NCAA 2016: Michigan vs. Tulsa Recap

Dylan Burkhardt

It wasn’t always pretty, but Michigan is on a plane headed to New York City instead of packing up to head home one final time. The Wolverines outlasted Tulsa in Dayton on Wednesday night in a game that was everything you’d expect from a First Four matchup of bubble teams. It was frustrating and marred by poor shooting, but still filled with excitement until the closing seconds.

The first half featured a woeful offensive performance from both teams until Michigan used a methodical 19-4 run over the final 9:27 to seize momentum. It only took 150 seconds of the second half for that momentum to evaporate. Tulsa immediately tied the game and hamstrung Michigan point guard Derrick Walton to the bench with foul trouble for the remainder of the game.

From there the game went back-and-forth with both teams exchanging runs, missed threes and defensive breakdowns. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman carried Michigan through the bulk of the second half only to give way for Zak Irvin to play hero in the final minute.

Irvin’s three-pointer with :57 seconds left was the difference, but Michigan got double-digit scoring production from four of five starters and a critical emotional lift off the bench from Moritz Wagner.

Make no mistake about it, this team still has the same flaws it has demonstrated throughout the season. But it’s starting to develop a new-found sense of resiliency and toughness. Michigan players who used to fold in critical situations have started to embrace them and it has paid off against Northwestern, Indiana and now Tulsa.

The Wolverines have resuscitated their season three times in the last four games while trailing in the final minute — a phenomenon that seems to have instilled just a bit more belief across the board.

tulsa factors

Michigan’s offense managed to top a point per possession, but only barely. The first 10 minutes of play were almost unbearable to watch as the Wolverine offense ground into the ground with missed shot after missed shot. The second half was better, but the idea that suddenly the three-pointers are just going to start falling becomes harder and harder to believe. The Wolverines made just 6-of-25 long range efforts for their third-straight sub-30% three-point shooting night.

Tulsa scored just 20 points in 30 first half possessions (.67 PPP), but rang up 42 points in 33 second half possessions (1.27 PPP). Despite the second half issues, Tulsa was the first team that Michigan held below a point per possession since Purdue on Feb. 13th. Over its prior 15 games, the Wolverines had only accomplished that feat twice.

In the second half, Tulsa realized that Michigan had no answer for Shaquille Harrison — especially with Walton on the bench. Harrison drove his way to the basket all night and finished the game with 23 points on 10-of-13 shooting. Despite its inability to contain Harrison, Michigan deserves some credit for sticking to its principles against the other four Tulsa players on the floor. Harrison’s teammates were just 15-of-43 (34.8%) from the floor with 9 turnovers. Those turnovers were perhaps the most critical element of the night. Michigan managed to turn Tulsa over just enough and converted 11 Hurricane giveaways into 20 points in the opposite direction. The Wolverines’ fast breaks weren’t always pretty, but they usually resulted in two-points.

Michigan was headed to the Dayton airport tonight to head to Brooklyn where it’ll face Notre Dame (9:40 p.m., CBS). The Irish have one of the elite offenses in the country, but they also have a defense ranked 64 spots behind Michigan’s. The early KenPom spread is Notre Dame by 2 (73-71, 55%) in a game that feels like an inevitable shoot out.

Michigan 67, Tulsa 62-32

Player Bullets:

  • Moritz Wagner: Wagner was phenomenal, recording a team-high +12 in his 22 minutes. He played more minutes than any of Michigan’s bigs and probably deserved even more. He was disruptive defensively (4 blocks, 1 steal) and active offensively (4 points, 1 assist) while grabbing 8 rebounds.  He completely changed the complexion of the game when he was on the floor and Notre Dame looks like another game where he could play a key role.
  • Zak Irvin: I’m not going to argue that Irvin’s shot selection needs work and that he needs to stop over-dribbling himself into trouble (3 turnovers), but he hit some huge shots tonight. He finished the game with 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting (2-5 3pt) and flat out stuck some ridiculously tough mid-range twos. Add in the game-winning three and it turned out to be a strong performance for Irvin.
  • Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman: We’ve talked and talked about how Michigan needs someone that can deck the ball and create offense when things break down and Abdur-Rahkman is by far the best that Michigan has in that department. He was just 5-of-16 (0-3 3pt), but he got to the free throw line 8 times and hit some huge shots including an incredible bank shot in the final five minutes. His perimeter shot wasn’t falling, but he did a great job of attacking closeouts once he realized that he didn’t have the three-point stroke.
  • Duncan Robinson: Robinson was just 2-of-5 from three-point range, but got on the stat sheet in other ways. He grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds and scored 13 points including 3-of-5 shooting inside the arc and a team-high 4 assists. Michigan could really use one of those vintage 5-of-7 three-point shooting nights from Robinson, but his growth in other areas paid off tonight.
  • Derrick Walton: Walton was the reason that Michigan took control of the game in the first half, but his foul trouble was the reason that Tulsa got right back in the game. He was never able to find his rhythm again in the second half (2 points, 0-2 fg, 1 turnover) and Michigan will need more for him as it goes up against a former Wolverine target in Demetrius Jackson.
  • Mark DonnalDonnal had a critical second-half putback, but just looked a step or two slow against Tulsa’s quicker big men.
  • Ricky DoyleLate defensive rotations are killing Doyle and I have a hard time justifying playing him ahead of Wagner right now. Despite his struggles defensively, Doyle did make his only field goal attempt and knock in a pair of free throws in five minutes.
  • Aubrey DawkinsDawkins was 0-of-2 from the floor in 13 minutes, but did grab four rebounds.
  • Kam Chatman: Chatman managed to put up 5 shot attempts in one 4 minute spell during the first half and didn’t see the floor again in the second. 
  • Stephen Chang

