Game 7: Michigan at N.C. State Recap

Dylan Burkhardt

It’s taken a few games, but Michigan is starting to remember how to win.

The team that took the court against Xavier and UConn looked scared of the big moment. They were pushed around, out-hustled and struggled to hit important shots. After a season that saw almost as many losses as the previous two combined, who can blame them?

Michigan’s veterans that played down the stretch last year aren’t 100% and the ones that are healthy were sitting on the bench watching those losses. The Wolverines hadn’t figured out how those pieces fit together in early November, but have a much better idea now.

“I don’t know about identity, but I’m starting to learn more about the buttons to push defensively and offensively,” John Beilein said after the win. “What they can handle right now.”

The Wolverines still might not have accomplished anything out of the ordinary with wins over Texas in the Bahamas and NC State in Raleigh, but those are nice solid non-conference victories for a team carving out a new identity that looked borderline shell-shocked last Wednesday in the Bahamas.

Michigan earned its first road win since last January at Rutgers and appears to have found direction and confidence with one more major non-conference test to go next week at SMU.

NC State Four Factors

There’s nothing wrong with winning ugly from time-to-time. Michigan’s offense scored a pedestrian 1.04 points per possession on the night, but its defense held NC State to just .93 points per trip (its second best defensive game against a Division I team this season).

Michigan’s first half defensive effort was tremendous as it only allowed NC State to attempt 3 free throws and rebound 15% of its misses in the first 20 minutes. Those numbers both regressed toward the mean in the second half as the Wolfpack attempted 21 second free throws and rebounded 43% of their misses, allowing them to cut the lead to four points late. Despite the fact that Derrick Walton is Michigan’s shortest player, his absence can’t be overlooked on the defensive glass (where he led Michigan entering today’s game).

The Wolverine defense did a lot of things well including holding the bigger and stronger NC State to just 43% shooting at the rim and a 36 effective field goal percentage. NC State isn’t a good shooting team, but Michigan did a good job of forcing it into low percentage shots.

In perhaps the most impressive, and telling, statistic of the night the Wolverines outscored the Wolfpack 28-18 in the paint.

special stats

Offensively, Michigan was streaky but deadly. The Wolverines missed 7 of their first 9 shots to open the game and 5 in a row midway through the second half, but those two cold streaks accounted for half of the team’s misses. Michigan turned the ball over a bit too often  (17% of possessions) and didn’t get anything on the offensive glass, but it is going to win most games where it shoots 61% on twos and 35% on threes. The 2-point shooting was a great sign for the second straight game as Michigan made 12-of-18 attempts at the rim and had the pick-and-roll game clicking (Doyle and Wagner combined for 14 points and 6 rebounds on 11 shots).

Michigan couldn’t afford to drop this game. Not with two losses already on its resume and not with a trip to Dallas on the docket next week. Walton’s injury is a major concern, even if Beilein says that it’s not expected to be a long-term injury going forward, but if Michigan can figure out a way to win at SMU it can be in great shape entering the Big Ten season.

Player Bullets

  • Derrick Walton: It was tough to watch Walton bury his face in a towel as he sat on the sideline with an injured ankle. He played a terrific first half, doing a good job of getting Michigan’s offense started when it sputtered early on. John Beilein says the ankle injury isn’t expected to be serious, but after last season’s nagging foot injuries ruined his season I’d guess the Wolverines will be cautious.
  • Caris LeVertLeVert has settled into a more natural play maker role over the last several games. He’s not dominating the ball by any stretch, but he’s got it when it matters most. He finished with 18 points on 4-of-10 shooting with nine defensive rebounds and seven assists. He’s turned into a bit of a closer as he’ll allow his teammates to play early in halves and serve as a closer late. He hit his second halftime buzzer beater in as many games and also made all 6 free throws to ice the game late.
  • Duncan Robinson: Duncan Robinson posted an eFG% of 100% or higher for the third time this season. It’s not automatic when he shoots the three, but you can’t get much closer. Michigan will continue to find ways to get him involved offensively and I don’t see how you can’t get him more shots given his efficiency to date. His last two makes were a jab-step step-back three from the corner and a pump-fake one-dribble pull-up from 18-feet. Those are shots that he wouldn’t have thought about taking two or three weeks ago. 
  • Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman: I wrote at halftime that Abdur-Rahkman needs to be judged on his defense against Cat Barber in the second half rather than anything on the offensive end. He got the job done. Barber had only 6 second half points and four of them were after the game was nearly decided. Abdur-Rahkman also was able to break up two or three NC State fast breaks that appeared to be easy layups. With four points on four shots and four boards, Abdur-Rahkman finished with a team-high +27 in 25 minutes as he stepped up in place of injured Derrick Walton.
  • Moritz Wagner: Wagner is going to be a special player. His sense around the basket and ability to finish (he had a ridiculous catch and finish in the first half) continues to shine, but he also had a nice fake dribble hand-off monster dunk. His motor and IQ will get him into trouble at times (he forced the issue a bit too much in the second half), but he just keeps playing and had a huge and-one finish off of a ball screen dish late in the second half to help ice the game.
  • Ricky Doyle: Doyle had a few mind-bogglingly frustrating bobbles (3 turnovers) and drops around the basket, but he also had 6 points on 3-4 shooting, four defensive boards and a block in 16 minutes. He scored Michigan some big buckets (he seems to have a far better feel with Zak Irvin on the pick-and-roll than anyone else on the Michigan roster) and played some really solid defense inside against NC State’s bigs (Abu and Freeman were 0-9 from the floor).
  • Zak Irvin: Irvin’s shot is still wild and erratic (he was 3-of-11), but he hit a huge shot down the stretch to push Michigan’s lead to 10 points and also had five rebounds and four assists.  Irvin’s floor game is still there even if his jumper isn’t nearly up to form.
  • Spike AlbrechtAlbrecht checked into the game with Walton hurt despite the fact that he’s not practicing and he immediately threw an alley-oop to Caris LeVert. I thought Beilein might have stuck with him a bit too long as N.C. State started a run, but he gave Michigan five minutes off the bench it really needed.
  • Aubrey Dawkins: Dawkins is at a crossroads as his backup (Robinson) can’t stop missing and he’s outplaying him on arguably both ends. Neither is a good defender, but Robinson is giving Michigan the shooting it needs. Dawkins had one mid-range make against the 2-3 zone, but was -8 in 15 minutes overall.
  • Kameron ChatmanChatman saw some first half playing time and had an assist and a deflection, but he was also whistled for 2 fouls in five minutes.

