Five Key Plays: Michigan at Arizona

Alejandro Zúñiga

On Saturday night, No. 3 Arizona embarrassed the Michigan basketball team, 80-53, and it wasn’t pretty. How did it fall apart so quickly? Check out Five Key Plays from the Wolverines’ big loss.

1) Stanley Johnson gives Wildcats biggest first-half lead

Michigan had no answer for Stanley Johnson, Arizona’s talented forward, in the first half. In a 20-second span, a pair of athletic plays by the 6-foot-7 freshman pushed the Wildcats to their biggest lead so far.

First, Johnson intercepted what should have been a routine pass around the perimeter from Ricky Doyle to Caris LeVert — the freshman center threw the ball despite Johnson already standing in his way — and took it the length of the court for a dunk.

After a Michigan timeout, Johnson impressed again. Derrick Walton missed a jumper, and the Wildcats ran with the rebound. Only two Wolverines got back in time — Walton fell, while LeVert and Max Bielfeldt began jogging back too late — and no one accounted for Johnson as he sprinted up the weakside for a one-handed alley oop.

“Arizona is so good in transition because they have so many guys who can run and so many guys who can pass,” said coach John Beilein.

2) Drives for free throws help keep Wolverines close

Michigan was only down by 11 at halftime, in part because of its ability to get to the line. It shot 11 free throws in the first half, compared to just two in the second.

Four minutes into the game, freshman Kameron Chatman used a nice jab step to get around Brandon Ashley and draw a foul. He made one of two free throws. Later in the half, LeVert exposed Ashley again, this time getting pushed as he made his way to the basket. And with the half winding down, Ricky Doyle backed down Kaleb Tarczewski and was bumped on the shot.

The problem: Michigan hit just 63.6% of its free throws in the first half, missing out on an opportunity to go into the break down just single digits.

3) Michigan gets little from defensive stops in first half

From the 9:53 to the 6:19 mark of the first half, Arizona didn’t score. The problem? The Wolverines barely did, either. A pair of LeVert free throws were their only points over that span as Michigan missed out on an opportunity to either cut the Wildcats’ lead or take one of their own.

The Wolverines began with a Bielfeldt three-pointer with 24 seconds left on the shot clock — a look they could’ve gotten at any point in the possession. Then, Walton missed a mid-range jumper through a double team, though Aubrey Dawkins was open at the top of the key. An inbounds play then led to a Walton miss from deep with 32 seconds left on the shot clock, and LeVert bricked one of his own with 29 seconds left on the shot clock.

Better shot selection — not settling for contested three-pointers so early into the possession — could’ve helped keep the game close for longer.

4) Michigan offense poor to start second half

The Wolverines didn’t score over the first five minutes of the second half, and they set the tone with a trio of empty possessions.

The pick-and-roll freed Doyle for a good delivery from LeVert to open the half, but the center was blocked from behind by Johnson. Chatman inbounded the ball and then snuck to the top of the key for a good look from deep, but his shot was long. On the next possession, Walton drove and had a good kickout to Dawkins, but the freshman missed the corner three.

Walton and LeVert missed on Michigan’s next two possessions as the Wildcats’ lead ballooned to 20.

5) Arizona gets big offensive rebounds over second-half run

This stat says it all: Over Arizona’s 12-0 run immediately after halftime, it had six offensive rebounds. The Wolverines had one defensive board in that span.

The Wildcats’ size inside was expected to present issues, but not like this. Tarczewski followed his own miss by drawing a foul on an attempted putback attempt over Doyle. Then he got inside position over Doyle for another board, this time following Gabe York’s bricked three.

That forced Michigan to put two players on Tarczewski, which allowed T.J. McConnell to grab his own rebound untouched following a missed runner. And when York was off on yet another three, Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson beat Dawkins to tip the ball, and it fell to Ashley, who drew a foul and finished over Bielfeldt.

“I thought we could battle if we kept them off the boards,” Beilein said.

But Arizona won the rebounding battle, 24-15, in the second half.

  • mmmmFAZpizza

    Basketball: In Beilein we trust. We will be playing good ball by end of January, no doubt.

    Football: We ALL need to make a pledge at! Give Harbaugh one more reason to come back to the Big House! – crowdfunding for charity!

    • John

      I don’t think you are being realistic regarding the limitations this team has. When you say that “we will be playing good ball by the end of January,” I think you may have somewhat of a rude awakening come January. The pre-season expectations for this team were predicated on a few assumptions, very few of which have came to fruition. You need to start reading between the lines as to what Beilein is saying and really look at what you are seeing on the court. Some actual recalibration is needed here. Like, we may get everybody back next year, the front court will have some experience and some additional talent and we can build from there.

  • Jake

    Just let Doyle start rest of the season, his development is probably the only thing that can turn this team around.