Five Key Plays: Michigan at Penn State

Alejandro Zúñiga

Michigan earned its first road win of the season Tuesday night by defeating Penn State, 73-64. For a closer look at how it happened and to see which players delivered in the clutch, check out our Five Key Plays from the game.

1) Zak Irvin dominates with LeVert sidelined by foul trouble

When Caris LeVert picked up his second foul with six minutes remaining in the first half, it presented Penn State with the opportunity to extend its slim lead. Instead, the opposite happened: Michigan rattled off seven-straight points en route to a halftime lead.

In the first possession without LeVert, the Wolverines isolated Zak Irvin at the top of the key. The sophomore guard blew by Ross Travis for a layup, drawing a foul in the process. Irvin attacked off the dribble again the next time down the floor, this time receiving a pass in the wing and getting fouled by D.J. Newbill in the paint.

Then, after Derrick Walton missed a three-pointer, Irvin got the offensive rebound and — though he was wide open and perhaps expecting a pass at the rim — eventually got an open look on a feed and screen from Spike Albrecht. Irvin buried the three-pointer to cap an impressive stretch for the sophomore with LeVert on the bench.

2) Derrick Walton fouled on three-pointer after PSU ties the game

With 7:40 to play, Penn State had clawed back from a 10-point deficit to tie the game, and it seemed as if the Wolverines were going to suffer a similar second-half collapse to the one endured against Purdue.

But the Nittany Lions fouled Walton on a three-pointer, and the guard hit all three free throws to quiet the crowd and give Michigan the lead for good.

The look was created by Albrecht, who got a bit of penetration thanks to a screen set by Ricky Doyle. The center peeled off toward the basket for a potential pick-and-roll feed, causing three Nittany Lions defenders to collapse around Doyle and Albrecht. Instead, the guard passed to Walton, and Shep Garner committed the crucial foul.

Walton has always done a good job of drawing fouls on three-pointers, but most impressive was the fact that the sophomore calmly knocked in his free throws — something Michigan has struggled with from time to time this season.

3) 1-3-1 zone forces shot-clock violation

The Wolverines have used the 1-3-1 zone more frequently as the season has progressed, and it worked to perfection on one possession Tuesday night.

After the Walton free throws, Michigan turned to the zone, and Penn State couldn’t crack it. The Nittany Lions moved the ball well against the 1-3-1, actually creating an open look with seven seconds left on the shot clock. Brandon Taylor was unmarked for a corner three, but by the time Geno Thorpe made the pass, Albrecht had beaten a screen by Jordan Dickerson. Taylor had to attack the baseline, where he was immediately double-teamed, and an off-balance pullup jumper hit the side of the backboard.

After a scramble for the ball, the shot clock expired, and the Nittany Lions turned the ball over to Michigan.

4) Caris LeVert takes over late in second half

Michigan needs Caris LeVert to make big plays late, and he did Tuesday night. The junior scored on three consecutive trips to keep Michigan ahead.

With 5:40 remaining and Penn State running a 2-3 zone, LeVert received a pass in the perimeter and then made his way around Thorpe into the zone’s weak spot at the free throw line. Bracketed by two defenders, LeVert pump-faked and then buried a jumper.

The Nittany Lions responded with a three-pointer, but LeVert wasn’t done. The next time down the floor, he demanded the ball, calling for a pass when Albrecht was double-teamed in the corner. LeVert then asked for a screen from Doyle, and, with the shot clock winding down, the guard cut into the lane and banked in a floater.

Then LeVert became the point man in the middle of Penn State’s 2-3 zone. He received a bounce pass from Albrecht, and, when the defense didn’t collapse around him, used a crossover to blow by Donovan Jack and then buried a fadeaway jumper.

The three shots kept Michigan ahead entering the game’s closing stages, setting the Wolverines up for one final push.

5) Irvin seals game with jumper, dunk

Michigan led by just two with 1:30 remaining, but Irvin delivered a pair of key plays that helped seal the road victory.

First, he received a pass in the corner from Walton, then dribbled by Taylor and pulled up for a jumper to the right of the elbow to put the Wolverines up four.

After Walton stretched the lead with free throws, Irvin came up big again. That time, he stepped away from his defender on the wing to double-team Newbill. Irvin poked the ball away and raced up the court, receiving a return feed from LeVert before unloading with a one-handed Tomahawk slam.

That steal and dunk put Michigan up eight with 40 seconds remaining — instead of perhaps only being up by three or four had Penn State scored — and the Wolverines hit their free throws to earn their first road win of the year.

  • Dr_ZC

    No disrespect here, but I thought when Penn State tied the game, they were pushing hard for the lead. What took the wind out of their sails was Dawkins’ back to back three pointers.

    This kid has some serious hops.. And it is effortless. His shooting stroke and athleticism reminds me a lot of Jimmy King, especially with the number 24 on his back.

  • ChathaM

    Am I the only one who was afraid Zak was going to miss that dunk?

    • Nope. :-)

    • robpollard

      Yeah, he does not exactly get high above the rim. It’s almost like he’s dunking it horizontally.

  • A2MIKE

    Dylan – What was all the woofing about between Caris and Johnson. After that 2nd bucket in Caris’s clip he is really woofing at Johnson, which is unlike Caris. Did Johnson do or say something that we missed?

    • Not sure… If I was Caris and was heating up, getting my swag back so to speak, I might say a thing or two.

  • Adam

    For #4, has anyone else noticed that teams are really forcing Caris to his left and that he is still trying to go to his right? I vaguely recall a 5-second call for a similar reason in the Purdue game.

    • It’s been an issue for him this year. Actually thinking about working that into a post somewhere along the way. Some interesting stats.

      • Adam

        Yeah that would be really interesting to see, especially compared with previous players like Trey Burke, Hardaway, and GRIII.

  • bobohle

    The left hand has had the thumb issue with Caris remember.