NCAA 2017: Michigan vs. Louisville Recap

Dylan Burkhardt

Michigan spent three quarters of its NCAA Tournament win over Louisville just trying to stay alive. The Wolverines were trailing throughout and trying to just do enough to keep contact.

They clawed their way to a late tie in the first half before allowing an 8-0 run in the final minute of play. Then the lead hovered around 9 points early in the second before Zak Irvin hit three straight shots to send Michigan to the under 12 media timeout down by just 3 points.

That was just enough late life to give the Wolverines one more chance with their season on the line. Michigan finally tied the game at 51 with 9:16 to play before exchanging baskets with the Cardinals for a couple of possessions.

It was a three-pointer by Moritz Wagner — who tallied a career-high 26 points on 14 shot attempts — that gave Michigan the lead it would never relinquish. The Wolverines held on down the stretch with a clutch driving layup by Derrick Walton and four late game free throws by DJ Wilson to punch their ticket to their third Sweet Sixteen appearance in the last 5 years.

Michigan scored 1.18 points per possession for the game and the story was its ability to get down hill and get to the rim. Louisville tried and succeeded at taking away the three — Michigan attempted just 30% of its shots from three-point range and made 6-of-17 — but it exposed itself by taking away the three. The best way to attack pressure is with aggression and Michigan looked to its front court players to get down hill and get into the paint against mismatches.

The Wolverines shot 55% on two-point attempts for the game and were 14-of-21 inside the arc in the second half. Louisville managed to negate Derrick Walton, but the Michigan bigs proved that they were capable of getting isolation bucks. The Wolverines scored 40 points in the paint against the biggest and longest frontcourt that they’ve faced all season and it was enough to propel them to victory.

It’s something that we take for granted after watching Michigan all season, but turning the ball over just 6 times in 62 possessions (9% turnover rate) makes up for a lot of the defensive rebounding issues. The Wolverines gained 5 possessions in the turnover column and gave up 6 more offensive rebounds than they grabbed. As John Beilein said in his post game, there’s more than one way to win a game.

Defensively, Michigan really struggled against Louisville’s size in the front court. The Cardinals rebounded 42% of their misses and scored 12 second chance points. Louisville’s four post players were 12-of-17 from the floor, their teammates were just 16-of-37. Michigan mostly hung in there and tried to defend the bigs one-on-one and on the possessions. That led to a lot of easy baskets, but whenever those easy opportunities were denied the Cardinals guards couldn’t create offensive much with much efficiency.

This group of players that even John Beilein seemed to not be able to figure out in January is playing with as much confidence as any Michigan team since 2014. They’ve won 7 in a row and 12 of the last 14 and are playing like a team that is more serious about making a trip to Phoenix than one that’s just happy to be around. The Wolverines will face either Oregon or Rhode Island in the Sweet Sixteen in Kansas City on Thursday night.

Player Bullets:

  • Moritz Wagner: After watching Derrick Walton destroy every pick and roll switch for the last two weeks, Moritz Wagner had his turn. Wagner scored 26 points on 11-of-14 shooting and he carved up Louisville’s bigs and forwards off the dribble and on the block. Some of his offense came off of easy cuts, but he also hit a pick and pop three and scored on an array of spin moves and baseline drives. It was a career night for the German forward on the biggest stage that he’s ever seen and he scored 17 of his 26 in the second half. His McGary-like ability to grab steals is also turning into a gamechanger.
  • DJ Wilson: I thought Wilson would struggle against Louisville’s length, but he had 17 points on 6-of-13 (1-3 3pt) shooting with 3 blocks and a steal. He also hit the most important clutch free throws (4 in a row) for the second NCAA Tournament game in a row. Wilson has always shown flashes, but he’s doing so many different things and so consistently that you can see him growing into a star. His offensive isolation skills early were smooth and his ability to give Michigan some semblance of rim protection is also critical. Oh yeah, he can also step in and drill a critical pick and pop three with the game on the line.
  • Zak Irvin: Moe Wagner was the star, DJ Wilson hit the big free throws, and Derrick Walton made a critical late layup, but it was Zak Irvin who got Michigan up off the mat. Irvin scored three straight shots midway through the second half that cut the deficit to three. Irvin finished with 11 points on 5-of-9 shooting with 4 rebounds and two assists. It might not have been the biggest game that he ever played, but the result isn’t the same without that two minute stretch.
  • Derrick Walton: Walton was just 3-of-13 from the floor and 2-of-7 from deep, but he handed out 6 assists and grabbed 7 rebounds while making a ridiculously difficult driving layup at the rim with 29 seconds left. The shots that Walton was missing were the shots he had been making over the last two weeks so I have no problem with him taking them and even on an off day he had some critical makes.
  • Muhammad-Ali Abdur-RahkmanAbdur-Rahkman scored 6 points and handed out a pair of assists in 37 minutes. It was a quiet night, but his made baskets and free throws all were critical to Michigan’s second half comeback. The Wolverines ran one really nice set that helped isolate him on a switch and allowed him to get downhill on a drive.
  • Mark Donnal:  Donnal hit a big three in the first half and picked up a block in 9 minutes, six of which came in the first half. He was beaten pretty badly for a few rebounding chances, but helped provide at least a few quality minutes in the first half.
  • Duncan Robinson:  Robinson missed all three shots he took and I can’t remember a game where he was more bothered by the opponents’ length. He only played 12 minutes on the day as this was just a game where it was hard to use the Wolverines’ small ball lineups.
  • Xavier SimpsonSimpson has seen very limited playing time in both NCAA Tournament games and saw just four minutes against the Cardinals.
  • Tony DeMaria

    I thought I’d never love a team as much as the 13 and 14 squads but we are there. And not just because they are a win away from accomplishing as much as the latter. They are just fun as hell to watch and a team in every sense of the word. Whether this dream lasts 1 more game or 4, I am having a lot of fun and will always admire and love this edition of Michigan basketball

    • ChathaM

      The ’14 team will always be tough to beat for me, as two guys left for the NBA, we lost McGary during the non-con season, and we still won the league and almost made it to the Final Four. This team is now right there with that one for me.

