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.