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Posts Tagged ‘Austin Hollins’

Champs again: Michigan 66 – Minnesota 56

Sunday, March 2nd, 2014


Big Ten Champions(MGoBlue.com)

A few minutes before Michigan tipped off their second-to-last home game of the season versus Minnesota, a stunned crowd started to quietly file out of the Breslin Center an hour to the northwest after watching their Michigan State Spartans fall in defeat to Illinois. With that result in the books, Michigan would be guaranteed at least a share of the Big Ten title with a win over the Golden Gophers.

But the young Wolverines didn’t know about that help they were given right away.

“Jon Horford mentioned it at halftime,” said Glenn Robinson III after the game. “I don’t know how he found out, but we all said that we were gonna stay focused and win this game and that gave us more motivation.”

And win the game they did. After coming out of the gates a little bit slow, which has become the norm of late, Michigan ended the first half on a 22-5 run to take an 11-point lead into the locker room. With the added motivation in the second stanza, the Wolverines staved off a feisty Gopher squad and clinched the Big Ten championship with a 66-56 win.

Glenn Robinson III made the highlight of the game with an alley-oop dunk over two Gophers (MGoBlue.com)

Glenn Robinson III made the highlight of the game with an alley-oop dunk over two Gophers (MGoBlue.com)

The star of the show was once again sophomore Nik Stauskas, whose five threes matched a conference high for him this year and whose 21 points led all scorers, but it took a while to get Michigan going.

A wide open corner three from the Canadian opened the scoring for Michigan 1:15 into the game and a Derrick Walton, Jr. midrange jumper two minutes later gave the Wolverines a one-point lead, but then things got a little worrisome.

Over the next 4:19 of game time, Michigan went scoreless and let Minnesota creep out to a 6-point advantage at the 10:53 mark of the first half. Luckily, however, the Maize and Blue’s defensive effort was about as good as it’s been all season, and they did an excellent job in limiting the Golden Gophers to just five points after a Maurice Walker bucket exactly halfway into the opening half.

In that 10-minute span, Michigan showed why they have been so difficult for any team to defend them this year with great pizzazz. Stauskas, who quipped after the game that he had made 48-of-50 threes in a drill after practice on Friday, nailed two more threes and a layup to give him 11 at the break. Caris LeVert and Walton each added one three apiece, while Robinson III showed why he had so many NBA scouts drooling over his potential going into this season.

Robinson, perhaps the most polarizing player on the team – but not for his quiet and kind personality – pulled up from 18-feet with 9:44 on the clock in the first half and drained a shot that is quickly becoming a favorite for him. A few minutes later, the sophomore conjured images of his dad’s past play with a strong move and bucket from five feet away. Then Robinson threw down an alley-oop from Stauskas that may have been the dunk of the season in the Big Ten. When Stauskas threw the ball up, Robinson had two defenders between himself and the hoop, but instead of running around them, he simply jumped over both, rose gracefully through the air, and hammered home the lob to give the home team a six-point lead.

After a Stauskas three on Michigan’s next possession, Robinson received another lob from the same teammate and this time had to contort his body slightly to convert a mid-air lay-in.

In the second half, Minnesota made things interesting behind 14 points from Austin Hollins, and even cut Michigan’s lead to two points with 4:31 to go, but the Wolverines were able to hold on with some strong rebounding and toughness from fifth-year senior captain Jordan Morgan, who grabbed 10 boards for the second time this season.

Stauskas made five threes for the fourth time this season (MGoBlue.com)

Stauskas made five threes for the fourth time this season (MGoBlue.com)

Morgan, who has never been a star on either end of the floor but has been a stalwart for four John Beilein teams, simply outmuscled Minnesota a couple of times for rebounds and made perhaps the biggest play of the game by drawing a held ball with 4:06 to go when a Gopher seemed to have secured a rebound while trailing by just two points. Instead of having a chance to knot it up or even take the lead, Minnesota lost the possession and saw Michigan score five straight to seal the deal.

After the game, both Richard Pitino and John Beilein called Morgan’s hustle play “huge”.

