Game 30: Rutgers at Michigan Recap

Dylan Burkhardt

A month and a half ago, Michigan traveled to Piscataway, NJ to play its first game without Caris LeVert. The Wolverines slogged their way to a 54-50 victory over Rutgers and left New Jersey pleased – they proved to themselves they could win without LeVert.

Fast forward to Senior Day at the Crisler Center and it was clear just how much this group has improved without LeVert and Derrick Walton in the lineup. Michigan only won three games with its depleted rotation, losing four overtime games in the process, but it also saw Spike Albrecht, Zak Irvin, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Aubrey Dawkins and Max Bielfeldt make strides that few would have imagined two months ago .

Michigan handled Rutgers with ease the second time around, scorching the net en route to a 79-69 victory that wasn’t really that close after the Scarlet Knights finished the game on a 19-0 run and still lost by double-digits, and all of those individual gains were on display.

Aubrey Dawkins scored 31 points on 10 of 15 (8-11 3pt) shooting, reaching a career scoring mark for the second straight game. Kameron Chatman notched a career high 13 points and hit three triples. Max Bielfeldt recorded his first career double double with 14 points and 11 rebounds in his first career start. Spike Albrecht failed to score in double figures for the first time in eight games, but was pulling the strings and tied a career-high with nine assists.

Rutgers has lost 13 games in a row for a reason, but there wasn’t a better way to close out a difficult regular season than with an impressive home victory.


Michigan scored 1.22 points per possession – its best offensive performance of the Big Ten season – despite not scoring in the final seven minutes of the game. Is there a more fitting way for this group to end the regular season than with a seven minute scoring drought?

The Wolverines shot 58% on twos and 45% on threes for a 63 eFG% – matching their Big Ten high water mark set at Penn State. Michigan shot the ball well because it moved the ball and got good shots. An impressive 20 of Michigan’s 29 made field goals were assisted and it had a 3.3 to 1 assist to turnover ratio as a team. While the 14 made threes matched a season-high, 13 of the long range makes were assisted – a sign that they were good three-point looks, usually off of driving kick-outs or secondary transition.

Defensively, Michigan regressed over 40 minutes. Some of that was natural due to the lopsided nature of the game, but the Wolverines certainly never really shined on the defensive end of the floor despite facing a below-average Scarlet Knight offense. Rutgers had size advantages at the front court positions and took advantage – Kadeem Jack finished with 21 points on 16 shots – throughout the night.

There’s been a lot of discussion of Michigan’s various zone looks over the last few weeks, but I thought both the 2-3 and 1-3-1 zones were used effectively in this one. Rutgers is a poor passing team and poor shooting team and didn’t really have the means to handle either zone effectively. The zone looks also negated Rutgers’ primary advantage, which was Kadeem Jack against Michigan’s undersized four men.

It’s hard not to wonder how the season would have looked if Michigan would have finished off a few more close games, but the Wolverines will head to Chicago with at least a tiny bit of momentum. Michigan is locked into the 9 seed in the Big Ten Tournament which means it will play either Illinois (if it beats Purdue) or Indiana at noon on Thursday. Wisconsin will be waiting for the winner of that game on Friday afternoon.

