Game 16: Minnesota at Michigan Recap

Dylan Burkhardt

Michigan’s 62-57 win over Minnesota on Saturday afternoon was filled with many of the familiar, often times frustrating, storylines that have defined its season to date.

The Wolverines shot the ball poorly from three-point range, were plagued by long scoring droughts and were unable to extend an early lead despite Minnesota missing nine of its first 11 shots.

But there were also a few more encouraging trends. The Wolverines were able to come back from a significant second half deficit once again, trailing by nine points with 11 minutes to play, and the 1-3-1 zone was John Beilein’s trump card down the stretch for the third time in Big Ten play.

It’s not always pretty, but this young (and at times flawed) Michigan team appears to be learning how to win games in crunch time. The Wolverines have now won three Big Ten games in four tries after only managing to beat two high-major foes in non-conference play.

Michigan was led by Derrick Walton Jr. and Caris LeVert, who both scored 15 points, but the late-game hero was Ricky Doyle, who finished with 12 points including a decisive alley-oop finish over Minnesota big man Maurice Walker to give Michigan a four point lead with 28 seconds to play.


The last time Michigan won a Big Ten game while shooting this poorly was March 3rd, 2013 (a 58-57 win over MSU), but the Wolverines deserve credit for hanging in there despite just 22% three-point shooting. The good news offensively is that Michigan finally able to shoot 50% inside the arc and also handled Minnesota’s pressure very well. Michigan’s 15% turnover rate was the lowest forced by Minnesota all season.

I also thought that John Beilein coached a great game down the stretch. He put Caris LeVert in a position to make plays late, but also featured a few wrinkles. Running a high ball screen out of a timeout with Derrick Walton and Ricky Doyle with under a minute to play was a surprise, but both players answered the bell as LeVert stood in the corner and allowed Michigan to play four-on-four.

Michigan held the Gophers to .94 points per possession of offensive output, mostly because the Gophers kept throwing the ball to fans in the first three rows. Minnesota coughed the ball up on 28% of its offensive possessions and the Wolverines translated 17 turnovers into 22 points.

The decision to go to the 1-3-1 down the stretch was a no-brainer as Michigan couldn’t guard Minnesota off the bounce or in the post in the second half, and the Gophers were already looking ragged with the ball.  Like Michigan, Minnesota was able to get to the free throw line 20 times. However the Gophers shot just 55% at the line while Michigan made 16 freebies — accounting for the differential in the final score.

Overall, Michigan’s defensive effort varied drastically between halves.

In the first half, Michigan did a great job of neutralizing Minnesota’s ability to score inside and handled the Gophers on the glass, but overaggressive trapping and doubling led to Minnesota making 5-of-11 threes. In the second half, Minnesota dominated inside, grabbing offensive rebounds on 11 of 21 opportunities, but cooled down from three-point range (27%) and had as many turnovers (11) as missed shots.

Michigan isn’t going to win many games when it shoots the ball this poorly and allows its opponent to rebound over 40% of its misses, but the Gophers gave this one away and Michigan made the plays down the stretch to seal the game.

After a 7-5 start in non-conference play, Michigan’s first four games of the Big Ten season couldn’t have played out much better. It hasn’t always been pretty, but the Wolverines split on the road and won two home games. Tuesday’s trip to Ohio State is a probable loss, but Michigan is also playing with a bit of house money and a chance to gain some big momentum with a road upset.

Michigan 62, Minnesota 57 - #20

Player Bullets:

