Five Key Plays: Michigan at Illinois

Alejandro Zúñiga
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Once again, the Michigan basketball team put itself in position for a key win, but once again, the Wolverines couldn’t close out the game. We look Michigan’s best moments from Thursday night’s loss to Illinois and examine what went wrong late.

1) Dawkins dazzles with highlight-reel dunk

Thursday’s result may not have been ideal, but at least the game gave us this posterizing dunk from Aubrey Dawkins.

The freshman forward noticed Jaylon Tate overcommitting and positioned slightly too high, so he made a backcut down the baseline. Meanwhile, Andrew Dakich read the move perfectly and delivered an on-target bounce pass that allowed Dawkins to catch and soar.

The result was an emphatic one-handed slam over Nnanna Egwu, a finish which earned No. 2 honors on SportsCenter’s top plays of the day.

2) Bielfeldt paces Michigan in the first half

Max Bielfeldt led the Wolverines with 12 points against Illinois, and he did most of the damage with nine points in the last 10 minutes of the first half.

John Beilein has preached the importance of the pump fake all winter, and the center used it to his advantage for his first bucket of the night. The move got Maverick Morgan off-balance at the top of the key and allowed for a finish off the dribble in the paint.

On the next possession, Bielfeldt slipped a screen at the top of the key. Two defenders stayed with Spike Albrecht outside, leaving Bielfeldt with a mismatch inside. The guard whipped a pass to the senior for the short jumper.

Later, Bielfeldt was the beneficiary of a lucky bounce off the high glass when Zak Irvin lost control of the ball on a drive; the center still finished well with a left-handed hook shot. He polished off the impressive first half from the free throw line after a good read to attack the basket on a broken play.

3) Wolverines stretch lead after halftime

Michigan was up just two at halftime, but that lead grew quickly after the break.

Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman began the scoring for his team with an ankle-breaking stepback jumper, and then Dawkins hit a jumper of his own from the elbow after a handoff and screen from Bielfeldt.

Four minutes into the second half, Albrecht drove on Jaylon Tate and connected on a difficult layup, and Bielfeldt followed with a baseline drive and spin for a layup.

The fast start put the Wolverines up eight at the under-16 timeout, and Michigan generally remained in control of the game until the final minutes of regulation.

4) Illini tie game with 90 seconds left

Illinois pulled within three with 2:10 remaining, and Michigan came up empty on its next possession.

Michigan ran a well-executed pick-and-roll play which left Spike Albrecht wide open for a three-point look. Albrecht made the correct read on the ball screen, but his shot went in and out. That was probably the shot Michigan needed to pull away once and for all, but instead the Illini had a chance to tie.

On the other end of the floor, John Beilein went with the 1-3-1 zone after an Illinois timeout.

Michigan actually has pretty good defensive shape throughout the possession until a cross-court pass from Malcolm Hill to Ahmad Starks catches the Wolverines out of position. Irvin over commits in his reaction, leaving his feet and flying out of bounds which allows Starks to make the easy pass to Kendrick Nunn in the corner. Albrecht couldn’t rotate over soon enough to contest the game-tying three and Michigan’s lead was gone.

5) Michigan can’t inbound at end of regulation

According to John Beilein, someone blew a route on this play, but the results were disastrous. Albrecht, whose inbounds pass was being guarded by Egwu, had to launch a long, one-handed lob to Dawkins in the paint, and the feed was broken up.

Michigan didn’t have a timeout, and it was approaching a five-second violation, but it was disappointing to see the Wolverines fail to get a shot off with a chance to win the game. The simplest option seems like it would have been a quick pass to Max Bielfeldt, who could give the ball back to Albrecht to attack.

Albrecht clearly had difficulties trying to see around Egwu, but Beilein said he didn’t trust any of his bigs to make an inbounds pass without throwing it away. He also noted that it was Albrecht who threw the game-tying assist to Glenn Robinson III last year at Purdue.

Illinois missed at the buzzer, and the game headed to overtime.

Overtime: Turnovers lead to easy points for Illinois

The extra period actually began with a solid defensive play when Abdur-Rahkman’s quick hands stripped the ball from Nunn and nearly forced a turnover. But the freshman was called for a foul during the ensuing scramble, and Nunn hit both free throws to give Illinois its first lead since midway through the first half.

Then the Wolverines committed a pair of turnovers and the Illini began to pull away. When Albrecht’s contested inside jumper missed, Bielfeldt grabbed the offensive rebound as he was falling out of bounds. The center tried a long pass toward halfcourt that was intercepted. Egwu hit a turnaround jumper over Bielfeldt on the ensuing possession.

Michigan couldn’t afford an empty possession down four, but Irvin’s attempted drive and kickout to the corner was read by Starks, who grabbed the easy steal. Starks dished to Nunn on a fast break, and, though Dawkins got back in time to foul, the Illinois guard made both free throws.

“As hard as we work … it’s tough to sustain that energy without having the depth you probably need in a game with this type of impact,” Beilein said.

  • Wayman Britt

    I am not saying the coaches ignore the current team, but Beilein and his staff need to put on a full court press to recruit Jaylen Brown. Within the rules, at least one coach should be at every of Jaylen’s remaining high school games, writing him and his mom emails/letters every day, calling and showing him that UM wants him more than any other program.

    • MAZS

      I doubt dunning the kid will be productive. We hope for rapport between Brown and the coaches–and a killer visit.

    • AADave

      I hate to be cynical but realistically I don’t think we have much of a chance of landing Jaylen Brown. Beilein is the best coach in college basketball and has elevated the program into the top 5-10 in the country. But for whatever reason, he’s unable to recruit anywhere close to that level. I suspect it’s mainly due to his emphasis on ethics, playing by the rules and high character kids.

      But if there’s any hope of reaching the Final Four again anytime soon, we need an upward trend in recruiting again. After a #26 rated class in 2014 and likely a complete zero in 2015, we need to land 2-3 elite players (top 50 or better) in 2016. Otherwise, the ceiling might be early round NCAA tourney exits or an occasional Sweet Sixteen run. As it stands now, that appears to be the best we can hope for next year… if we remain perfectly healthy, just about everybody improves with another year under Beilein and Duncan Robinson is as good as can be hoped. If all this happens and Levert returns, maybe we can get a little farther.

      • psickert1

        We keep forgetting that we do have a signer as in Duncan Robinson, who apparently has talent and we also have a promising freshman named Dj Wilson who is redshirting. Stop dismmissing the current players on our roster. Both are great because they both will have a year under the system , were as we will have to teach a recruit and Dj Wilson was *4star in some recruiting services and Duncan Robinson played a year of collegre and excelled even if it is D3. YOU might not think that they are talent but our coaching staff does and that’s all that matter. If Caris back…. that like getting a 5 star one year player. Signing recruits isn’t necessary unless they will the team instantly. The number 24* rated team will be just fine. Star rating and rankings are overrated.

        • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

          Great Post. I am getting pretty sick and tired of everyone acting like we don’t have talent. People can’t get it out of their heads that we are not full strength. We have the best coach in the league and the best developer of talent.

  • psickert1

    I’M Not giving up on Chatman at all. I’M am sure that he will be a very good player for us if stupid fans do run him away with transfer speculation. Most players need a year to adjust to college. He was top 50* (top 30) for a reason. I just wish people Shut up dissing the kid and let him developed. People trashed Dawkins and MAAR and now look at them. Look at Max B, nobody counted on him contributinformation this season but he has excell and showed Why he was recruited. I trust the coaching staff decision not fans that are fans only when we win.