Michigan 79, Rutgers 69 -7

Player Bullets

  • Aubrey Dawkins: Dawkins was one triple short of tying Garde Thompson’s Michigan record of 9 threes in a game and while he made 8 triples, he showed signs of an all around game with an alley-oop dunk, a nice pass on a drive and a couple strong takes to get to the free throw line. Dawkins had been in a bit of a slump from long range, but he’s now 12 of 18 from long distance over the last two games.  Despite some ups and downs, Dawkins is going to finish the Big Ten season shooting 48% on threes and his future is bright, especially if he continues to improve his handle and rebounding motor.
  • Spike Albrecht: When Michigan needed a basket, Spike was there, but for the most part he was content to play facilitator. He finished with 9 assists – that’s 17 assists to 3 turnovers in the last two games – and ran Michigan’s offense to perfection. His play over the last nine games is worthy of team MVP honors and while his role is likely to change next year, he’s developed into a great weapon in any role.
  • Max Bielfeldt: What a great way for Max to wrap up his career at home. He not only had a double-double in 31 minutes, he hit some impressive shots including a turnaround 15 footer off glass. Bielfeldt even added three assists for good measure and John Beilein left the door open for a possible return next season. Max couldn’t hit a three, but he played his best offensive game since the trip to Illinois in early February.
  • Kameron Chatman: This was another solid outing by Chatman, who hit three triples, made a circus scoop shot and hit a pair of free throws after picking up a steal and run out. He played 20 minutes and I liked that Michigan kept him in the game while shifting Irvin to the two to spell the other guards. Chatman hadn’t made a three since January 6th, but he certainly shot the ball with confidence. In the second half he was a bit wild with his passes, putting a bit too much zip on them , but he did have a nice transition assist to Dawkins for a triple.
  • Zak Irvin: Irvin was the only Michigan played who didn’t have his perimeter shot working and he was just 2 of 9 from long range, but he also had 4 assists, was 3 of 6 on twos, and grabbed seven rebounds in 37 minutes. He got very sloppy late in the game with some poor turnovers, but I thought he continued to show an improved all around game whether it was a great hesitation dribble drive off a ball screen or a few very nice passes off of drives.
  • Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman: Abdur-Rahkman played just 23 minutes and scored 2 points on 1 of 3 shooting. I thought he passed the ball as well as he has all season (3 assists) and his lone made field goal was a very nice 18 foot jumper off of a pump fake and dribble.
  • Mark Donnal: Donnal had a nice opportunity with Doyle sidelined by illness, but he only recorded a foul in 8 minutes of playing time. He struggled against Rutgers inside defensively and didn’t find much of a groove on offense either.
  • Austin Hatch came close to a three-pointer that would have taken the roof off of Crisler while former managers Jon Rubenstein and Ryan Kapustka both got in the game in the final minute after getting the opportunity to dress.
  • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

    It looks like Beilein keeps going back and forth on this. You see games like this and you want Max back. I never thought he would be able to provide this much for us. I know his limited overall and more of a grit and dirty work guy, but he held his own this year and relative to expectations did an awesome job. It is worrisome that Max kept Donnal off the floor quite a bit this year. Donnal was one of the few younger guys that had a leg up and had already been in the program for a season. I have to imagine Beilein expected more. I could imagine a situation where Bielfeldt is asked back, but obviously would have to involve some attrition.

    • jemblue

      Sometimes big men just take awhile to develop. A year ago we weren’t singing Max’s praises too often. Mark’s got three more years of eligibility to put it together.

      • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

        You are right. I never thiought Max could be this productive. Hopefully the light clicks with Donnal. I actually thought having Bielfeldt use the grad transfer would be smart for the program- but now seeing that he can be a solid Big Ten player, I almost wish there was way he stayed to help ease the Donnal and Doyle transition.

  • jemblue

    Fun game. You can see that the lightbulb is clicking on for a lot of guys. This is going to be a very good team next year.

    I loved that the two managers got to dress – another classy move by JB. Just a shame Rubenstein couldn’t hit the FT.

  • jlustig22

    Looks like Beilein got another late steal signee in Dawkins. I had no idea he was such a good shooter when they signed him. He definitely has some work to do to round out his game. Hopefully he can make a similar progression to Irvin this year which we are finally seeing signs of now. He’s got to improve his ball handling, defense and rebounding. He’s really non-existent on the glass at this point. That would be my concern next year if Irvin and Dawkins are the starting 3 and 4.

    It will be interesting to see how the lineup shakes out next year. A lot will obviously depend on if LeVert comes back or not. I’m also not sure where Robinson fits it and what his best position is. Irvin actually played some 2 today when Rahkman was out. That may happen more next year if LeVert leaves. We have a lot of guys capable of playing the 3 and 4 but not many at the 2.