  • Derrick Walton: This was Derrick Walton’s best game in a long time. Since Michigan’s win over Oregon, he’s posted an offensive rating over 100 just twice before today (NJIT, Coppin St.). That all changed today as Walton finished with 15 points on 4-of-7 (3-4 3pt) shooting, five rebounds and three assists (including the game clincher). Walton got fouled on two three-pointers and sparked a lot of Michigan’s comeback with his shooting – something we haven’t seen in a while. Overall this was a huge step for Walton and could be a sign that he’s starting to recover from his toe injury.
  • Ricky Doyle: Ricky Doyle’s importance to this team becomes clearer every day. He’s really Michigan’s only consistent finisher around the basket and he finished the game in style with an alley-oop to help ice away Michigan’s lead. He plays physically and he’s shown impressive patience when he catches the ball around the basket. Today he was 5-of-8 from the floor with six rebounds for 12 points in 26 minutes. The Wolverines outscored Minnesota by 20 points when Doyle was on the floor and were outscored by 17 when Donnal or Bielfeldt were at the five, a stat which pretty much says it all about Doyle’s importance.
  • Caris LeVert: LeVert never quite heated up with his jump shot, but just like State College on Tuesday the Wolverines fed him the ball late and he produced. He had some very crafty finishes around the basket late and a huge drive and kick to Derrick Walton for a critical three. LeVert still wasn’t perfect, and I thought he forced the issue far too often in transition, but he deserves a lot of credit for Michigan’s 1-3-1 zone working due to his length up top.
  • Spike Albrecht: Spike hit two big elbow jumpers coming off of ball screens and a circus scoop shot driving to the rim. Those are the shots we expect him to miss. That was encouraging, but he also missed all of the shots that we expect him to make (open jumpers). Albrecht also had 3 turnovers to two assists, a surprise for the usual reliable ball-handler.
  • Zak Irvin: Michigan needs more from Irvin, who finished with 12 points on 3-of-9 shooting. He hit a three early in the second half and made most of his late free throws, but it’s going to be hard for Michigan to win games consistently when Irvin goes 1-of-5 from long range.
  • Aubrey Dawkins: Dawkins is playing more minutes than Chatman at this point, but he was very quiet on the floor. He missed his only shot attempt and grabbed two rebounds in an otherwise nondescript 10 minutes of playing time.
  • Kameron Chatman: Chatman is the opposite of Dawkins, if he’s on the floor then things are happening around him – for better or worse. Chatman scored a nice transition layup, handed out an assist, but also committed two fouls on three-point attempts. Freshmen will be freshmen, but Chatman has to start cutting down on some of those freshman mistakes.
  • Mark Donnal: Donnal had two open jumpers early and missed them both and by the second half he wasn’t even considering shooting them. He struggled with Minnesota’s physical bigs inside a bit, but did manage to grab four defensive rebounds. The key for Donnal is hitting that pick-and-pop jumper because if it isn’t falling, it throws off Michigan’s spacing when he’s on the floor.
  • Max Bielfeldt: Bielfeldt grabbed two offensive rebounds in three minutes, but he was on the floor with a lot of other bench players and the team struggled during that first half stretch.
  • MAZS

    C’mon. Max played 3 minutes. Kinda harsh to blame him for the poor non-Doyle interior defense. Donnal couldn’t defend any of Minny’s bigs and showed little interest in mixing it up–3 of his 4 rebounds were uncontested freebies, including the one to end the game.

    • Didn’t think I really blamed Max for anything. Both him and Donnal struggled compared to Doyle though and the difference was obvious.

      • jlustig22

        What’s Doyle defensive rebound rate? It seems he’s a good offensive rebounder but struggles on the defensive glass. Do the numbers back that up? I love Doyle’s progression overall though. Been a very pleasant surprise and its going to be fun to watch his development over the course of his career.

        • MAZS

          I agree that Doyle is a much better offensive than defensive rebounder at this point. I believe there are a number of reasons. On the offensive end, he is often left alone/uncovered, plus going to the offensive board is mostly instinct. Defensive rebounding requires better technique, plus he is sometimes out of position scrambling back from the high hedge, and finally like many Beilein centers his job is to occupy his man so our wings etc (meaning Walton too often) can help rebound. That said, I do see real improvement on the defensive end as his playing over time.

      • MAZS

        Okay, blame might be too strong. But I don’t believe his 3 minutes (when he grabbed 2 rebounds) merits inclusion with Donnal for defensive deficiencies. He hardly had a chance to break a sweat. I would have much preferred to see Max on the court when Eliason was playing than Donnal–he would at least bang a bit (plus some energy) and its not like Eliason was likely to do much offensively.

        • swinawer

          If Max could defend those players in the post he’d be getting more time. To this point he hasn’t shown that he can.

          • MAZS

            like Donnal checking anyone ,,, ever.

          • MAZS

            as I can’t edit—in my defense of Max (as getting back more time against Minnesota), my post immediately above is too harsh on Donnal–a redshirt freshman with opportunity to get better. Sorry.

  • Tony DeMaria

    If we can go 8-6 the rest of the season we would finish 18-12 (11-7). We’d be looking decent for the tourney depending of course on the wins (we probably need a minimum of 3 more top 50 wins and no losses to teams like Rutgers and NW). If that’s the case we might be looking at win one in the BTT and win.

    Obviously a really really long way to go to get to that point, as UM will have to play a lot better than it has during this 3-1 start but at least we can talk about these things where we couldn’t if we started 2-2 or 1-3.

    • jemblue

      One bit of good news – NJIT has won four in a row (beating a top 100 Yale team) and is now 9-9. That’s always going to look like a bad loss on our resumé, but might not look like a *catastrophic* one if they keep it up.

    • ChathaM

      I have to squint pretty hard to see 8 more wins on that schedule, but it’s possible. If Beilein can get this team into the tourney, it’ll be his finest coaching job yet at Michigan.

  • Wayman Britt

    I know I get frustrated watching Michigan basketball and many times almost break the TV, but the fans ‘From the Barn’ over at Minnesota must be committing Hara Kiri. They just gave this game to the Wolverines down the stretch.

