Final Horn: Michigan 82, Minnesota 74

Dylan Burkhardt

Michigan’s season was at a crossroads in Minneapolis on Wednesday as the Wolverines faced one of their first ‘must-win’ games of the 2015-16 season. After dropping back-to-back home games in deflating fashion, Michigan couldn’t afford to lose at Minnesota (6-18, 0-12 Big Ten).

Luckily Derrick Walton was up to the task, leading the Wolverines to an 82-74 road victory to help right the ship despite a late game collapse.

MVP: Derrick Walton

Derrick Walton dominated the game for the Wolverines, playing arguably the best game of his career. Walton had 19 points in the first half thanks to five made triples and he picked the Gophers apart all night. The 6-foot-1 junior finished the game with a career-high 26 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists in the victory in a dominant performance.

Unsung Heroes: Michigan bench

Michigan’s bench stepped up on the road in Minneapolis.

Andrew Dakich gave Michigan a few critical first half minutes and a pair of assists. Aubrey Dawkins knocked in 8 points including a few threes as Duncan Robinson sputtered from long distance in the first half. Ricky Doyle provided solid minutes on both ends as Mark Donnal battled foul trouble, finishing with 6 points and 8 free throw attempts.

Michigan’s bench isn’t deep without LeVert, and has undoubtedly struggled at times this season, but it provided the boost that the Wolverines needed on the road to pick up the victory.

It Was Over When:

When these two teams met a month ago at Crisler, Michigan was never able to put the Golden Gophers away. The Wolverines flirted with double-digit leads, but never stretched the margin to safety and then allowed a late run in the first half before getting caught in a dogfight throughout much of the second.

On Wednesday night at the Barn, Michigan appeared to avoid that mistake when it stretched its lead to 19  points in the second half, but the Gophers had one final run left in the tank. Minnesota trimmed Michigan’s lead to just 2 points with under two minutes to play and the Wolverines found themselves on the ropes.

After getting burned defensively on the previous possession, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman had the answer. The sophomore guard drove baseline and overpower a Gopher defender to finish the and-one layup. On the next offensive possession the Wolverines turned the ball over, but Abdur-Rahkman helped seal the game by chasing down a fastbreak and tipping the ball off of a Gopher defender to get Michigan the ball back.

Stat of the Game: Three-point shooting

Michigan was shooting under 30% from three-point range over its last three contests and finally managed to snap the drought at The Barn. The Wolverines made 14 of 25 three-point attempts (56 percent) in the victory, the most they’ve knocked down since their Big Ten home-opening win over Penn State.

Four Factors

miny four factors
  • Mattski

    I agree with the guy over at mgoblog who blamed kenpom for the fact that the ending was so stressful. But RAAK, DWalt and Robinson all came up big tonight, and our bigs had their moments. Just curious to know if there was something wrong with Irvin.

    • John

      That happens sometimes with him. Irvin can look like a legit All-American(Penn State, Maryland) and then can look like an absolute mess like last night. I don’t know if I remember a Michigan player with higher peaks and lower valleys than Irvin.

    • mikey_mac

      The back injury has killed Irvin’s vertical and what little he had in terms of explosiveness this season. Hard to finish over more athletic 4s on hand-off drives when you can’t either get that extra half step or get above the rim. He’s made due, but you can also see he’s lacking the ability to own what look like mismatches on paper.

  • gobluemd16

    Gotta keep the foot on the gas. Aren’t near good enough defensively for any lead to be safe which is scary. Thought the refs helped Minn big time down the stretch with 3-4 touch fouls on drives. FT shooting obviously an issue. I basically trust Walton, Robinson, and mostly Rahk. That’s it. Doyle plays like he has cement in his shoes and Donnal finished very soft for the first time in a while tonight. Left 6 or so points on the floor. Regardless, so relieved to get a win. Hope Caris can finally return on Saturday — going on 6+ weeks now..

  • AC1997

    Walton would have had about 11 assists if our bigs would hold on to the ball or go up stronger. I really wish Wilson or Chatman would play like Jordan Murphy. He is the perfect 4-man that we could use. Hustle, defense, post play, blocked shots, athleticism.

    • John

      There is slow, but noticeable, progress in this department. A month ago, I agree, the bigs looked unable to catch a pass, let alone finish. However, I am please to see Ricky Doyle getting some of his mojo back, at least offensively. Donnal is the most skilled of our bigs, but Doyle is the all around most effective in terms of eating space, contesting shots and finishing at the rim. Even if the progress I am seeing is Doyle being the right place, catching the ball, getting fouled and hitting one of two from the line, it is still progress. Donnal is an important player, but Doyle HAS TO be able to play at or near the level he finished last year. Given the teams current make up, I think he is the most important interior player on the team and I think he is slowly rounding into form.

  • Tuff Enough

    The bottomline you have a team that has lost it leaders with Spike and LeVert and its a big Deal period. All you have to do was watch how poor Michigan State played with there star player out it was night and day..