Michigan’s last three games at the Kohl Center have followed an eerily similar script. A painfully slow but tantalizingly neck and neck affair that comes down to a handful of critical possessions in the final minutes. Unfortunately, a majority of those important possessions have been won by the Badgers. Those are the possessions that Wisconsin wins at home and they are the reason that the Badgers have won the last three games (64-61, 60-55, and 54-48) and they are the reason that Wisconsin rarely loses games in the cozy confines of the Kohl Center.
Sorry they are a bit late. Both Joe and Josh were at the Gator Bowl which forces me to step in and write my first Five Key plays feature. Luckily there were plenty to choose from as Michigan made a number of clutch plays down the stretch. Matt Vogrich and Zack Novak star in four of the videos although Darius Morris assisted four of the seven made baskets featured scored a fifth.
Matt Vogrich three at 14:32 in the second half
This possession was so critical because of how bad Michigan’s previous several possessions had been: a careless Hardaway turnover, a bad shot from Darius Morris, another careless turnover from Evan Smotrycz, and a missed shot by Jordan Morgan. Michigan was coming out of a timeout and had failed to capitalize on five straight missed Penn State jumpshots. The Wolverines responded with a patient possession that was clearly designed to get Vogrich a quality look. Penn State defended the first option very well, as David Jackson fought through Morgan’s screen relatively easily, but the Nittany Lions were so worried about Morgan’s roll to the basket that they left Vogrich wide open on the pick and roll as his man ducked into the post to help cover Morgan rolling to the basket.
Bracketology Jan. 3rd – ESPN
Lunardi’s first bracket has Michigan as one of the “next four out”… I think it might be a little too early. I’ll wait to use the word “bubble” until Michigan has at least a couple top 50 wins.
Kirk Transferring Closer to Home ($)
Miami big man is considering Michigan and things are expected to move quickly. Michigan, Oakland, Northwestern, and DePaul are a couple of the main suitors. Kirk would be eligible to play next winter, making him a member of the same class as Morgan, McLimans, and Horford.
It wasn’t flawless but it was the response that Michigan needed after a deflating home loss to Purdue. Losing your first two Big Ten games at home is a recipe for disaster and Michigan needed this one more than they would care to admit – especially with Wisconsin, Kansas, and Ohio State next on the docket. If Michigan didn’t have their backs to the wall before the game, they did by half time.
Michigan was barely able to slow down the Penn State offense in the first half as they quickly fell behind. Talor Battle and David Jackson were a combined 11 of 15 for 27 points in the first and Michigan didn’t seem to have an answer as they fell behind by as many as nine points and were lucky to be down just five headed into intermission.
The second half was a different story as Michigan outscored Penn State 45-33. The defensive effort was improved in the second half; evidenced by the Nittany Lions 1.06 points per trip in the second stanza, down from 1.28 in the first. But it was the Wolverine offense that was nearly perfect. Michigan scorched the nets in the second half to the tune of 1.45 points per possession with a 72% eFG% – 79% on twos and 56% on threes. The attack was balanced as Michigan picked up points from a variety of contributors and six different Wolverines made a field goal. But at the end of the day it was Morris (8 second half assists) and Novak (15 second half points) that were the catalysts for the offensive explosion.
Most Michigan fans are probably more worried about the drama surrounding the football coaching process but there is a basketball game today. Michigan hosts Penn State for a 4 pm tip off on the Big Ten Network. The game preview lives here and we encourage you to follow along in the comments and join in the conversation.
In my post about expectations early last week I questioned how this team would react to adversity. Well, we are about to find out. Michigan will look to bounce back against Penn State after a jarring and embarrassing 23 point home loss to Purdue. The importance of winning this game becomes painfully obvious when you look ahead on the schedule: at Wisconsin, Kansas, Ohio State, at Indiana, at Northwestern, Minnesota, and at Michigan State. Lose this game and the 0-2 start could slip into the sort of dramatic losing streak that has the potential to ruin a season.
Penn State didn’t accomplish much in the non-conference portion of their schedule, going 7-4 with losses to Mississippi, Maryland, Virginia Tech, and Maine. However, they opened Big Ten play with a road win at Indiana which is arguably their best win of the season. They have Talor Battle, who is still one of the best players in the league, averaging 21 points per game thanks to shooting 39% on three point attempts. The problem for Penn State is that the Nittany Lions just don’t have enough supporting options to complement Battle’s brilliance.