Five Key Plays: Mount St. Mary’s at Michigan

Dylan Burkhardt

Michigan knocked off Mount St. Mary’s on Saturday night to bounce back from its first loss. The Wolverines extended their lead to 18 points early in the second half, but allowed The Mount to crawl back into the game. 

1. Junior Robinson’s hot start

5-foot-5 point guard Junior Robinson came to play on Saturday night. Robinson was just 11 of 32 on twos and 8-of-28 on threes entering Saturday night’s game, but he made just about everything out of the gate.

“He’s a tough dude to stay in front of. He’s Spud Webb a little bit, what he can do to people,” John Beilein said after the win. “It’s just hard to stay in front of him. I don’t know if they were blown coverages as much as he’s gonna show you a jump-shot, which we’re going to take away, and he’s going to cross over and he’s about this high…when he crosses over, his nose is on the ground. I’ve never seen a guy take a charge with their knees, that’s where he is.”

Robinson scored Mount St. Mary’s first 9 points and scored from just about every spot on the floor: mid-range, at the rim and from beyond the arc. He finished with 21 of Mount St. Mary’s 47 points in the loss.

2. Zak Irvin gets back on track

Zak Irvin played arguably the worst game of his career at South Carolina on Wednesday. He couldn’t make a shot, turned the ball over 8 times and fouled out. If anyone needed a bounce back game, it was Michigan’s 6-foot-6 senior forward.

“I made the correlation, it was like Caris Levert’s SMU game last year. Nothing could go for him. He just didn’t make some plays that we’re used to Zak making,” Beilein said. “So I love it. He had great energy, he took the coaching really well the last two days about how he may be trying to do too much sometimes, about some tendencies that he’s had that are out there on scout that he’s gotta realize he can’t continue to do or people will take away.”

Irvin scored Michigan’s first 8 points with a pair of threes and a layup in transition. He finished with 14 points and four assists in 40 minutes and, most importantly, didn’t record a single turnover.

3. Moritz Wagner helps extend the lead

Moe Wagner’s offensive skillset isn’t in question at this point. He’s proven that he can hit the three, attack off the bounce and get involved in the pick-and-roll game. He showed off the whole arsenal of offensive moves late in the first half as Michigan extended its lead down the stretch.

“[Wagner’s] learning what he can do,” Beilein said. “He still had 4 turnovers. Mark came in and gave us a great defensive effort. (It’s) a process for Moe to be a more efficient defensive player.”

Where Wagner needs to continue to progress is on the defensive side of the ball and making better decisions at all times. His four turnovers are a concern as he tries to force the issue, but Michigan needs to keep getting him into positions where he can succeed because he adds an additional element to the Wolverine offense.

4. The Mount makes a run

Michigan looked to be on its way to an easy victory when it extended its lead to 18 points midway through the second half. Suddenly, Mount St. Mary’s put together a run of its own and cut the Wolverine lead to just eight points with under five minutes to go.

The downside to the Mount St. Mary’s run wasn’t so much that the final result was in question, but that Michigan’s freshmen couldn’t earn much valuable playing time off the bench. Zak Irvin played 40 minutes, Derrick Walton played 36 and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman played 34. Freshman guard Xavier Simpson played just 8, Ibi Watson played 2 and Jon Teske did not play.

“That run they had was what I was trying to protect (against),” Beilein explained. “Ibi and X are working so hard and extra right now. But as you can see, it can go to eight like that. And right now, like most freshmen, defensively, they’re trying to figure a lot of things out.

“And so I can’t give the rest — tomorrow, they have rest, and then we’ll work hard Monday, Tuesday with X and Ibi so that every day they get closer to getting in there. If we’re still playing this way in the middle of January and February, it’s going to be a hard year. These guys, we’ve just got to bring them along, win games, rest, bring them along, win games, rest.”

5. Michigan answers

It can be hard to lock back in after thinking you are about to coast to an easy finish, but Michigan had to do just that after letting its lead slip away.

Zak Irvin was up to the task with the immediate answer, just as he was early on in the game when Junior Robinson got off to his hot start. Irvin attacked in the ball screen game and got to one of his favorite spots on the floor — the right elbow — with a quick behind the back dribble. Irvin buried the shot and then Michigan iced away the game with a two offensive rebound possession that ended with a Mark Donnal tip in.

Michigan rebounded 34% of its misses on the night, dominating the glass against a Mount St. Mary’s team that only rebounded 11% of its misses.

  • Wayman Britt

    I know it’s only November, but I am a little worried about the slow development of X and Ibi. X is a good defender, but hasn’t shown anything on offense. As Junior Robinson showed everybody, little guys can score. Ibi on the other hand is just not ready in any facet of the game. Let’s hope they learn fast in December.

    • AA7596

      Little guys can score, but they need to be able to shoot. As Beilein indicated regarding Junior Robinson, U-M wanted to take away his jumper, which then enabled him to blow by people. That only works if the defense respects your jumper.

      Yogi Ferrell is another example. He was super-quick, but the key with him was you couldn’t back off him because his shot was deadly. Simpson will at least need to have a solid jumper in his arsenal to be effective.

      • AA7596

        Conversely, Tum Tum Nairn’s first two years at MSU are what you get if you’re 5-10 and can’t shoot. (Looks like he’s off to a better start this year, though.)

  • Indiana_Matt

    Glenn Robinson had 2nd good game in a row starting for Pacers in place of PG-13 (17 pt, 6 rb). Just throwing out positive vibes where I find them!

  • bobohle

    This weeks coaches poll has Michigan with 47 Votes just a couple notches out of the top 25 with just 4 votes ahead of Sparty. The only three B1G teams ranked ahead of Michigan Indians,Wiscosin and Purdue.

    • bobohle

      Typo: I meant – ranked teams ahead of Michigan are Indiana,Wisconsin and Purdue.

      • Wayman Britt

        MSU won’t be out of the top 25 long. They have just played a killer schedule. They have talent. There is a huge gap between MSU’s program and UM’s. I get so frustrated that a school like UM cannot compete against MSU. UM doesn’t have to surpass their program, but at least be competitive.

        • bobohle

          I agree especially if we end up with 9 or fewer conference wins and finish seventh or worse in the B1G. Although I really like John Beilein as a Coach, he needs to start landing his elite targets. There is no reason a school of Michigan’s stature can’t land one per season. Also our assistants may be excellent coaches, however our last four asst coaches have come from non power 5 conference teams not being used to the every game grind recruiting wise and competition wise against the top competition. Jeff Meyer is the only one being from IU. We need to land Mo Bamba.

          • bobohle

            Football learned this by hiring John Harbaugh after hiring Rich Rod and Brady Hoke,both coming from non power 5 conference teams. This is just an example. I am not implying John Beilein,s job should be in jeopardy. As I stated earlier he is an excellent coach.

          • nswan

            Rich Rod came from WVU (formerly Big East and now Big 12)

          • bobohle

            Big East was not a Power 5 for football back then.

          • nswan

            You are right, I think there was a term like “automatic qualifying” conferences at the time. Prior to the Big East split though, they were considered part of that upper echelon of conferences for football (although markedly not as good as the others)