NCAA 2017: Michigan vs. Oklahoma State Recap

Dylan Burkhardt

Michigan vs. Oklahoma State lived up to its billing on Friday afternoon.

The Wolverines and Cowboys exchanged baskets and dazzling plays by their star point guards in a breathtaking back and forth affair. The game featured 12 ties and 16 lead changes but Michigan had just enough firepower to advance.

The Wolverines found themselves facing early deficits in both halves, but figured out a way to regroup, adjust and take control of the game in both instances. That’s a luxury that teams have when they have the best point guard on the floor and Derrick Walton kept up his dominant March.

Walton was just 1-of-6 from the field in the first half, but he made 6-of-7 shots in the second including 5 threes, one of which was from the March Madness logo at center court. He finished with 26 points and 11 assists, leaving another highly touted individual point guard match-up in the dust. He also had some help as three other starters reached double figures and five Wolverines made at least one three-pointer.

This was an unforgettable offensive performance and a defensive performance that was every bit as bad. Basically everything that we wrote this week previewing the game turned out to be true: Michigan couldn’t defend Oklahoma State and Oklahoma State couldn’t defend Michigan. The Wolverines just hit a couple more shots when it counted.

Michigan’s offense has actually played four better games (IU, at NEB, MES, C Ark) this season, which is scary to think about, but this was a flawless offensive showing. The Wolverines scored 1.41 points per possession in a 65 possession affair — slightly closer to the Wolverines’ average of 62 possessions per game.  Michigan shot better from three (16-of-29) than two (13-of-27) and there were times when it felt like they just couldn’t miss from beyond the arc.

Early on in the game, there were some rocky moments for the U-M offense. The Wolverines missed 7 of their first 8 threes until Zak Irvin broke the seal with 8:09 to play in the first half. Michigan would only miss seven more threes for the rest of the game, going on to make 16 three-point attempts on the day.

The offensive numbers for the game are impressive, the second half numbers are insane. Both teams scored 51 points in 32 possessions for an incredible 1.58 points per possession. The Wolverines had an 86% effective field goal percentage in the second half as they made a ridiculous 11 threes on 15 attempts. Not to be forgotten in Michigan’s offensive performance is the fact that the Wolverines only turned the ball over 4 times in 65 possessions (and Beilein still complained about the turnovers when discussing the game with media) and outscored the Cowboys 15-7 in points off giveaways.

Defensively, Michigan held Jawun Evans to 23 points on 10-of-26 shooting, but he also handed out 12 assists to 4 turnovers. Add in the missed floaters that were put back in his by his wings and wings and he was responsible for most of Michigan’s headaches on the night. His dribble penetration gave the Wolverines fits all game and was the number one reason that Oklahoma State managed to rebound half of its missed shots.

March is about figuring out how to win a game and moving onto the next one. Michigan got the job done even if it wasn’t always comfortable and will face Louisville in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Michigan probably won’t score 1.4 points per possession against Louisville, but the Cardinals also probably don’t have the firepower to keep up in a similar shootout.

Player Bullets:

  • Derrick Walton: Maybe you thought Walton’s March heroics were over at halftime after he missed 6 of his 7 shots from the floor. Maybe you thought the time was up when John Beilein yanked him out of the game and Oklahoma State extended its lead to 6 points in the second half. You’d be wrong, Walton is still here and he’s still dominating. He not only spent the entire game chasing Jawun Evans around (until he picked up his third foul late), he also recorded a 26 point, 11 assist triple-double while making 6-of-9 threes. He only made one two-pointer on the night, but it was the dagger as he muscled Evans into the paint and knocked in a 10-footer to push the Wolverines’ lead to 7 with under a minute to play. The game is a lot easier when the best player on the floor wears your uniform and Walton keeps proving that.
  • Zak Irvin: Irvin went the full 40 minutes and scored 16 points on 6-of-11 (4-6 3pt) shooting with 3 assists to 0 turnovers. It would have been almost unthinkable to expect this kind of performance from him a couple weeks ago, but he was locked in and hit some huge shots down the stretch — none bigger than his pull-up jumper with 1:50 to play and Michigan leading by only 3 points.
  • DJ WilsonWilson went 40 minutes, scoring 19 points on 6-of-12 shooting, grabbed five rebounds, blocked four shots and handed out an assist. Wilson at the five has emerged as Michigan’s closing lineup and it’s hard to knock it. He’s holding his own defensively and gives Michigan more flexibility to defend ball screens and he’s also the best rim protector on the roster. Some of his block opportunities lead to offensive rebounds, but this was another impressive two-way game by the big forward.
  • Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman: Michigan’s forgotten man, Abdur-Rahkman had 16 points on 6-of-11 (3-6 3pt) shooting with 4 assists, a block and a steal in 38 minutes. Somehow that was the fourth-most notable performance in the Michigan box score. Phil Forte only made 1-of-4 threes on the game and Abdur-Rahkman was also glued to him all game, chasing him off the line. Abdur-Rahkman was very effective early in the game attacking switches (and getting in the lane) and he really carried the Wolverines for stretches of the first half.
  • Moritz WagnerWagner was out of the game with fouls before the first TV timeout, but the trust that John Beilein showed to insert him back into the game in the first half paid dividends. It was a gamble given Wagner’s tendency to commit silly fouls, but it worked. Wagner checked into the game with 7:51 to play and Michigan trailing by 7. He promptly scored cutting to the basket and left the court two and a half minutes later with the lead down to 2. Wagner had some brutal stretches defensively guarding ball screen action — he said after the game that he knew what to do, but just wasn’t executing — and that forced Beilein’s hand to go with Wilson late.
  • Mark DonnalDonnal played 8 minutes in the first half and got fouled on a nice pump fake move to get to the basket, but it’s clear that in crunch time Beilein is going to go with Wilson at the five over Donnal.
  • Duncan Robinson: Robinson hit a couple of critical threes (2-of-4), but he also missed the front-end of one-and-ones twice in the last minute. He’s a 78% free throw shooter on the year, but those misses almost cost the Wolverines late.
  • Xavier SimpsonSimpson only played 2 minutes and it was clear that Evans was one of the first times in a while that the game just looked too fast for him.
  • MrLG