“I thought we did a good job of fighting back in the second half there,” Pitino said. “(But that play was) huge, huge, huge. That was the play of the game, in my opinion. We had a chance to get it, they had a chance to get it, two-point game. I thought that changed the game. Simple as (a) 50-50 ball. They got it, we didn’t.”

Beilein shared similar thoughts: ”I mean, it was huge, because you could see that one was gonna come down to somebody was gonna make big shots for us or them, and whoever did was gonna win the game. When you can keep possession, you keep them from hitting that big shot.”

In the overall picture, it is quite amazing what these Wolverines have already accomplished this season, having won 75 percent of their 28 games so far and 81 percent of their Big Ten games with two remaining. Almost all of this success has come without the services of preseason All-America center Mitch McGary and after a season in which two Wolverines from last year’s team are making splashes in the NBA. Few thought Michigan would compete for a Big Ten championship before McGary went down with a back injury, and some questioned whether the Wolverines would even earn a berth to the NCAA Tournament starting later this month.

Now, those pundits look foolish as Michigan has all but guaranteed their first outright conference championship in 28 years, a top-3 seed in the Big Dance, and a whole lot of respect.

Then again, these Wolverines are making a lot of teams and coaches look foolish too.

Three Stars:

***Nik Stauskas***
21 points (7-of-13 FG, 5-of-8 3PT, 2-of-2 FT), four assists, three rebounds, two turnovers in 37 minutes

**Glenn Robinson III**
12 points (6-of-10 FG, 0-of-1 3PT), four rebounds (one offensive), three assists, one block, three turnovers in 35 minutes

*Austin Hollins*
16 points (6-of-12 FG, 2-of-6 3PT, 2-of-2 FT), three rebounds, two steals, one block, three turnovers in 35 minutes

Quick Hitters:

 As each game passes, it becomes more and more clear how much Nik Stauskas’s success correlates to the team’s overall success. In games in which Stauskas has scored at least 12 points, the Wolverines are 18-3. When he scores 11 or fewer, Michigan is just 2-4 (he missed one game).

Moving forward, opposing teams will see this and do their best to shut Stauskas down, but if he continues to be as aggressive as he has been lately, he will be tough to stop. Beilein noted after the game that he has been pleased to see Stauskas start to shoot more even when he’s not wide open and has encouraged him to keep firing even more.

 Glenn Robinson III continues to struggle from beyond the three-point line, but he has seemed to figure things out inside recently. The sophomore has scored double-digit points in four straight games and has made 60 percent or more of his shots in Michigan’s past two contests. When asked after the game what, if anything, has changed for him, Robinson III gave an interesting response: “I’ve been listening to slower music before the games. I read that it kinda calms you, doesn’t put as much pressure on you, (so) that’s something I’ve been doing.”

When prompted to rattle off some names, Robinson obliged.

“My mom used to always listen to Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, those type of lady singers, slow singers, I like that,” Robinson said. “It calms me, makes me think of my mom, grandma, and all those people that have been with me throughout the game.”

 Michigan has now swept four of the seven Big Ten teams they will face twice this year for the first time since the 2011-12 season, but unlike that year, they won’t be swept by any conference foe.

 With a win in either of their two remaining games or a single loss by Wisconsin and Michigan State in their last two games, Michigan will clinch an outright Big Ten championship for the first time since the 1986 season.

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
01 Glenn Robinson III* 6-10 0-1 0-0 1 3 4 1 12 3 3 1 0 35
10 Derrick Walton Jr.* 3-5 2-4 0-0 0 3 3 3 8 0 0 0 0 18
11 Nik Stauskas* 7-13 5-8 2-2 0 3 3 1 21 4 2 0 0 37
52 Jordan Morgan* 2-3 0-0 1-3 2 8 10 3 5 0 2 0 0 32
23 Caris LeVert* 5-13 1-5 2-2 0 3 3 1 13 5 1 0 2 37
02 Spike Albrecht 2-3 1-2 2-2 1 1 2 2 7 2 0 0 0 24
15 Jon Horford 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 2 2 2 0 0 1 0 0 8
21 Zak Irvin 0-3 0-3 0-0 1 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 9
Totals 25-50 9-23 7-9 5 23 28 14 66 14 10 1 2 200
Minnesota 22-48 5-18 7-11 5 22 27 15 56 10 11 1 5 200
Full Stats