    I would start giving more minutes for Wagner if I am Beilein because he has been more active and Doyle has not done a whole lot. Walton has to be more careful defensively because he can’t afford to get into foul trouble again. Looks like Irvin did a good job besides the turnovers and hopefully Beilein will use Dawkins and Chatman more along with DJ Wilson.

    • Fab 5 Legends

      agree with Wagner, he is the heart and soul of this team…question is can he stay out of foul trouble…i love having him on the court in late game situations…as for Dawkins (he looks lost out there) Chatman; i like that Beilein continues giving him opportunities, since he deserves it with his game-winning shot….DJ Wilson is not ready unfortunate – too much of a liability out there…hope Rahkman/Robinson continue to play well against ND – they will be difference makers in my opinion

      • Stephen Chang

        Robinson got his first career double-double and he did a good job. Chatman should get more time, I agree. MARR made a great shot that kissed off the glass. Michigan is slowly getting several players to score for them instead of relying on one person.

  • AC1997

    Frankly, I was surprised to read that both Irvin and Robinson managed to hit 40% from three. Felt like the entire team was shooting like 2%. How does a team full of shooters struggle so much??

    But what worried me more was that the ball screen game was entirely non-existent. I guess Tulsa was switching a ton of screens with their small lineup, but still.

    Really missed Spike last night since fouls totally negated Walton on both ends.

  • Wayman Britt

    Ugly game, but a win is nice. We have been waiting almost 6 games for the shooting touch to return, maybe Friday night.

    A couple of UMHoops posters made an observation during the game about something I have not seen or thought about before. Seem to be a little tiff between Walton and MAAR. Late in the shot clock, DW would wave MAAR off and MAAR would be what’s up with that and then DW would try to score with terrible results.

    • UMHoopsFan

      This is hogwash, those guys just spout nonsense.

  • MChem83

    Frankly not sure this game EVER looked pretty. This team just looks tired and uninspired, and plays most of the time like they wish the season were over. They are starting to remind me of an Amaker team that just tosses the ball around listlessly until they throw up a shot they hope goes in. Notable lack of energy, enthusiasm and chemistry.

    • jemblue

      I actually thought we had great energy in the first half, but just were cold from the perimeter. That was as good of team defense as we’ve played. I don’t know what happened after halftime, though, because in the second half our rotations never seemed to get there in time and we got abused on drives.

    • robpollard

      What? The team looked fine in terms of energy. They weren’t just chucking up shots; hey had so many wide-open looks in the first half. The problem is they weren’t hitting those looks — that has nothing to do with ‘uninspired’, just too much mediocre play.

      But the effort? Even Walton, who didn’t have a great game (as is unfortunately typical lately) played hard. And if some players looked slow, that’s b/c that’s their normal speed — Donnal and Doyle better start jumping rope or something as they need to move those feet.

      • MChem83

        Pretty much every other team I’ve watched today has shown more energy, more athleticism, more physicality than us. Hardly anyone on our team attacks the basket, and our bigs don’t even seem to think about it. Attacking the boards is unheard of. Compare the passing and overall chemistry on this team to two years ago…it isn’t even in the same league, and wasn’t even when LeVert was playing. Alley-oops? None…ever. Not even an attempt. And this is not just a cold streak on 3 point shooting..this team has something fundamentally wrong with it.

  • umnyc

    A win is a win, but wow this team can be frustrating to watch. Its probably too late in the season to make this change, but this offense is clearly designed for irvin and Walton to be playmakers, which leaves us with few options if they are not getting it done. Would love to see more of the offense go thru MAAR on Friday… and maybe even Robinson. We truly do not have any stars on this team, so the game plan should be able to pivot to who has the match up advantage on any given night. Also, I have to think Irvin is still not 100% because his inability to box out is killing us… although he did get the rebound at the end of the game when it counted.

    • Fab 5 Legends

      completely agree…our offense needs to have more Robinson/Rahkman plays out there…he runs through Walton/Irvin which is fine but as we seen yesterday all 4 contributed scoring wise which made for decent balance attack even if we had a bad shooting day….

  • MrLG

    Well if you were there, it was an incredibly fun game to watch. And very encouraging to see the things that Duncan, MAAR and Mo can now do. Those are the big 3 for next year, IMHO. Dylan, I would have also mentioned that Duncan had two blocks. DR did amazing things for a guy that was supposed to be a one dimensional 3 point shooter.

  • Champswest

    Every game we can get in the tourney this year, should help us more next year. Win and advance.
    Wagner was great, but Doyle is still valuable to bang against bigger centers. Can’t wait to see Mo as a junior.
    Would love to see at least one more great shooting night from this team.