Michigan’s offense struggled mightily against Duke in the Wolverines’ 79-69 loss at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Tuesday — excluding the final two minutes of the game, Michigan managed a paltry 0.86 points per possession. This was due in a large part to Duke’s face-guarding and ball denial of Nik Stauskas, Michigan’s most potent offensive weapon this season. (Photo: Dustin Johnston)
Stauskas only took two shots in the loss and missed both, something entirely out of character for the sophomore. During a press conference on Friday, John Beilein described what Stauskas was up against.
“There’s not much you can do. They just face-guarded him in the corner. It’s a box and one with man-to-man principles,” Beilein said, describing Duke’s defensive strategy. “They’re going to want you to play four-on-four. There’s very little you can do for him at that time. We screened for him a couple times, and we have some things we can do, but you play 4-on-4. And we weren’t able to play 4-on-4 until the second half. If they’re face-guarding a guy and saying, ‘you’re not going to get the ball,’ there’s very little you can do because they’re not going to play help defense (off Stauskas). If they’re not going to play help defense, then there are pockets where you can score.”
It’s true — Duke never helped off Stauskas and packed its defense into the paint, not allowing for much driving opportunity. Michigan not hitting outside shots played right into the hands of the Blue Devils.
However, the way they overplayed Stauskas on the perimeter led to the obvious question: what about some backdoor cuts? Beilein said Stauskas tried that, but Duke completely took it away.
“They were just sitting on him,” Beilein said. “They were saying, ‘we’re not going to let you get the ball but we’re really going to overplay the backdoor,’ and our timing isn’t great in that right now, but that’s what they were able to do. It was just a complete face-guarding, don’t let him get the ball. No regard for help defense.”