    Chatman is showing some nice signs at the end of the year. He looks a lot better. Hopefully, more to come next year. I’m still worried about the 5 spot next year. Doyle showed some flashes this year but he’s still really deliberate on offense and quite poor defensively and on the glass. Donnal really didn’t show much at all this year and who knows about Wilson since he didn’t get to play much at all this year.

    • Mattski

      If we have Spike and Derrick at the one and two, Irvin sometimes spelling, even Chatman (?). . . suddenly this team looks okay for next year. What do people think–with Caris do we contend for the B1G title?

      • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

        I don’t see why not. We basically built a team while Levert was out. A lot of these guys weren’t ready when Levert was healthy. Now they are ready to go.

      • Chris De Sana

        Highly doubt Coach wants to start both Spike and Walton both; he try just about everything before he does that next year IMO.

    • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

      I don’t think we need Robinson to do too much. We need him to make open threes and go from there. Everyone on the team that said that he is the best pure shooter. I think as long as he is a specialist to start, he can gradually expand his game.

  • MGoTweeter

    fun game to close out the year. I dont want to get too much into what any of it means for the future, since I am still holding out hope for a Big10 tourney title. However, it is great to see signs of progress from almost all the guys and some real gelling on the court from certain lineups. I thought the Spike, Irvin, Dawkins, Chatman, Max, lineup looked great today. That lineup gives them a lot of flexibility on both ends with being able to switch everything on D 2 through 4 and offensively there seemed to be more flow. Obviously it helps a ton when Dawkins and Chatman are making every shot. I might try to go to that lineup more in the tourney and use Rahk as a defensive stopper/offensive iso spark plug, and with Doyle as a two-three minute a time banger.

    Happy for the guys to close out a tough regular season on a nice note. It is truly amazing to see how much fight they have in them. They have taken blow after blow this year, yet they keep getting back up and competing. Great representatives of the University of Michigan.

    • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

      The thing I loved about today was these guys knew from the tip they were going to win. I am always nervous for these guys, hoping they start out the game strong. But today was an easy and relaxing watch. The team was confident. They have put all the close losses in the past and just play the next game.

      A guy that has continued to impress me is Bielfeldt. Beilien said in the post game interview, Max Bielfeldt saved our butts this year. That is a perfect assessment by Beilein.

  • Chris De Sana

    Fun game to watch and some interesting line ups worthy of notice. If Caris does not come back next year I think coach is think we will see a lot of 1 guard (Walton or Spike) offense with a lot of length and athleticism at the 2 and 3 (Rotation of Zak, Dawkins & MAAR) with more length at the 4 (Robinson, Kam & Wilson) and a big (Doyle or Donnal).

    The keys to next year will be the development of Zak and Dawkins; if they can get better at their handles it will be a huge bonus in M’s need to have a creator on the floor and of course the development of or BIGS Doyle and Donnal. One or both simply have to be able to demand the ball on the block at times and be able to do something with it other than hold it for too long and take an awkward shot.

    As for this game I continue to be impressed with what Dawkins brings to the table and the improvement of Zak’s handle and decision making.

    As much as I loved seeing Hatch and the student managers on the floor I would have preferred a bow out win that would have built confidence in young men that need it.

  • Coach Jordan HS teammate

    Come on guys its Rutgers…its like praising a NBA team for doing good against the Timberwolves or the 76ers…love the teams progression but its the Scarlet Knights…if JB & staff dont do a better job AT RECRUITING our wolverines will continue to have seasons like this..bcus even with Levert & Walton we was still a double digit lost comes back to recruiting..remember one top 100 2014, no recruits 2015…football teams shouldn’t out recruit UofM basketball (Texas A&M , Florida St, Nebraska)

    • jemblue

      This team has talent. It’s just very, very young for the most part. When you lose seven of your top nine guys from the previous year (counting LeVert and Walton) it’s tough to bounce back. But watch these guys next year when they have a year under their belts.

    • MAZS

      I think there was reasonable perspective–no one is confusing Rutgers with even a decent Big Ten team. Much of the enthusiasm was because it was a fun game and the prospect of good things next year. You’re not really “keeping it real” for the rest of us.