When Valentine blew his whistle in the 2nd half when a SU player had the ball on the baseline and was close to being out of bounds, then had to take it back and give the ball to SU for a throw-in, that was a classic TV Teddy moment. I was laughing pretty hard, and the people around me must have thought I was crazy.

  • baller

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  • baller

    hi, im a huge fan. way to go blue. ovjihdzf;bnz;xoshblaeokjibgs