Game 11: Central Arkansas at Michigan Recap

Dylan Burkhardt

When final exams and a cross country flight get more attention in the game preview than any player on the opposing team it has the makings of a long night. Michigan’s easy 97-53 win over Central Arkansas was only competitive for about five minutes.

The Wolverines started the game 1-of-7 from three-point range and only led 7-5 at the first media timeout. Then the shots started falling and the lead snowballed in a hurry. Michigan kept scoring like it was still in Westwood and made last Tuesday’s 53-50 grinding win over Texas feel lightyear’s away.

The Wolverines set single-game records with 19 made three-pointers and 45 attempts as nine different Wolverines made a triple, including freshman guard Ibi Watson who hit his first of the year to set the single-game record.

At the end of the day, the Tuesday night blowout was much more of an indictment of Central Arkansas than any meaningful sign about Michigan. It also proved that a switching match-up zone defense designed to funnel an opponent into taking three-pointers might not be the best strategy against a Beilein-coached team.

You can’t fault Michigan for its performance, even against an overmatched opponent, as it posted season-bests in offensive and defensive efficiency in the victory. All the Wolverines could do tonight was show up, play well and win and they did that while building off of the offensive confidence that they built at UCLA.


This was Michigan’s best offensive performance and best shooting performance of the season despite emptying the bench with over five minutes to play. Central Arkansas entered Tuesday night’s game allowing opponents to attempt 43.8% of their shot attempts from long distance (325th) and it was clear why. The Bears packed the lane with their matchup zone and over-helped on any sign of penetration, leading to wide open threes with any semblance of dribble penetration.

Michigan shot a lot of threes, taking what the defense provided, but it also almost all of its twos. The Wolverines shot 76% inside the arc and didn’t miss a two-point jumper until Mark Donnal missed a face-up jumper with 15 minutes to play.

The Bears entered this game with one of the worst half court offenses in the country and it showed. Michigan kept Central Arkansas out of transition and held it to just .78 points per possession. That’s basically the floor for how bad any offense can play and there wasn’t much to complain about from the Wolverines as they forced turnovers on a fifth of possessions, rebound 87% of Central Arkansas’ misses and won the free throw battle.

Michigan will repeat this exercise on Saturday when it hosts Maryland Eastern Shore, one of the 17 teams in the country with a worse defense than Central Arkansas.

Player Bullets:

  • Moe WagnerWagner’s offensive skill was on full display as he scored 18 points on 8-of-9 shooting and grabbed 7 rebounds in just 19 minutes. He scored from the post, he knocked in a mid-range jumper and hit a pair of threes. Wagner’s ability to put the ball in the basket is basically a given at this point and I’d expect to see the Wolverines continue to feed him the ball in spots where he can make plays as long as he stays on the floor. He’s shooting an incredible 73% on twos and 54% on threes for the season.
  • Zak Irvin: Irvin was efficient and had the three ball working (4-of-6), but the key (as always) with his jumper is that he was getting predominantly good shots: off of dribble penetration kick outs. He also grabbed 6 rebounds, tossed three assists and picked up a steal in a complete performance. We’ve harped a lot on Irvin’s consistency in the past, but right now he’s really only had two bad games (Texas, South Carolina) out of 11 and his three-point percentage is up to 40%.
  • DJ WilsonThere doesn’t need to be anything fancy to DJ Wilson’s game: rebound, defend and score around the hoop. He grabbed 7 boards, blocked a pair of shots, handed out two assists and finished with 11 points. Perhaps he was a bit three happy (1-of-4), but if Michigan gets an effort like this from DJ every night it’ll be in a good spot by year’s end.
  • Muhammad-Ali Abdur-RahkmanAs the discussion shifted to the importance of Abdur-Rahkman attacking the basket, he turned around and made 4-of-8 threes in the easy win. The threes were almost all open for the most part and they should help restore some confidence for the 6-foot-3 guard who was shooting just 25% from three entering tonight’s game. Attacking the basket is important, but this wasn’t the kind of game where Abdur-Rahkman was going to put his head down and get to the rim.
  • Xavier Simpson: Simpson tied a career high with 18 minutes and made some nice plays including a corner three in the first half. His active hands were obvious defensively (3 steals) even as he continues to learn how to play off the ball. It was nice to see him throw a few very nice passes in extended run as well: a baseline drive kickout, a sharp pass to Jon Teske who was fouled and a late dime to Sean Lonergan. At this point I think he needs as many live game minutes as he can over the next two weeks because he figures out ways to make plays, even if he makes a mistake first.
  • Derrick WaltonWalton was one of the only Wolverines to struggle with his shot (1-of-6 from three), but he did hand out 6 assists in the win. I thought he played better in transition than he has in some recent games, but there are going to be times that Michigan needs him to score beyond the three-point shot and I’m not sure how that’s going to happen. The best news for Derrick Walton? He only played 25 minutes and can hopefully continue to get some rest before Big Ten season starts.
  • Duncan Robinson: Both times that Robinson checked into the game off the bench he hit back-to-back pair of threes — exactly what the Wolverines need. After that initial burst, he usually got caught a little bit in between trying to do too much and just doing what he’s best at. He missed his other 5 shots and had two assists and two turnovers in 14 minutes.
  • Mark Donnal: One of the only Wolverines not to score, Donnal played a quiet 14 minutes and missed both shot attempts.
  • Ibi Watson: It was great to see Watson finally hit a three, but he’s going to have a hard time playing himself into the rotation at this point beyond spot minutes.
  • Jon Teske: Teske had a few awkward moments after checking into the game, but closed things out with a nice turnaround shot on the block. He’s going to have a hard time earning minutes because Wagner is playing so well and Donnal has been very solid off the bench.
  • rlcBlue

