Game 17: Maryland at Michigan Recap

Dylan Burkhardt

It’s impressive to build a big lead as a home underdog. It’s more impressive to throw it away, recover, and take it back.

Basketball is a game of runs and great teams have the ability to respond to adversity. Michigan hasn’t done much of that this season. The Wolverines folded down the stretch in West Lafayette and in earlier defeats, but at a similar juncture against No. 3 ranked Maryland, they responded.

It didn’t matter that Michigan had blown its 13-point second half lead or that Diamond Stone was taking over the game. After losing the lead with 6:48 to play, Michigan responded, took the lead back and never gave it back.

The Wolverines might not have seniors or captains right now, both are on the bench injured, but it has juniors. Derrick Walton, Zak Irvin and Mark Donnal figured out a way as they combined for 42 points, 21 rebounds and seven assists to carry the Wolverines to a statement win.

four factors maryland

“They’re so hard to guard,” Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon said after the loss. “They’re missing their best player and they’re still hard to guard.”

Only North Carolina scored the ball more efficiently against Maryland than Michigan this season, and Michigan’s offense is starting to figure things out — even without LeVert. This isn’t a situation where the offense works noticeably better without LeVert, but in his absence others are starting to step up. After sputtering against Purdue, Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin played some terrific basketball and when the threes are falling this team is tough to beat.

Michigan’s offense was naturally very dependent on the three (54% of its field goal attempts were from long range), but the shot was falling early and Maryland plays a style that will allow three-point attempts. Michigan’s starting players at the 1 through 4 combined to shoot 12-of-24 from three-point range that’s usually going to result in a victory. Before criticizing the Wolverines for living by the three, remember that today’s 41% three-point shooting night was actually a couple percentage points below this team’s season-average.

Defensively, Michigan had some rough stretches to go along with several encouraging moments. Derrick Walton was phenomenal defensively against Melo Trimble and the Wolverines also did a good job of keeping Rasheed Sulaimon out of the game until the final few minutes.

There’s just no answer on the Michigan roster for Diamond Stone, Robert Carter or Jake Layman and the Wolverines tried to throw an array of double-teams early on, but at a certain point just bit the bullet and played one-on-one. That move didn’t necessarily work as the three big Terps were 17-of-25 on two-point attempts, but it kept Michigan’s defense more fundamentally sound and was good enough.

Perhaps the best sign that Michigan’s defensive approach worked: only 8 of Maryland’s 26 made field goals were assisted a few days after 87% of Purdue’s makes were assisted last Thursday.

There’s no hiding the fact that Michigan needed this win. It needed something to stand on not just for its postseason resume, but for its confidence. Nobody is quite sure how long Caris LeVert will be sidelined, but this group is proving that it’s more than capable of winning games without him. The Wolverines have a few extra days of rest ahead of a late afternoon Sunday tip-off in Iowa City on Sunday.

Michigan 70, Maryland 67-26

Player Bullets

  • Zak Irvin: This was the best game that Irvin has played since last year. He had some matchup advantages as a ball handler against bigger players for the second straight game, but this time he made it count. I cringe when he shoots a few too many mid-range jumpers, but they were falling tonight: 22 points on 8-of-14 (3-7 3pt) shooting with three assists and two steals for the evening. Irvin is a different player when he’s playing with confidence and he’s had everything working in his last two games at home.
  • Derrick Walton: Walton wasn’t perfect or mistake free, but he played his ass off on both sides and carried Michigan to the win down the stretch. A 12 point, 10 rebound double-double while locking down an All-American point guard and hitting the crucial shots in the second half is a solid day at the office for any point guard. Walton’s two-point shooting struggles continued (1-7 inside the arc), but the three ball was a great equalizer and he also had a few timely assists. One play from Walton’s night that shouldn’t go overlooked: his heads up timeout when Mark Donnal was trapped under the hoop with :15 seconds to play.
  • Duncan Robinson: There are run-buster and run-builders, right now Robinson is the latter. When he strings a couple made three-pointers together he can start a team run because the opposition becomes hyper-aware of his positioning on the court. Watch any Michigan run and you’ll start to see players late to help because of Robinson’s shooting threat. 17 points on 5-of-9 three-point shooting for the night, but it was his two-point reverse layup late in the half that might have been most important. Michigan probably needs to do a better job of getting him involved when the opposition face guards him, but either way he’s a game changer.
  • Mark Donnal: A few weeks ago there were legitimate questions about whether Mark Donnal even had a role on Michigan’s roster. Now he’s the best big man on the roster by a wide margin and is making decisive plays late against a top-five opponent. Donnal had 8 points, 9 rebounds and two blocks in 33 minutes. He rebounded Derrick Walton’s miss, hit a free throw late and even defended Rasheed Sulaimon’s potential-tying three on the pick-and-roll switch.
  • Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman: Abdur-Rahkman isn’t going to go for 20 every night, but he played productive minutes and hit shots when Michigan needed. He also recorded a season-high four assists in the win.
  • Aubrey DawkinsDawkins has settled into his role off the bench very nicely. His confidence is rising and he had a great finish in transition on a nice look from Walton and a critical driving layup in the second half. He’s attacking the basket and looks more comfortable, even defensively, in his niche as a sixth man.
  • DJ WilsonWilson appears to be the second big man off the bench now, but he had a rough stretch in the second half. He’s a bit too quick to go to the three (two attempts in five minutes), had a bad turnover and  was pushed around by Diamond Stone under the hoop — not that that makes him unique. Michigan is going to need Wilson, who has shown some flashes of late, but he didn’t seem ready for the stage in the close second half.
  • Ricky DoyleDoyle’s slide continued as he recorded two fouls in two minutes and failed to get on the stat sheet otherwise.
  • Andrew Dakich: Dakich has given Michigan a spark in other games, but tonight his role was to give Walton two minutes on the bench in the first half so he could go the whole 20 in the second.
  • I could have done without the throwing it away and recovery parts.