Box Score

  • Mattski

    Love that: Irvin is contributing despite not being back to dead-eye status; that Doyle might yet contribute behind an emerging Wagner; and that Robinson is ‘not just a catch-n-shoot player.’

  • DetroitDan

    MAAR is my player of the game.

    Horrible officiating in the 2nd half.

    Announcers were bad I thought. They never gave MAAR any credit even though he is a proven veteran and pretty much shut down Barber.

    Good team effort by Michigan in an inhospitable environment.

    The top 9 are now as follows: LeVert, Walton, Irvin, Dawkins, Doyle, Wagner, Robinson, MAAR, Albrecht. I’d like to see more of Wilson. Chatman is not there yet. Donnal still a contender for playing time.

    • The announcers were so bad. I’m not sure Mike Patrick did any research before calling this one. Brutal.

      • DetroitDan

        Do you know where to see a box score that includes the +/-?


        • Hopefully will add to the ones I’m including soon but here you go.

          • DetroitDan


            This confirms my impression that we did better with two of our subs in. Walton was strong, but -6 for Walton versus +27 for MAAR doesn’t exactly match the announcers’ narrative. As you say, they apparently did no research.

      • gobluemd16

        I was laughing during the telecast, he was pretty terrible. At least two instances I can think of: he credited Aubrey with a great drive when it was Zak (look somewhat similar from afar), and Doyle with a dunk when it was Moe (cmon, they are probably 40 lbs different).

        • Also credited a Martin three to Mav Rowan.

          • gobluemd16

            As noted above, he called Caris “Chris,” during the broadcast’s open.

  • Wayman Britt

    Nice to get a win. What’s up with Dawkins? I cannot figure him out. He is playing soft and no hustle. Looks like he would rather be some place else. He needs to get some confidence and that should pick up his game.

    • gobluemd16

      It seems like when he isn’t making shots, or getting shots, it affects the rest of his game… poor defense, a common thread with him, and weak cutting off the ball.

    • Kenny

      I don’t like his new haircut, maybe that is the reason.

      I think that Dawkins plays better with Spike, like Doyle plays better with Irvin.

  • jlustig22

    I think Dawkins is struggling to adjust to his role this year. With all the injuries last year, he was basically the 2nd option behind Irvin. Now, he’s pretty much the 4th option and isn’t getting many shot attempts. His best asset is his jump shot as he doesn’t have the ability to create off the dribble and he doesn’t play much defense. With the way Robinson is shooting, he has to be out there so Dawkins has to start playing a lot better or he will be on the bench quite a bit.

    Did we recruit that Rowan kid? Thought I remember Beilein going to watch him in person. Don’t want to jump to conclusions after one game, but he was brutal today. I think he was a consensus top 50 player but I will take the Divison 3 transfer from Williams over him for sure.

  • DetroitDan

    Michigan was called for a foul any time we even attempted to play defense in the 2nd half. This was a bad joke. With any sort of reasonable officiating, Michigan would have won by 20+.

    This makes the win all the more impressive.

  • Fab 5 Legends

    Hope Walton injury is not too bad…he plays a vital role on this team…MAAR will do fine as hes replacement but i would like a healthy Walton out there if we are going to have a good year…

    • DetroitDan

      MAAR seems to be at least as good as Walton or Albrecht. At least that is what an objective measure would seem to indicate:

      MAAR: +27
      Walton: -6
      Albrecht: -9

      Admittedly, this is just one game and the +/- stats are subject to a wide variety of factors (e.g. does someone else make a shot while you are on the floor). But MAAR is a proven B1G player, whose only downside seems to be that he was not highly valued as a HS player. He’s one of the great Beilein success stories.