Derick’s 3 thoughts: Minnesota

Saturday, March 1st, 2014


Michigan-Minnesota header

After a miracle victory over Purdue in West Lafayette on Wednesday, Michigan remained atop the Big Ten standings despite never leading during the 40 minutes of regulation. Now, the Wolverines set their sights on a Minnesota team that’s fighting for its NCAA Tournament life as the calendar flips into March and conference play winds down.

Michigan’s surprising dominance during Big Ten play started against these very same Golden Gophers in Minneapolis on Jan. 2. Minnesota rode a six-game winning streak into that matchup while Michigan reeked of an 8-4 non-conference performance. The teams switched roles during the heart of Big Ten play, as the Wolverines look to inch closer to a regular season championship with just three games remaining.

Jon Horford breakout, part two: Jon Horford played perhaps his best game of the season in the first meeting, scoring 14 points and grabbing nine rebounds against the Gophers. Horford shot 6-of-8 from the field and Coach John Beilein rewarded him with 30 minutes of playing time, by far his most this season.

The redshirt junior virtually disappeared during the overtime game against Purdue on Wednesday, picking up three fouls and just two rebounds in a scoreless effort. To be fair, Horford’s lack of offense often stems from unwillingness to enter the ball into the post on the part of his teammates. Ball reversals around the outside often give Horford one-on-one matchups inside, but the pass rarely goes in to the big man, and he’s regularly left with a visible look of frustration painted on his face.

When Michigan involves Horford in the offense, it usually wins. In each of its seven losses, he scored less than five points (with an average of 2.1 points per game). Horford plays efficiently, albeit in small doses, on offense when given the opportunity. Minnesota’s Elliott Eliason struggled to defend Horford in the last meeting, and Michigan needed every one of his 14 points in the three-point victory.

Shut down Deandre Mathieu: The Hollins duo — Austin and Andre — receives much of the offensive attention for Richard Pitino’s team, but probably the most deadly weapon in its arsenal is junior Deandre Mathieu. The 5’9″ transfer from Morehead State averages 11.9 points and 4.3 assists per game, but his value comes in the percentages.

Through 29 games this season Mathieu, converted over half of his attempts from the floor and shot 44.8 percent from beyond the arc. His shooting percentage dwarfs those of Andre and Austin Hollins, and despite taking less shot attempts, ranks second on the team in scoring ahead of Austin.

Minnesota relies heavily on its top three scorers, and the roster thins out considerably behind them. If Michigan can limit Mathieu, clearly the most efficient player on the team, then it leaves the Golden Gophers with just two volume scorers to run the offense.

Beilein owns multiple options when attempting to defend a talented opposing guard. Derrick Walton Jr.’s dominance over Keith Appling in both matchups with Michigan State lands him on the short list to guard Mathieu. Caris LeVert may also earn the honor as the best all-around perimeter defender on the team.

No matter who receives the assignment, he needs to be ready from the tip to avoid allowing Mathieu to catch fire like Yogi Ferrell and Aaron White did in the past few weeks against the Wolverines.

When the clock starts, play Michigan basketball: Slow starts have haunted Michigan in its past five games, two of which it could never recover from. Since Iowa jumped on the Wolverines 29-13 in the first half of the game in Iowa City, Beilein’s team has struggled to match the opponent’s first half intensity each game.

Though Michigan never climbed out of the hole it dug against the Hawkeyes, a similar slow start hampered the starting lineup three days later in Columbus. The Buckeyes jumped out to a nine-point lead just a few minutes into the game, and only a furious charge in the waning minutes of the first half brought Michigan back within four at the break.