  • Wayman Britt

    Nice win. Great for the resume. Even though they played good without Caris, they need him back. Please Caris get healthy.

  • MChem83

    Notice that you left Chatman completely off of your player bullets. Sad that he’s become almost completely irrelevant. I’m starting to think now that he, and not Donnal, may be the one looking elsewhere. There’s some talent there, but it just doesn’t seem that he has the mindset to contribute on this team any more. Even more unfortunate, with our bench unexpectedly thin.

  • James

    The transformation of Donnal from a soft and confused big to a savvy, high energy player has been pretty remarkable. Never foresaw his game evolving this way.

  • Chris De Sana

    Big win for sure…..

    Not sure why so many are anti mid range jumpers? They are often less contested than those taken behind the 3 point line and they open up a ton of wrinkles for the offense as a whole. In the past many applauded our wings coming off the curl for either the jumper, drive or dump down to an open bug when help comes.

    The offense needs to evolve and the mid range game should be part of it as should be Robinson moving more without the ball Ala Reggie Miller or RIP Hamilton. He has shown that he has more to offer than sitting at the 3 pt. line and hoping the defender losses track him, his handle and passing ability are way under rated take advantage of it.

    Love Donnal contribution wish Wagner would get more as next man up.

    Last Walton just has to get better running the offense he continues get too deep often times with no where to go. If he could finish like Burke could in the past or MAAR can now it would be different but as of yet he has not. His defense and rebounds are of value for sure but a Junior needs to be better on both ends of the court.

    • MGoTweeter

      I don’t hate all mid range jumpers, I hate early clock pull-ups off the dribble. Lowest percentage two without making the defense guard you

      • Mattski

        Exactly–there are mid-range jumpers and there are mid-range jumpers.

    • Fred Z in Ann Arbor

      Mid-range jumpers are a poor expected value: percentage make * number of points (2).

    • ChathaM

      I expect that we will see that with Robinson; perhaps not this season, but next season for sure. They do run one specific set for him, but that’s all I’ve seen so far. The similarities between his game and Stauskas’ game as a freshman are striking. When Duncan drove baseline and made that pretty reverse layup, I pictured Stauskas doing that exact thing in his sophomore season. He is already comfortable with stepping in and taking a charge on the defensive end. He’s going to be really good.

  • AC1997

    Dylan – I think Rahk needs some extra mention for his defense also. While Walton is getting the kudos for how hard he played after struggling last week, Rahk played D on Trimble too. Going into the game there were serious concerns that we would get killed at the guard spot based on the way their backcourt and ours had been playing. Rahk and Walton did great on defense and quietly Rahk has found his three point stroke.

    Also, it was good to see Chatman at least get a few min, which implies he is being rewarded for better practice. I just didn’t like that he and Dakich were both on the floor together.

    Finally, I cringe when any of our bigs shoot a three. The opponent wants you to take that for a reason. Ugly.

  • JJ3ball

    Donnal is a testament to how much of the game is mental. Fantastic transformation.
    Great work by Donnal. Great work by staff to bring this out of him.

