Game 22: Michigan at Michigan State Recap

Dylan Burkhardt

Michigan’s two best players were sitting on the bench in walking boots, but the Wolverines still managed to take Michigan State to overtime at the Breslin Center on Sunday afternoon.

While Michigan ran out of gas in overtime, being outscored 10-0 by the Spartans in the extra period, it was an impressive effort from a Michigan team that played two walk-ons and four freshmen in one of the country’s most hostile arenas.

The fight was impressive, but the end result still wasn’t good enough.

Michigan doesn’t have Caris LeVert and won’t have Derrick Walton for the ‘foreseeable future’, but might have found something in Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who scored 18 points on 8 of 14 shooting.

Over the last two weeks, John Beilein and his staff have learned a lot about their freshmen and have proven that if Michigan scraps, claws and executes it’s capable of competing in almost any conference game. But making the NCAA tournament is still the goal and with each loss that already difficult to reach goal becomes less likely.

On Sunday, the Wolverines were able to ruck up an ugly half – both teams combined for an offensive output of .82 points per trip in the first half – but also showed that they can go shot for shot with their rivals in a shootout. The combined offensive output in the second half was 1.37 points per trip and the Wolverines racked up 42 second half points in just 29 possessions — their most impressive offensive half of the season.

Michigan let another one slip away in overtime, but it also managed to fight to overtime in a game that few gave it any chance.

Gutty overtime losses to Michigan State and Wisconsin count for nothing, unless the Wolverines can figure out a way to turn them into wins later this month. Performances like Michigan received from Abdur-Rahkman, Spike Albrecht, who had 18 points on 6 of 13 shooting, and others were still an encouraging sign that this team can steal some big victories down the stretch.


This game swayed dramatically through each period. The first half was a brutal defensive struggle, the second half was an offensive explosion and in overtime Michigan simply collapsed, being outscored 10-0.

Michigan State managed just a 37.1 eFG% in the first half, but rebounded 42% of its misses and outscored the Wolverines 29-24 in 33 possessions. Michigan started the half hot, but with Abdur-Rahkman and Albrecht on the bench with two fouls, the offense stalled quickly.

Beilein’s decisions to ‘auto-bench’ his players with two fouls in the first half always cause some hand-wringing, but I have a hard time blaming the result on that decision. Albrecht played 37 minutes and Abdur-Rahkman played 32 for the game and Michigan quite clearly ran out of gas down the stretch. Michigan managed to hang around with both on the bench in the first half, and was leading for a large part of the first half, and quickly took the lead back a few minutes into the second half. Abdur-Rahkman and Albrecht played 18 and 20 minutes respectively in the second half and those are clearly the minutes you want them playing.

The second half saw just 29 possessions per team, but Michigan won the period 42-37. The Wolverines scored 1.45 points per trip in the final 20 minutes while Michigan State managed 1.28 PPP with a 78.6 eFG%.

Michigan’s offensive explosion was powered by by second chance points and some hot shooting. The Wolverines rebounded 43% of their misses in the second half and scored 11 second chance points. In the first half they grabbed one offensive rebound and didn’t score a second chance basket.

Defensively, the Wolverines improved on the glass but mostly because they only forced six missed shots in the second half. Michigan State shot 86% inside the arc, after making just 24% of its twos in the first half, and 42.9% on threes in the second half and seemed to pick apart whatever defense Michigan chose whether it was man-to-man, 2-3 zone, 1-3-1 zone or a modified more compact 1-3-1 zone with Albrecht at the top of the arc.

The fact that Michigan was able to erase a five point halftime lead despite surrendering a 78.6 eFG% in the second half was impressive, but it was also a sign that the Wolverines might not be able to keep it up.  The overtime period was dominated by Michigan State and seemed to swing when Spike Albrecht missed a wide open straight away three. The shot would have given the Wolverines the lead, but the Spartans just had too much left in the tank and ran away with the game.

There are plenty of positives to take from this loss despite the result and the fact that LeVert and Walton are both not in the equation any time soon. Michigan hosts Iowa on Thursday evening in one of its most critical home games yet. The Hawkeyes have lost three in a row and a win would help keep Michigan above-level before traveling to Indiana and Illinois.