      • Thought MAAR played great tonight, but Walton is the x-factor to this team reaching its ceiling in my opinion. Albrecht isn’t healthy and that’s been established.

        This was a great step in the right direction for MAAR, but he had struggled the last couple games out.

        • DetroitDan

          MAAR has a considerable size advantage over Walton and Albrecht. I think he’s probably better overall than Walton, although Walton is very good. Albrecht is top-notch, with a better 3-point shot than either MAAR or Walton, and an excellent handle.

          The depth of this team is an advantage. When Walton went down tonight, we had the depth to win fairly comfortably.

          If / when Walton returns to full strength, we’ll be very tough. Doyle and Wagner are a good 1-2 punch in the middle also, with Wilson and Donnal waiting in the wings.

          • Fab 5 Legends

            agree with many of your points…MAAR will have that opportunity to take minutes in the future from a healthy Spike/Walton,,,defensively he has done a great job…and now he can show Beilein that he deserves more time as a sophmore

        • DetroitDan

          Remember, last year Michigan did fine playing MAAR when Walton was out. It was when MAAR had to sit because of foul trouble that we did badly, as Dakich is not in the same class.

      • UMHoopsFan

        Where are these +/- stats coming from?

  • CJK5H

    At the beginning of the season, it looked like Michigan had “too many players.” Now, it looks like that is a good “problem” to have. My guess is that Spike ends up in the coaching profession. He’d look pretty good on the Michigan sideline as a GA next year. His hips aren’t going to let him play to the level his brain wants to play and he seems to love the game too much to quit.

  • A2MIKE

    I like Duncan coming off the bench. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. In an ideal world he and Dawkins would come off the bench as your wings and give you the scoring punch needed from the bench. I just don’t know who you would start in place of Dawkins.

    • bobohle

      Would have been nice if we landed Jaylen Brown ehh!!

  • GTFOmycourt

    I am really happy that Robinson has proven himself to be “as advertised”. It appears he will be very good for us this year. His Jab step and pump fake-one-dribble-drive are great indications that he is becoming more confident in his very real capabilities. Regarding his defense: It does not seem that bad. He seems willing to mix it up a bit, not allergic to contact and it is not like he is making a lot of mental errors.

    I think this teams biggest rooms for improvement are 1) Doyle’s hands (otherwise I think he doing good); and 2) several of our players are allergic to contact. Our players tend to watch the ball in the air as it is traveling toward the basket whereas they should be delivering a “hit” and initiating the fight for rebounding positioning. The best time to foul someone is when the ball is in the air. The **decision** to get positioning is always a step too slow and based upon decision not athleticism. Stop assuming the ball is going in! Not sure why they can’t seem to break our players of the habit. Basic stuff.

    Also, every other team we play seems to be better at setting screens. We are pretty bad at setting screens. Hopefully that improves.

  • GTFOmycourt

    Also, there are a lot times when our guys are the first to have their hand on the rebound but they seem to not rip it out of the air and our opponent gets the rebound. I don’t get it.

    • bobohle

      You said it earlier. Doyle’s weak hands for one.

  • ChathaM

    I thought that the one player who could turn this game in NCSU’s favour was Barber. Michigan did a great job of keeping Barber in front of them, and not allowing him to get to the basket. They were happy to allow him mid-range jumpers, and he did hit a handful of them, but that was obviously the Michigan game plan, and it was executed almost to perfection. I’m sure that will be a defensive plan that NCSU will see consistently throughout the season.

    Last year’s injuries, and the resulting minutes for MAAR, were probably a key to winning this game. Without the experience he gained last year, there’s no way he’d have been able to step in last night and do what he did.

    Irvin must have been an incredible high school shooter for nobody to have ever changed his mechanics. You would never teach a RH shooter to pull the ball from his left hip to shooting position. It’s been so frustrating to watch, for 2+ years now, such a highly touted shooter consistently miss shots.

    Was I hearing things, or did one of the announcers refer to Caris as “Chris Levert” early in the game?

    • bobohle

      You heard right. He reffered to Wagner as Doyle and Irvin as Dawkins several times also.

  • JJ3ball

    Doyle is getting better. I think his issue is more mental, than bad hands. Catch the ball first, then make your move. Clearly he doesn’t catch the ball as well as Wagner, but I think he’s much more capable than he’s shown. Patience is needed.

    MAAR was excellent last night

    Chatman… The play that epitomized the enigmatic nature of Kam Chatman was a driving layup (one of the few by Barber), in which Chatman has his back to the play, running toward the baseline, guarding nobody. Who does this?

    Duncan Robinson: he’s good and he knows it.

    Excellent observation on the Doyle/Irvin connection on the court; I’ll be looking for it going forward.

  • GregGoBlue

    A no-Donnal-bullet-point recap is a good recap to me.