Game 13: Furman at Michigan Recap

Dylan Burkhardt

After breezing through a pair of laughers and with a 9 day holiday break on the horizon, Michigan was caught in a trap game on Thursday night.

Furman didn’t care about Big Ten play, Christmas or the Crisler Center crowd. This was a team that had already won four road games this season and hadn’t lost a game by more than 6 points. The Paladins might not be a great team, but they came into the Crisler Center with a plan to not beat themselves and they executed it.

Furman slowed the game down to a crawl (25 first half possessions) and executed well with a small ball lineup. As much as Michigan might have hoped, there was no chance of Christmas break starting early. The first half went back and forth at a snail’s pace before Michigan pulled away with a narrow 6 point half time lead. The Paladins immediately opened the second half with an 11-0 run of their own and never went away.

The Wolverines were able to pull away down the stretch with a couple of mid-range jumpers by Zak Irvin and a dagger three-pointer by Derrick Walton, but they never led by double-digits.


At first glance, it’s easy to call the Paladins an unlucky team this season after they’ve lost 6 games by 6 points or fewer. On the other hand, their defensive strategy of forcing teams into such a high volume of three-pointers and having them all miss seems like it will run out eventually. Teams are shooting just 29.6% (28th) from three against Furman, but attempt 39.7% of their shots from distance (277th).

On Thursday night, Michigan attempted 36% of its field goals from three-point range, but could barely will one into the basket. U-M went almost the entire second half without making a three, missing its first 12, before Derrick Walton sealed the game with a nice jab step triple. The Wolverines were due for a cold night from three after shooting so well for the past three games, but it will be tough to win many more games this season going just 4-of-20 from long distance.

The Wolverines did other things well offensively. They didn’t turn the ball over, they made their twos and they got to the free throw line (making all of 16 attempts). This ended up as almost an average offensive night for Michigan (1.14 PPP) despite such terrible three-point shooting and that’s an encouraging sign for when the threes do fall.

Michigan made some critical plays defensively down the stretch, but there were also a lot of defensive red flags heading into Big Ten play. The biggest concern will be just how effective Furman was attacking the basket, both in transition and half court. The Paladins shot 61% on twos and got to the free throw line 16 times.

The numbers corrected over time, but there were also some really bad defensive rebounding moments for the Wolverines. Furman didn’t have a starter over 6-foot-6, and was one of the worst offensive rebounding teams in the country,  but got a number of frustrating long rebounds and second chances off of missed shots. The Paladins’ undoing was the turnover. They gave the ball away on 22.4% of their offensive possessions and Michigan turned those 13 giveaways into 23 points.

This is only the third time that Michigan has allowed an opponent to score over a point per possession (VTech, UCLA) and that’s not the best way to finish the non-conference slate.

A bit of a wakeup call might not be the worst thing for the Wolverines heading into a long layover. Big Ten games aren’t going to come this easy and the Iowa team that Michigan will face on New Year’s Day is looking at a 5 game winning streak and has turned things around after a dreadful 3-5 start.

Player Bullets:

  • Zak IrvinIrvin couldn’t buy a three and missed a couple of late mid-range jumpers, but he also hit a pair of critical late shots and played a good all around game. The senior guard tallied 7 assists to 1 turnover and had a number of great high passes to Michigan’s big men rolling to the hoop. Irvin also did a good job of driving for the first two-thirds of the game, getting the basket and the free throw line. I didn’t think the late elbow jumpers were necessarily bad looks as he attacked the switch, because he hits that right elbow jumper at 45%. I also think Irvin deserves some credit for a few bright moments defensively, praise that I haven’t doled out to him often.
  • Moritz WagnerAt this point, I think Wagner plays better against more traditional bigs. He had some leverage issues against the shorter and stronger Kris Acox and missed a handful of bunnies at the rim despite Furman lacking a shot blocking threat. He hit his first triple on the night, but kind of fell in love with the long distance shot and finished 1-of-5 from deep. I know people are screaming for Wagner to get more touches, but he led the team in shots tonight in 28 minutes. He’s leading the team in usage rate and used 36% of Michigan’s possessions on the night. He also led the team in scoring despite missing several shots he’ll want back. At this point he’s a critical cog in Michigan’s offense and they’ve proven that they need his scoring.
  • Derrick Walton: Walton hit the dagger three off the jab step late, but he also had a couple of nice takes to the rim in the second half. He had a ridiculous layup in transition through a foul and then a nice bank shot from the right. He wasn’t very involved distributing (1 assist), but this was a solid showing with some big time late shots from the senior point guard.
  • Duncan Robinson: Robinson has slowly been rounding into form and played another very good game off the bench. He had some really nice passes (4 assists) and was as aggressive and effective as I’ve ever seen him when he attacked the rim. Robinson was 2-of-3 inside the arc and 1-of-3 from outside in an impressive 28 minutes.
  • DJ WilsonWilson scored 7 points on 2-of-5 shooting and grabbed 3 rebounds in a quiet 32 minute performance. He needs to continue to get stronger with the ball when he has two hands on a rebound as he got one stripped away late tonight. He also is still figuring out how to deal with guarding significantly shorter players on the perimeter.
  • Mark DonnalDonnal scored 6 points and grabbed three rebounds in 11 minutes. He showed some good chemistry with Irvin in the pick-and-roll game and also hit a big time mid-range jumper in the second half that the Wolverines needed.
  • Muhammad-Ali Abdur-RahkmanAbdur-Rahkman isn’t giving Michigan a whole lot and at this point I think that the staff may need to look at replacing him in the lineup with Duncan Robinson. Abdur-Rahkman went scoreless, missing 3 shot attempts,
  • Xavier SimpsonHe didn’t make many glaring mistakes when he was on the floor for 5 minutes, but he didn’t do anything to stand out either.
  • AC1997