Player Bullets

  • Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman: Michigan will continue to find more creative ways to get Abdur-Rahkman involved (and it was disappointing to see his touches decline late in the game), but there aren’t many freshmen that go in and score 18 points on 8 of 14 shooting at the Breslin Center. Even John Beilein is a bit surprised at some of the things Abdur-Rahkman is doing on the court and why not, he’s doing it all. We saw the 6-foot-3 freshman put the ball on the deck and finish right through Branden Dawson, hit stepback jumpers, knock down a three on the catch and shoot and finish a number of difficult shots at the rim. His vision and ball handling will continue to improve, but he’s by far Michigan’s best option off the bounce and he’s going to need to be a focal point of the Wolverine offense from here on out.
  • Spike Albrecht: Spike scored 18 points on 6 of 13 (3-6 3pt) shooting to go along with two assists. He stepped up as a scoring option in the second half and Michigan needed it. He hadn’t hit a three since January 3rd at Purdue, and he finally started to embrace the leadership role that the Wolverines expect him to take.
  • Max Bielfeldt: Bielfeldt made some mistakes and was just 3 of 10 from the floor (and 1 of 3 at the line), but he also grabbed 9 rebounds and scored 7 points in 33 minutes. He took some ill-advised shots and he probably doesn’t need to be a 10 FGA per game guy, but having the ball in his hands and having him as an offensive threat definitely helps Michigan’s spacing. Defensively, he’s not much of a rim protector, but he really battle on the glass and was able to match Michigan State’s physicality inside.
  • Zak Irvin: Irvin made five shots, had five shots blocked and missed four cleanly. He finished with 11 points, 4 rebounds, three assists and two steals. Irvin needs to start utilizing the pump fake because he doesn’t have the quickest release and he’s become far too predictable. Beilein said after the game that jumpshots shouldn’t be blocked and he’s correct. Michigan is asking Irvin to do a lot and I think he’s showing progress (3 assists of Michigan’s 8 total, a couple finishes inside, two steals), but there are going to continue to be some growing pains.
  • Aubrey Dawkins: The Spartans made it a priority to deny any open three-point looks for Dawkins, but it was nice to see him put his head down and drive to the basket when he was overplayed. He finished with 7 points on 3 of 5 shooting, four rebounds (including a huge putback late in the second half) in 35 minutes. Dawkins still gets caught ball watching defensively at times (he lost Bryn Forbes for a late three in the second half), but he’s Michigan’s best option to pair with Irvin on the wing.
  • Ricky Doyle: Doyle only played 15 minutes and his only basket was on a classic Jordan Morgan fake handoff, spin and dribble drive. He probably traveled on the play, but he also made the basket and the ensuing free throw. He only grabbed one rebound in his 15 minutes and wasn’t nearly the same sort of physical presence as Max Bielfeldt.
  • Andrew Dakich: Dakich played 13 minutes in the first half with Albrecht and Abdur-Rahkman saddled to the bench with two fouls and he did a pretty good job of managing the game and letting Michigan hang around.
  • Kameron Chatman: It’s fitting that Chatman’s only made field goal was a baseline jumper from almost behind the basket. He was 1 of 4 with two turnovers on the game and the game hasn’t slowed down much for him.
  • Mark Donnal: Donnal was available in emergency, but is still battling illness and wasn’t ready to play.
  • rlcBlue

    If Walton is going to be out for a while, I wonder if the staff will consider improving depth by shifting some players down – giving Rahk more minutes at the 1, Irvin at the 2, Dawkins at the 3 – and finding a way to get some useful minutes from anybody at the 4.

    • Chris De Sana

      Was thinking the same thing, maybe go bigger.

      • They have tried Max for a stint at the four the last two games. Hard to go big without Donnal though, only so many bodies to work with.

        • Chris De Sana

          We agree, have to find an answer on the defensive boards against active and athletic teams like MSU.