A strong second half erased the struggles from fans’ collective memory, but the opening woes struck again in Ann Arbor. Wisconsin absolutely waxed the first place Wolverines during the first half on Feb. 16, building an 18-point lead before entering the break leading 34-19. LeVert did bring his team back within a few points, but the massive Badger lead proved insurmountable in the end.

Even in its two most recent wins Michigan came out of the locker room sluggish. Adreian Payne and Denzel Valentine vaulted Michigan State up 22-11 early in the biggest Big Ten game of the season. And Purdue built an even larger lead Wednesday after a Terone Johnson three-pointer put his Boilermakers up 27-8 with 7:42 remaining in the first half. Fortunately, Michigan was able to overcome both of those.

Michigan’s 3-2 record despite slow starts in each of the last five games proves just how talented the 2013-14 team can be. If the Wolverines learn to put 40 strong minutes together before March, they represent a real threat to make anther deep tournament run. That process begins today against Minnesota.

Prediction: Minnesota comes to Ann Arbor desperate for another marquee victory. Michigan, despite leading the Big Ten, struggled to play consistently throughout the month of February. Now that slow starts became a noticeable trend for his team, Beilein will have it fixed for March and Michigan can kick off the most important month of the season in style with a 76-68 win over Minnesota.

Big Ten hoops power rankings: Week 1

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014


With Big Ten play underway, it’s time to reveal our first conference power rankings. We wanted to wait until the non-conference slate was finished before starting our power rankings so we could accurately judge each team’s performance through a full non-conference schedule and get a feel for how the conference will shape up. So following the first week of conference action, here are our power rankings.

1. Michigan State (14-1, 3-0)
Last week: Dec. 31 W at Penn State 79-63, Jan. 4 W at Indiana 73-56
This week: Tuesday W vs #3 Ohio State 72-68 OT, Saturday vs Minnesota 2:15pm

Michigan State reestablished itself as the team to beat early in conference play by essentially beating Ohio State twice in one game. After building a 17-point lead and blowing it, the Spartans were able to win it in overtime.

2. Wisconsin (15-0, 2-0)
Last week: Jan. 2 W at Northwestern 76-49, Jan. 5 W vs #22 Iowa 75-71
This week: Wednesday vs #23 Illinois 9pm on BTN

After rolling through the non-conference schedule undefeated, Wisconsin has begun Big Ten play by stomping Northwestern and proving it can play offensive basketball in a comeback win over Iowa.

3. Ohio State (15-1, 2-1)
Last week: Dec. 31 W at Purdue 78-69, Jan. 4 W vs Nebraska 84-53
This week: Jan. 7 L at Michigan State 68-72 OT, Sunday vs #20 Iowa

Ohio State is an extremely athletic team and the hustle of Aaron Craft keeps them in every game (even when down 17 in East Lansing). The overtime loss did little to decrease faith in this team, and Thad Matta’s crew will be right in the thick of the race for a number one seed in March.

4. Michigan (10-4, 2-0)
Last week: Jan. 2 W at Minnesota 63-60, Jan. 5 W vs Northwestern 74-51
This week: Thursday at Nebraska 9pm ESPN2

The Wolverines were disappointing before conference play, losing four games, but have rebounded nicely the last two weeks. A win on the road against Minnesota without Mitch McGary or Glen Robinson in the second half was a good start to the Big Ten season.

5. Iowa (12-3, 1-1)
Last week: Dec. 31 W vs Nebraska 67-57, Jan. 5 L at #4 Wisconsin 71-74
This week: Thursday vs Northwestern 9pm ESPNU, Sunday at #3 Ohio State 1:30pm

Iowa nearly pulled off one of the most difficult things to do in Big Ten basketball by taking Wisconsin to the wire in Madison. Iowa held a double-digit lead in the second half against the Badgers only to lose its second game by less than five points to an undefeated team (Iowa State). The Hawkeyes are third in the country in rebounding and 12th in both points and assists per game.