  • mpbear14

    The chemistry or lack-there-of will be interesting to watch once Levert comes back. The entire team was engaged on both ends of the floor. We saw this for 3/4ths the game vs Purdue too. I haven’t seen a team effort like the last two games outside of our cupcakes all year.

    There seemed to be a sense of urgency last night to go along with a sense of confidence each player had in their teammates down the stretch.

  • Kenny

    This team is one elite big man from being elite, unfortunately we are not getting one in the near future. but Donnal had really turned corner, he will never be Stone but at least he threw in some real defense and made shot in traffic.

  • jakerblue

    Their front court may have made plenty of baskets. But it did seem like in the man to man, Donnal and Irvin were at least making them work for it. Not many uncontested layups.

    Wondering if the man to man helps with the defensive rebounding also. Since rebounding is so guard focused for this team, not having them already under the basket makes it easier from them to time crashing the glass, and see the angle of the ball better.
    I thought one of Walton’s rebounds towards the end of the second half was just phenomenal anticipation and timing. I think it was when Layman was backing down Irvin, as soon as Layman went to make his move to shoot, Walton broke off the guy he was guarding and timed his jump perfectly to pull down the miss. If he was down there helping Irvin I don’t think he can make that play.

    • Kenny

      Walton is easily the best rebounder of his size, great timing and anticipation.

  • jblair52

    Scary thought: no seniors played. That team we saw last night will be our team next year

    • bobohle

      Plus Xavier Simpson and John Teske.

  • gobluemd16

    What a win! Got messy in the middle of the 2nd half and shaky again in the last two mins (D Walt chucked three on a possession with no passes, missed FT’s), but we made the plays to win the game. Without Caris, any way we won that game would be pretty in my eyes. Incredible job to shut Trimble down and hold it together after MD’s big run. Irvin and Duncan were fantastic and it is unbelievable how the switched turned on for Mark. Can’t wait to watch this team continue to grow and gel. Go Blue!

  • TimgColo

    Signature win, even if Maryland had worst game from their All American. Some of that has to be attributed to our D though. Robinson is such a treat to watch, always somehow disappointed when he misses. So happy for the students to enjoy a win of this magnitude. Remember being a student as we took down Duke, great memories!!

    Look forward to this team continuing to gel and get a few unexpected wins on the march to the Dance!!

    Stay positive all!!!

  • MAZS

    Let’s hope the last 25 minutes will be the Donnal we see going forward. But at the 15 minute mark, he had zeros (including rebounds) across the board. Much reason for optimism, but I suspect we will still see a fair share of inconsistency.

    Also, are we still benching Walton :-)

    • A2MIKE

      I will pop on this. I have been critical of Walton lately, and I think that he played well in spurts yesterday. He was terrific in the last 5 minutes. But he still has mind-boggling turnovers, like the 3 v 1 earlier in the game and his court vision leaves something to be desired. He missed MAAR for a pair of layups (once in each half). However, his 3 point shot makes up for a lot of the negatives. If we could somehow cut down on the live ball turnovers and improve the 2 point shooting, he is an all B1G player, no question. I do think that he is a player that is better in focused 5-10 minute stretches than over the long haul of 40 minutes. I wish we had Spike still.

      • MAZS

        and MAAR did,,,what?

  • ChathaM

    I love to see tangible improvement; not just the “they looked better” type of thing that you really can’t place your finger on. The team showed tangible improvement by winning a game against a really good team that was up for grabs midway through the second half, after not being able to do that against Xavier and Purdue. Individually, it was great to see Donnal nail his first free throw, after not being able to convert last season against Villanova in a similar situation. Sure, hitting the second FT would have iced the game, but it was still tangible improvement in a key situation. It’s exciting.

    We’ve now seen several games where teams get burned by Robinson in the first half, only to adjust at halftime to face-guarding him. Teams really need to face-guard him right from the tip (especially with Caris’ driving threat not a factor), and I’m surprised that this isn’t already happening. I wonder whether we’ll see that from Iowa on Sunday.

    Can you imagine what Diamond Stone will look like when he’s about 23 years old, after a few years of NBA weight work?

  • Kenny

    Donnal’s transformation was so big, to the point when I turned into the game mid-way last night (was watching STOU), I did not recognize him for a minute. He looks like a complete different player from what he was during non-conference games, movement, posture, are all un-reconagizable.

  • Mattski

    Eight points, nine rebounds for Donnal–and against Maryland–really might be the most encouraging (if inobvious) take-away from this game. This team really may have found a backbone. If Caris comes back, Michigan can be a very fine team.