    Thanks for the writeup Dylan. Any chance we could get a video of the post-game interview with the OSU coach?

    Unrelated, but is Dylan a minor celebrity at the tournament? I assume you must be giving some interviews as a UM expert, right?

  • rlcBlue

    So it may not sound like much, but the one objective the defense was able to deliver on was not helping off of shooters. OSU attempted 16 threes to our 29. It was just enough to win the game.

    • Yes — I was going to write that, then I saw Evans had double digit assists and took it out. But they did lock down the shooters (at the expense of the roll man).

      • rlcBlue

        He was outstanding, no doubt. It’s hard to tell from just the boxscores, but I’m guessing maybe Baylor was the only team all year that managed to keep him out of the paint. Their zone might be better than I give them credit for.

  • gobluemd16

    Great write-up as always, Dylan. Do you happen to have the box score that you usually put at the end of your write-ups available?

  • Gordon

    Great write-up for a great game! On the Jawun Evans note, he was racking up “Kobe Assists” like crazy ( )

    • Yep, mentioned the Kobe assists this week in the preview stuff.

      • Gordon

        You caught me — I skimmed the preview stuff :D

        • All good, that kid can really play. Lightning quick with the ball.

          • shielste

            And he’s only a Sophomore. The Big-12 is going to hope and pray he leaves for the NBA sooner rather than later.

  • MattBuckets

    Dylan, have you heard anything on the game-time for Sunday?

    • Should be announced tonight. I’m told that if you were going to wager on it, you would want to bet on one of the two earlier timeslots on Sunday.

      • MattBuckets

        That’s good news, I’m hoping earlier. Thanks

  • Champswest

    It is hard to watch players who just lost a game, have to sit there and answer questions. So painful. I thought the coach was very classy, much like Beilein always is.
    Huge game for Walton, Irvin and MAAR. Happy for Irvin, especially.
    Can’t say enough about Wilson. He seems to be getting better every game. If he keeps this up, he is going to be a monster next year.

    • JumpStop21

      Are you talking about a Press Conference with Brad Underwood and the OSU players? Where did you find it? Or see it? I was interested in hearing their reactions, but couldn’t find it anywhere online. (I probably just don’t know where to look.)

  • Mat Dolata

    Great recap. Nice work today and all year Dylan.

  • Tony DeMaria

    Simpson has showed me enough flashes to know that he is going to be leading this team soon enough. He is just still too green to make a major impact on this team. Looking forward to Wagner/Wilson/MAAR/Simpson next year though

  • ChathaM

    Now I know why many analysts picked OSU to win this game. They are an absolute beast to guard, and on an ordinary day, they do win this game. But, once again, we make the plays (in this case, shots) that must be made to pull out a win. I was fortunate enough to get to Indy for the weekend, so I could see Underwood’s reactions as 3 after 3 dropped; utter throw up your hands frustration. The resilience of our guys in incredible, as it was clear early on that we would have trouble guarding, and we were missing plenty of shots. But, no panic, and on to the 2nd round.

    I’m really happy about the B1G going 5-2 thus far. I had thought (or maybe just hoped) that this wasn’t as down a year in the conference as many have said, and that it was simply a balanced league with lots of teams that could do March damage. Hopefully, we’ll see 2 or 3 sweet 16 teams from the B1G.

    If anyone saw the second game of the day, Norbertas Giga from JSU was probably the best player on the floor, putting up 30 on one of the best defensive teams in the country. He’s a future pro.

  • jemblue

    The fact that Zak is able to go the full 40 (sometimes 45) minutes each game is a real luxury. This team’s conditioning level must be fantastic.

  • Chris De Sana

    That whole employment thingy got in the way of seeing the game live but was able to catch a good portion of it on replay.

    Great win for sure but did notice they once again struggled to find the big when they had a major size advantage after a switch.

    Will Louisville do the same? And if so would finding that big create opportunity close to the rim?