    That appears to be the box score for just the second half.

  • Barth Applefeld

    Robinson trying to do “too much” is okay in a game like this as long as the coaches said okay in the same way that X needs to play minutes. They’re both learning.

    • Yeah that’s true. I just feel like he’s getting himself into trouble when he overthinks things. Still throwing passes a second late or hesitating to shoot when he should just let it fly.

      • Mattski

        True, but he has shown more playmaking upside than I saw coming.

  • Champswest

    Glad the freshmen got minutes. In my perfect world, Beilein would work them in one at a time with the starters foe a few minutes on here and there. When we really need them, they will need to come in and play meaningful minutes with that group when the game is on the line.

    • He pretty much did that with X. Got a pretty solid shift with everyone other than Derrick Watson late.

      • Champswest

        That’s a start, but Ibi is the one that I am most concerned about.

  • MrLG

    Was the loss to UCLA a moral victory? I think this game answered the question. It sure seems like this team gained confidence.

    Other random things:

    1. The box score is hard to read. Minutes should be on the left and total points should be on the far right.

    2. No player bullet for Lonergan? He looked pretty good to me (again). If Ibi is not going to step up as a backup, maybe we should use Lonergan.

    3. I was disappointed that it took so long for X to get in the game. I mean, WTF, isn’t a 15 point lead good enough?

    • That’s just the official box score that I’ve been including this year.

      X played 18 minutes and Walton played 25. I thought he got in there at a pretty good spot (I liked that he got some run with several starters).

      • robpollard

        I appreciate the box score, and don’t expect — at all — you to change it, but it is not laid out in an optimal fashion — minutes, at the very least, should be on the far left. Someone flunked a basic design class with that one.

        • Just funny because that’s the ‘official box score’ or the one that they give you at halftime at the end of every game. So I’m used to it, just because I’ve looked at it so much. Definitely get what you guys mean though.

          • robpollard

            Interesting feedback. Someone at Michigan (or whoever designed it) made a real mistake, in my opinion: minutes “drives” all the rest of the numbers, so it coming first makes the most sense.

            When I see “Wagner 8-9”, that “8-9” means something completely different if he did it in 10 minutes vs 35 minutes. Same with every other number, but particularly fgs, pts, rebs and assists.

            By putting it at the far right, next to block and steals (two columns that mostly will have 0s or 1s in them), it makes it difficult to find the context, as you have to scan all the way from right to left to see who was productive.

          • Again this isn’t Michigan — it is every college box score. The program that records the stats spits them out like this. Considering they have every college on board.. I’m not sure they are really looking to make improvements :-)


            I also think it is one of those things where coaches, players, media have been looking at the same box score for so long that it might be a headache to change it.

          • robpollard

            Thanks for the clarification that it’s widely used — I still say it is bad design, for the reasons I stated.

            Beyond that, it’s not what’s used on official and widely used sites, as shown on the NCAA’s own site:

            Or here,

            Or here,


            Seems like “Statcrew” is just doing it to be different, not to be useful.

            In any case, my last comment on this. Anything you easily can put in the summaries is better than nothing, and I appreciate it.

  • robpollard

    Good writeup. The only person I watched this game, basically, was Simpson, as his improvement is critical for the team’s near and long-term future.

    “His active hands were obvious defensively (3 steals) even as he continues to learn how to play off the ball.” — 100% accurate, though a bit kind about off the ball. He got lost, more than once, off the ball and it led to layups. Lot of improvement necessary there.

    On offense, he had two, B1G level passes. I don’t care if it was scrub time, they would have worked against anyone. It was excellent to see.

    As far as his shot, at least he finally shot the ball a few times when it rotated to him, but he could have done it 1 or 2 more times when he was wide open. Additionally, a couple other times he showed high level quickness off the dribble and got himself an open shot, but he didn’t take it. Beilein needs to strongly encourage him to try and find his own shot and if he’s open, take it.

    Hopefully he plays 15+ minutes in each of the next two games and continues to show improvement.