  • Chris De Sana

    As mentioned in my comments after the Nebraska game, MAAR continues to show that he has some Trey Burke in him but taller and longer. And Dawkins continues to show he is trending towards THjr territory but probably longer and more athletic. Both are showing far more than anyone thought they would in fact at times seem to be the two who feel most comfortable in big situations. Can’t wait to see what they do the rest of the year even though I know they will stumble they show they have high ceilings.

    As for the rest of the guys, Spike stepped up especially when it comes to over penetration leading to turnovers. Max gave great effort but was just physically out matched most of the game. Irvin is so erratic it frustrates most of us.

    • Indiana_Matt

      MAAR and Dawkins have blown me away. I thought they might be decent role players in two years at best. Great to be so wrong. I honestly think we’ll be celebrating big things from this class on their senior night in ’18.

  • Fab 5 Legends

    Proud of UM regardless of outcome…Rahkman & Dawkins are doing a great job…hope it continues the rest of the season…is been frustrating to see Chatman not contribute more but it is what it is. Our low-post has been a problem all year long and will continue…even though sometimes you see Doyle with positives…Max is just too small and slow at his position…Donnal has also been disappointing.

    • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

      We need to get Donnal on the floor. I am assuming he is ready to go versus Iowa. We need him out there. I know he is recovering from an illness, but without him, nearly half our roster aren’t contributing points.

      Also, we need more minutes from Doyle. He is talented and a big body. He was sick too and I hope he is getting his conditioning up to par.

      A simple missed call (the comical call on MAAR on that rebound) changes the game so much when we are so low on available players.

  • Nick

    Rahk also had a sick assist to Max

  • Mat

    Criticism of Zak’s game should take into account that he was being guarded by Dawson most of the game and was the focus of the Spartan D in general. It’s going to be an adjustment for anyone going from being the defense’s last concern to it’s first. Also, he was playing centers on the defensive end for most of the game, guarding guys 3 inches and 30 pounds bigger than him. Also he was getting fouled and pushed on both ends. He didn’t back down.

    While he did make mistakes on offense, I thought he was fairly patient for most of the game. Plus that late assist off the drive on the Spike 3 was pretty killer — and a sign that his game is evolving.

    • Vince

      I think Dylan (or Beilein’s) frustration re Zak is really on his supposedly bread and butter jump shot game. No one should deny or slight his overall progression from last year in terms of dribble drive, assist, rebounds. But he also need to be smart with his jumpers and the lack of improvement in his release or lack of shot fakes is fatal to his effectiveness on the offensive end.

      Beilein didn’t want to “mess with” his shooting mechanics because he “can’t argue with the results” last year. But if Zak want to become an alpha dog in this level of competition, he would really med to consider taking the risk to “improve” his form.

      I also think the increased intensity on defense and rebounding also take a huge toll on Zak and impacted his offensive game too. Hope he continue to improve and get stronger in the off season.

  • gobluemd16

    Incredible effort from the guys.. obviously a disappointing OT similar to Wisconsin, but incredible effort to make it to that point. Are we going to talk about Muhammad sitting for the last 10 mins of the first half when we were outscored 21-9? I know it is Beilein’s philosophy to the end, and we were in the game the whole second half, but we really could have benefit from his scoring even for part of the 1st half. Sad to hear about Derrick, sounds like he will be out for a minimum of a few weeks.

  • ChathaM

    The one point I keep coming back to is that Beilein is an incredibly good coach. We’ve seen results for too many consecutive years, and with too many different player leadership dynamics, for it to be coincidence. If he could find a way to bring top level athletic talents to UM on a regular basis, imagine how strong the program would be. But, even without growing into a recruiting giant, this will always be a competitive program that will routinely appear in the NCAA Tourney. All things considered, that works for me.

    The recent close losses have been encouraging (really, that’s an understatement; amazing would be a better term). Unfortunately, they were also opportunities to get back into the Tourney picture. Opportunities still exist, but I’m thinking that it will take a win at either IU or Maryland, plus home wins over MSU and OSU, to have a good shot at making the field. OTOH, finishing out B1G play by splitting the final 8 games, with a home win against either OSU or MSU, leaves us in a pack of far too many bubbly teams to be confident about a bid. With a 14 team conference, the days of going 10-8 and feeling good about your NCAA chances are over.