Five Key Plays: NJIT at Michigan

Alejandro Zúñiga
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The New Jersey Institute of Technology shocked Michigan, 72-70, on Saturday afternoon. How did a program that had never even played a Top 25 team take down the Wolverines at the Crisler Center? Check out Five Key Plays to find out.

1) Hot shooting helps Highlanders keep pace in the first half

You probably didn’t expect to see much of a game Saturday, especially after NJIT committed four straight turnovers without managing a shot to start the afternoon. It took the Highlanders nearly five minutes to score a bucket, but then, they started to heat up. They finished the first half shooting 11-for-18, including 5-of-8 from three.

There are some shots Michigan defended well, such as Winfield Willis’ trey over Derrick Walton. There are others on which the Wolverines could have defended better, such as when neither Kameron Chatman nor Ricky Doyle got his hand up to affect Tim Coleman’s bucket.

Some of the Highlanders’ success came from penetration by attacking Spike Albrecht, such as on Ky Howard’s three midway through the half.

“Their penetration to the basket was not good,” Beilein said after the game.

The last three-pointer of the first half is an interesting one, as Zak Irvin ignored Willis as he cut by the baseline and was left wide open to knock down a bucket, perhaps one of the many “mental lapses” Walton alluded to afterward.

2) NJIT takes the lead with 13-0 run

Though the Highlanders were hanging around with their hot shooting, Michigan never trailed throughout the first half. But NJIT used a 13-0 run after the break to pull ahead for the first time.

NJIT’s run was fueled by Michigan’s lackluster offense as much as its struggling defense. The Wolverines were stuck on 44 points for seven minutes during the second half which allowed NJIT to take control.

The run began with an easy baseline layup from Osa Izevbuwa as he ran unchecked by Derrick Walton and then Caris LeVert. Then Damon Lynn got free on an impressive backcut by Walton and kicked the ball outside, and the possession ended with a foul on Izevbuwa as he drove to the basket. He made one of two.

In order to stop the run, the Wolverines broke out the 1-3-1. On the first possession, it forced a turnover, but on the next, NJIT picked it apart easily, getting a layup when Chatman, Doyle and Albrecht turned to defend Willis near the sideline.

And then the Highlanders scored on a pair of inbounds plays to stretch their lead to 51-44, and the upset alert was on at the Crisler Center. The inbound plays might have been the most troubling as the Wolverines just seemed to lack focus or execution and gave up easy baskets.

3) Three-pointers pull Michigan back ahead  

You live and die by the three, and for a period in the second half, it gave Michigan life. Down by seven midway through the period, the Wolverines pulled ahead with a trio of long-range shots.

Michigan’s offense had been sputtering, but this has always been a group that can heat up quickly.

Caris LeVert began the run with a banked three over Damon Lynn as the NJIT guard prepared for a screen from Doyle. Then, Walton hit one in transition that rattled around the rim and needed some help from the backboard. Albrecht followed by taking a charge on the defensive end, and, two possessions later, he penetrated and dished to LeVert for a clean look that the junior buried.

That gave the Wolverines a 55-53 lead with six minutes to play, but the Highlanders responded quickly.

4) Damon Lynn makes big threes late

Following Michigan’s 9-0 run, Damon Lynn silenced the Crisler Center by simply hitting a shot over Albrecht, who was defending him closely. After a pair of free throws by Ky Howard, Lynn did it again, this time nailing a stepback three over Walton to give NJIT the lead.

On the next possession, the Highlanders isolated Lynn, and the guard got a moment of separation from LeVert by faking a drive to the basket. It was all he needed, as Lynn hit from NBA range to put his team ahead by four with less than three minutes to play.

“No. 5 [Lynn] was just sensational,” Beilein said. “We really don’t have a defense for those stepback jump shots he hit over people. Those nine points — those three straight — were the difference in the game.”

5) LeVert turnover, NJIT offensive board seal game

LeVert may have scored a game-high 32 points, but he committed a turnover that cost Michigan a key possession. It was no secret that the ball was going to in LeVert’s hands after he had kept Michigan in the game down the stretch with his hot shooting.

With 50 seconds to play, the guard tried a cross-court jump pass to Albrecht, but Willis read the move perfectly, leaving Doyle to deflect the ball and then flinging it off Albrecht, who had a foot out of bounds.

Down by one, a Derrick Walton steal almost led to a potentially game-tying fastbreak, but the 6-foot guard couldn’t stay inbounds. On an inbounds play with three seconds left on the shot clock, Michigan forced an off-balance three from Howard and looked certain to get the ball back down by one with nine seconds to go.

But Doyle tipped the rebound to Willis, who bobbled it back to the center. Doyle then seemed to get a better handle on the ball until Willis and Daquan Holiday converged on him and managed to rip it away. It was just the Highlanders’ fourth offensive rebound of the day.

Holiday ultimately got the ball and hit two clutch free throws, and NJIT held on for the 72-70 upset win.