    Dylan – I thought a few of your observations were spot on. Here are a few of mine:
    — Wagner maybe fell in love with the 3 a little too much, but he has been hitting them and I didn’t think any of his were bad shots or even really contested.
    — Do you have any idea why Walton can’t get the typical “assumed” calls when he goes to the rim? I feel like he effectively draws contact but never gets a call (except the crazy and-1 late). Meanwhile you have refs consistently making that horrible “assumed foul” call against Michigan 2-3 times in the post (not quite as bad as the phantom foul called when Grayson Allen went to the hoop).
    — I agree with some of your defensive comments as Wilson got blown by a lot and gave up a lob dunk while Michigan had a couple of bad decisions when in chaos-recovery-mode. But overall I felt like Michigan made Furman work hard for their points and I liked how they defended screens and kept their hands in the passing lanes.
    — Was it just me, or did it feel like a fluke of a game where a lot of weird things fell against Michigan? Besides the odd struggles from 3 for Michigan you had several times when Michigan got their hands on a pass….only for it to fall right in the hands of Furman for an open shot. Then there were the long rebounds when Michigan had boxed out well. And then there was the start of the second half when Michigan missed a wide open three, an open mid-range shot, and a contested layup by Wagner. The offense worked, the shots just didn’t fall and Furman got a run to take the lead.

    • ChathaM

      There were two broken plays where Furman players ended up wide open with the ball at the 3-point line, and they knocked down both shots. Those were both pretty fluky plays.

  • Wayman Britt

    Irvin won the game for UM by playing great denying defense in the closing seconds. Encouraging.

  • AA7596

    5 offensive boards for Wagner is nice, considering that he goes quiet sometimes on the glass. Club Tril for Simpson—not so nice.

    One thing that shouldn’t be overlooked is that for the first time in 3 years, U-M got through the nonconference without injury. Not even a hangnail, actually. Health is especially vital this season, since this is a 7-man rotation right now.

    • Wayman Britt

      Great point about no injuries, hope it lasts through the rest of the season.

  • Mattski

    Lot of the bounces went their way; offense flowed to develop looks that didn’t fall; we could as easily have won by 10-12. I’m happy with this game and Beilein is, too. The sweetest thing for me is that we stayed extremely patient and didn’t fold, and the two seniors came up clutch at the end: bunch of key buckets by Zak, who didn’t hang his head when he missed a couple late; that beauteous dagger from Derek; and Zak’s stirring D to keep their guard from advancing to the lane.

  • Champswest

    Michigan led by 8 at the end until the final layup cut the final margin to 6.
    I have been noticing Duncan’s improved passing all year, especially when he throws it into the other bigs. He is tall enough to see over and throw it over shorter defenders.
    Mo seems to get himself too deep in the paint too often and the backboard becomes another defender making it harder for him to score down low.
    I like the lineup of Walton, Irvin, Robinson, Wilson and Wagner. If Rahk doesn’t play better defense than he played last night, we might as well have Robinson out there.
    10-3 heading into league play feels pretty good.

    • Good call. Brain fart on my part.

    • gobluemd16

      I consider 10-3 to be just okay, or “holding serve.” We didn’t really help ourselves in the nonconference, but didn’t hurt ourselves either. Beating VT and being 11-2 would have me feeling a lot better. That loss still stings. Overall, my preseason expectations are unchanged. I think the O/U of 10.5 B1G wins that I mentioned before the year is still the baseline.

      • ChathaM

        One key with the non-con schedule is that we’re now in position for something that I’m sure helped get us into the tourney last year; no “bad” losses.

        • MrLG

          That’s a good point, we haven’t come close to a bad loss. There was no shame in losing to SC on the road. The worst loss was Va Tech, but oddly enough the KenPom for VT is now up to 35, so hardly an RPI disaster. Note that Texas has also been climbing, their KenPom is now 69.

  • ChathaM

    Michigan is 5th in D1 with 80.1% shooting from the free throw line. Unfortunately, they’re tied for 309th with only 17 FT attempts per game. Unless Rahkman can turn his season around, I don’t see how we can get to the line more often.

    • AA7596

      U-M usually ranks quite high in FT% (42nd/18th/10th last 3 years), and they should. Michigan never has a raw big who can’t shoot, so there’s nobody who drags down the averages.

    • Chris De Sana

      By feeding the low post, oops wrong team my bad.

  • MrLG

    Michigan couldn’t buy a 3 and they won. I’m totally cool with that. My observations:

    1. Although X only played 6 minutes, JB put him at key moments and he was effective.

    2. Weird effin team at times. Zach is the point forward. DW is the 6 ft guard forward who specializes in rebounding.

    3. The Duncan for MAAR substitution works well. That was our best lineup. Agree that MAAR may soon lose his job.

    4. Overall, a great game for Zach.