  • jemblue

    A nice “character” win. Like Illinois, this showed how much fight this team has even when shots aren’t falling. Walton’s toe must be getting better because he’s starting to look like the Walton of last year. If he can be close to 100%, this team’s outlook suddenly gets a lot brighter. Today I thought we ran our offense pretty well for the most part but just happened to miss a lot of open shots from the perimeter. Still a ways to go but we may be seeing signs of another Beilein in-season turnaround.

  • Indiana_Matt

    LeVert had 4 steals and a block with no fouls. Also no turnovers. Even when he isn’t 100% on he is doing good things that have been the hallmark of our best players over the last few years.

  • Mark Worthley

    What was the chatter this offseason based on regarding Donnal’s break-out potential. After watching his this season, I wonder if he’ll ever find his way.

    • ChathaM

      During last year’s regional final weekend, Dan Dakich talked Donnal up quite a bit; said that he’d be really good this year. I didn’t know at the time that he and Donnal were so closely connected, though (AAU coach for several years), so maybe a fair bit of bias was at play.

    • Wayman Britt

      I am also very worried about Donnal’s play, but I don’t think UM should just discard him. He isn’t going to be a 1st team Big Ten player, but if he can get some confidence in his 3 pt shot he could open up lanes. I truly believe he is a good shooter, just not in games yet. He has shown he can be tough at time, just not consistent. Let’s hope he pulls it together.

      • Ben

        He’s a good shooter in games, too, 58% and 45% from three, he just struggles with everything else.

    • Chris De Sana

      He will come along and the biggest reason I feel that way is that Coach would not have had him starting if there was nothing there in practice. It may take time but he will have a break out moment we will all see a huge change in confidence at both ends of the court.

  • itsjustaherb

    I’ll take the win, but Michigan didn’t win this game, Minnesota gave it away.

  • ChathaM

    Along the lines of some of the other posts, this is a disappointing Minnesota team. This is a veteran team that I thought could hang around the top of the league. All of the terrible pass/catch turnovers and the 3 times that they fouled jump shooters make them look the opposite of a veteran team. Add to that the fact that the 1-3-1 zone sped them up (they had to have prepared for that zone, you’d think), and you wonder whether veteran presence matters at all.

    That was one of the weaker officiated games I’ve seen this season. I thought there were several obvious travels missed. The biggest was on Doyle’s and-one finish during the 2nd half comeback; can’t believe they missed that one. Zak had an obvious one missed in transition, and Mathieu had an obvious one missed in the open court. The poor block/charge decision on Spike in the 2nd half was also clear. Not a good day for the stripes or the Gophers.

    I’m proud of the way our guys have battled back from the non-con adversity. Without the proper mindset, this could easily be a 1-3, or even 0-4, team right now. We still aren’t getting what we expect from several of the players, but the team clearly has some good things happening. Tons of credit to the coaching staff for keeping everything from falling apart, and there must be some player leadership coming along as well.

    • swinawer

      One of the virtues of the 1-3-1 is that it’s hard to prepare for. You can draw up some plays, but it’s hard to practice against an effective version of it.

      • ChathaM

        Agreed. It’s nice that our guys can now play it effectively enough to speed someone up.

  • robpollard

    Ricky Doyle is the 2nd most valuable player on this team. More so than Irvin; more son than Walton. If he (knock on wood) went down, this team would have no shot of making the tourney. I am stunned by that development. He has some downs with his up, but he “makes plays.” With luck, he’ll keep getting better and fans across the B1G will detest his sweaty, scrappy, big body play for years to come.

    I am glad for the win, and the team is certainly trying hard, but we won’t make the tourney unless Walton gets over his toe and/or confidence issues and Irvin snaps out of it. I can’t believe how poor Minn played. Hopefully, UM can play free and easy against OSU, play better and get on a bit of a roll. UM is lucky that this (except for Wisconsin) seems to be a bit of a down year for the B1G.

    • GTFOmycourt

      Nope. Doyle is the most valuable player on the team. He is not our best player but he is the player we can least afford to lose to injury, in my opinion.

  • Bigrange

    We are in the midst of a 5 games stretch where Michigan can get some good wins and build some momentum for this young team. I figured we could get 4 wins out of these five, so 2 more n the next 3 games. Ricky is showing us the Beilein is once again the gem finder with players. He is only going to get better and understand the game more. Compare his ppg and FG% and he is right there with the top recruits from his class, Cliff Alexander, Karl Anthony Towns, & Trey Lyles.

  • GregGoBlue

    What’s Spike’s A:T this season? I’d imagine it’s a steep dropoff from past seasons.

    • gobluemd16

      3.18 to 1