  • Rock

    Who is a easier matchup for us?? Im thinking Oregon?

  • MrLG

    Another great writeup,thanks Dylan. As before, can we get a link to the Louisville presser?

    • eddieben
      • MrLG


      • MrLG

        Finally listened to it. That was interesting in terms of the really technical comments by Pitino. But I don’t know that I agree with him. In the end, his team seemed to get tired, it was probably more that than anything. Physical, but also mental from the weird sh*t that Beilein throws at them and the unusual skillsets from Mo and DJ. It’s not what you would have expected given all the games that Michigan played last weekend.

    • ChathaM

      Pitino: “Mangok’s been a joy to coach for the 11 years he’s been here”. (and Tony Hicks chuckles). That was awesome. I’ve never cared much for Pitino, but that was pretty funny.

  • Chris De Sana

    I have to admit, although I often begged for it this team is adding wrinkles that I never thought were going to happen. Low post feeds when the match up favors our bigs was always going to be the key to our ability to compete at the highest level.

    • ChathaM

      One thing I noticed today was Mo reading his defender when he had the ball on the wing at the 3-point line. His defender did a mini-hedge on someone cutting off of Mo, Mo read it perfectly, and drove for a layup. That was the exact type of read that McGary figured out after being around for a while.

  • Ryan P.

    This team is on a roll and such a joy to watch — they just might go all the way

  • Wayman Britt

    What a fun game to watch. UM has shown they can win a number of different ways. They sure have turned their season around. I admit I never thought they would get this far after that lost to OSU.

    Wagner’s play was great, after this season is done we might be having a lot of discussion on whether he will be back in AA next year or professionally in Germany.

    • ChipperFliet

      He’s having to much fun in college. He’ll be back.

      • ChipperFliet

        Probably has his eye on the NBA. And he knows he needs another year before that.

        • gobluemd16

          His defense and rebounding isn’t close to ready. Don’t think he should go at all, but the further we go, the more hype Moe will get.

      • Stephen Chang

        Both him and DJ will be back, got to show more consistency in order to go into the draft. One more year will help them. They will both look at the NBA, but they may return. That is where I am standing right now

    • ChathaM

      It’s funny how quickly perceptions can change. Driving home tonight, I heard on the radio that Chad Ford now has Mo at around #20 on his draft board, after today’s big game. I wonder where he had Mo after Friday’s game, where we couldn’t even play him because he couldn’t guard in that environment.

    • Joel_C

      Wow, yeah – we have come a _looooooonnnng_ way since that home loss to OSU. I was really convinced we weren’t a tournament team after that game. In retrospect, almost seems like a good loss to have learned from and use as a turning point.

  • bobohle

    I think Mo will be back because he knows coach B makes him better. Besides if we can ad Mo Bamba we will have great depth in the front court next year.

  • MattBuckets

    I just seen the Kansas post game watercup celebration and it looked so fake and tv scripted. I know it’s something small but what a difference between locker rooms. Go blue

  • MaizeBlue10

    I suspect in the five key plays for Irvin’s spurt, that’s going to start with the Louisville missed three in transition. Funny how that one shot may have potentially buried the team to go down 12. They missed, Irvin got us back, rest is history!

  • MattBuckets

    Coming down to the last minute, RI or Ore?

    • MattBuckets

      Oregon it is

  • Champswest

    What a great layup by Walton. I thought for sure that was going to get blocked and would have if he hadn’t placed it so high off the glass. Don’t know how he did that.
    Clutch free throws by DJ.
    This team is playing with so much confidence. They don’t panic.
    It is so hard to get to the sweet 16. As fans, I think we take it for granted, but 52 teams have gone home. Not us.

  • Maigret2011

    Just looking at that stat card, I thought Mehtlang fouled out with 5?

  • Stephen Chang

    What a game! The way they responded after been down 8 at the half is incredible and against a solid defensive team as well. They will be tough to beat with the way they are playing right now

  • Indiana_Matt

    “…third Sweet Sixteen appearance in the last 5 years.” Wonderful words right there.

  • Fab 5 Legends

    What an amazing game, and comeback! #RevengeTour, Wagner/Wilson were amazing, Irvin/Walton played great too…everyone contributing – our defense stepped up at the end…we have a special team – full of confidence, poise, poise, resiliency! Beilein has done a great job too…What an amazing TURN-AROUND of the season…seemed like a month ago we were on the bubble after Ohio State L…now we are in final 16….oregon beware

  • A2MIKE

    Great Win! It was a lot of fun being there, especially to watch Louisville fans be so smug before the game and then just not knowing what happened after the game. They looked dazed and confused, kind of like their team.

    • ChathaM

      I had several Kentucky fans in my section congratulating me on the win. I think that Louisville losing was almost as important to them as UK winning.

  • ChathaM

    Pretty good down year in the B1G, with 3 sweet 16 teams. I was listening to the MSU game on the drive home, and at the start of the game, I felt like I wanted them to win, to make it 4 sweet 16 conference teams. But, as soon as it started, I wanted bad things to happen to them. I just can’t help it. Does that make me a terrible person?

    • Nick

      Haha when Kansas would make a run I found myself rooting for State. Then when State would come back I’d start rooting for Kansas again.

    • bobohle

      No. I think most of us felt that way . The same if it would have been Motta’s crew. Glad you could go to the game and see such a great game in person.