Five Key Plays: Illinois at Michigan

Alejandro Zúñiga
on

After falling behind early, Michigan stormed back to force overtime and earn a 73-65 win in its Big Ten opener. We break down the decisive moments in the game in Five Key Plays.

1) Aubrey Dawkins hits four second-half threes

Nothing was more of a surprise to Illinois coach John Groce than the performance of Aubrey Dawkins, who entered Tuesday’s game having scored just 15 points all season.

As Derrick Walton struggled to an 0-for-8 afternoon from the floor, John Beilein realized he needed to find a hot shooter. Boy, did he ever find one.

Seven minutes into the second half, Spike Albrecht drove into the paint, forcing Malcolm Hill to step away from Dawkins to defend. The Michigan guard fed Dawkins, who made a catch-and-shoot three despite good a close out from Hill.

Two minutes later, Mark Donnal freed Dawkins with a simple screen on the perimeter, and it was all the space the freshman needed to bury another, helping the Wolverines answer to what was their biggest deficit of the night.

Dawkins was more open on a look in transition, created by great ball movement from Spike Albrecht and Caris LeVert. Albrecht made a high pass into the corner for LeVert, who jumped and fired a pass back to Dawkins before landing.

And with six minutes to play in regulation, he brought the Wolverines to within three with a corner three, this time created by Zak Irvin’s ability to drive and kick out.

Dawkins didn’t miss in the second half, and he’s the reason Michigan stayed close enough to make a comeback.

2) Wolverines find Doyle inside late

Michigan shot 28 three-pointers Tuesday, which meant two things: When they weren’t falling, the Wolverines struggled; and when they were, it opened up the interior for Ricky Doyle.

With three minutes to play, Doyle set a screen and cut into the paint. Nnanna Egwu let Doyle run by him and focused on guarding LeVert as he began to attack the paint. Rayvonte Rice was actually in good position to defend Doyle, but the Illinois star stepped to Irvin on the perimeter, and a feed from LeVert made for an easy bucket.

Less than a minute later, LeVert blew by Malcolm Hill on his way to the basket, aided by a little bump from Walton. Egwu again left Doyle — he really had no choice — and LeVert delivered a bounce pass for another layup that gave Michigan the lead.

Albrecht later found Doyle inside when Rice stumbled and fell, and, with 40 seconds remaining in a one-point game, the big man was left completely free on a pick-and-roll. LeVert again connected with Doyle, who was fouled and made a free throw to tie it.

3) Wolverines get big stop to force overtime

With the game on the line, Illinois turned to Rice, their star. And the Wolverines were up to the challenge.

Starting in the 1-3-1 and switching to a 2-3 zone for the Illini’s final offensive possession of regulation in a tie game, Michigan forced a tough shot and survived into overtime.

Michigan gambled on this play, but the gamble paid off. When Malcolm Hill sets a screen on Walton, LeVert sells out and chases after Rice, rather than sticking with Hill, the pick-and-pop option. Walton also does a great job of getting over Hill’s screen and together Michigan’s backcourt is able to apply plenty of pressure on Rice.

Rice could’ve looked back to Hill, who was wide open for three, but the guard put up a contested shot anyway, and it missed everything. Michigan deserves credit for its scouting on this play as Rice had just buried a ball screen jumper to beat Missouri two games back and he clearly had no intention of ever passing the ball.

4) Defense becomes offense as Irvin puts Michigan ahead for good

With four minutes to play in a tie overtime game, the Wolverines pulled off a sequence that gave them the lead for good.

On defense, Hill drove into a double team in the paint and left his feet for either a shot or pass. He managed neither, as Albrecht and Dawkins knocked the ball away.

LeVert grabbed the loose ball and took it up the court, attacking the paint with the help of a strong screen set by Doyle. Facing a double team near the rim, LeVert kicked out to Irvin in the right corner.

Irvin, who had separation from Rice because of LeVert’s drive, nailed the three — his third and final of the game.

Irvin has always been a great perimeter shooter in transition, but he’s lacked the confidence (and opportunities) to take those shots in recent games as the Wolverine offense had sputtered, but this was a huge make for the up-and-down sophomore.

5) LeVert ices game with drive, pivot

Michigan had several nice sequences in transition late in the second half and in overtime. This one, with a minute left in the extra period, all but ensured a win.

Groce admitted after the game that his team looked unusually unprepared for the Wolverines’ 1-3-1. Watching them trying to break it down with 90 seconds to play is a perfect example.

The Illini worked the ball around the perimeter — missing a mismatch with the 6-foot-7 Leron Black on Albrecht inside — until there were just five seconds left on the shot clock. They eventually got the ball to Hill for a contested baseline jumper, which he airballed.

On the offensive end, LeVert took matters into his own hands. Helped by a Donnal screen, he cut around two defenders into the paint, then made a smooth stop and pivot that resulted in a pair of Illini defenders jumping to block a shot that never came. Following the NBA-level move, LeVert sank the bunny to put the game on ice.

  • Mattski

    LeVert figures nicely in the majority of those highlights. Curious to watch Purdue today against Minnesota. They have gotten stomped by ND lately and lost to Gardner-Webb, so we have to think we go in there with real hopes.

  • ChathaM

    On 3-pointer #3 in the Dawkins sequence, Dawkins pointed to the corner, I assume because he knew that was the pass for Spike to make, which would set up the second pass back to him for the open shot. That’s one smart freshman.

  • gobluemd16

    In play #5, #12 on Illinois blatantly throws Dawkins to the ground and then runs into Donnal’s legs with no foul call haha

  • Wayman Britt

    If Aubrey can give this team two three’s efficiently every game that would go a long way.

  • Fred Z in Ann Arbor

    I don’t know if Doyle is physically gifted enough to be a pro, but boy, he’s going to be a solid four-year Big 10 starter.

    • NorthernBlue

      I see him making big strides with his athleticism over the next four years. Hopefully a guy that can dump it down to if hes got good position close to the basket and he can go up with the baby hook over either shoulder as an upperclassmen.

  • Champswest

    If we can make the pick and roll and dump downs to Doyle a consistent part of the offense, that would really help this team. Having Dawkins coming off the bench as a scorer (or as a starter) would also be big.