6. Illinois (13-2, 2-0)
Last week: Dec. 31 W vs Indiana 83-80 OT, Jan. 4 W vs Penn State 75-55
This week: Wednesday at #4 Wisconsin 9pm BTN, Sunday at Northwestern 7:30pm

This team seemingly always begins the season on a hot streak and jumps into the top 25 only to struggle through the conference schedule. So far, Illinois has beaten Penn State and survived Indiana at home in Big Ten play, but a trip to Madison on Wednesday will show us what the team is really made of.

7. Minnesota (12-3, 1-1)
Last week: Jan. 2 L vs Michigan 60-63, Jan. 5 W vs Purdue 82-79
This week: Wednesday at Penn State 7pm BTN, Saturday at #5 Michigan State 2:15pm

Richard Pitino suffered a close loss at the hands of Michigan in his first Big Ten game, but Minnesota bounced back to beat Purdue and move to 12-3 in this young season. For the first time in recent memory Minnesota is playing without Trevor Mbakwe, but Andre and Austin Hollins are picking up the slack as numbers one and two on the team in points.

8. Indiana (10-5, 0-2)
Last week: Dec. 31 L at Illinois 80-83 OT, Jan. 4 L vs #5 Michigan State 56-73
This week: Saturday at Penn State 12pm BTN

Though the Hoosiers already have five losses on the season, four of them are to currently ranked teams and Tom Crean’s team has been competitive in three of them. A heartbreaking overtime loss to Illinois kicked off the conference season for Indiana and carried over into a blowout loss to Michigan State. The talent is there, but this young team has to learn how to win Big Ten games.

9. Purdue (10-5, 0-2)
Last week: Dec. 31 L vs #3 Ohio State 69-78, Jan. 5 L at Minnesota 79-82
This week: Sunday vs Nebraska 12pm BTN

Purdue has had a difficult start to the Big Ten season, playing the undefeated Buckeyes and on the road against Minnesota. Both losses were competitive, but the Boilermakers lack a win better than 10-5 West Virginia.

10. Penn State (9-6, 0-2)
Last week: Dec. 31 L vs #5 Michigan State 63-79, Jan. 4 L at Illinois 55-75
This week: Wednesday vs Minnesota 7pm BTN, Saturday vs Indiana 12pm BTN

The good news for Penn State is Tim Frazier is back; the bad news is it hasn’t really turned into victories. The Nittany Lions have lost their first two conference games by a combined 36 points despite leading Michigan State at halftime.

11. Nebraska (8-6, 0-2)
Last week: Dec. 31 L at #22 Iowa 57-67, Jan. 4 L at #3 Ohio State 53-84
This week: Thursday vs Michigan 9pm ESPN2, Sunday at Purdue 12pm

Losses on the road to Iowa and Ohio State seemed inevitable for Nebraska heading into the Big Ten season, but when the Buckeyes blew this team out by 31, it was clear that the Cornhuskers are nowhere near the top of the Big Ten.

12. Northwestern (7-8, 0-2)
Last week: Jan. 2 L vs #4 Wisconsin 49-76, Jan. 5 L at Michigan 51-74
This week: Thursday at #20 Iowa 9pm ESPNU, Sunday vs #23 Illinois 7:30pm

Chris Collins’ first year in the Big Ten is off to a difficult start. Northwestern is the only team in the conference with a losing record and has lost both Big Ten games by more than 20 points.

Stepping Up: Michigan 63 – Minnesota 60

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014


(Marilyn Indahl, USA Today Sports)

If there was any question as to whether or not Mitch McGary’s long-term absence would hurt this Michigan team, Minnesota big man Elliott Eliason answered it early. The 6’11″ junior center, who is averaging fewer than six points per game on the season, was dominant inside early on tonight, grabbing offensive rebounds all over the floor and getting excellent position on Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford in the paint on his way to recording a 10-point, 10-rebound (five offensive) double-double.

Luckily for the Wolverines, Eliason got himself into foul trouble in the second half, limiting himself to 24 minutes, and Michigan was able to overcome an ankle injury that kept Glenn Robinson III on the bench for the last 17 minutes of the second stanza to escape Minneapolis with a crucial 63-60 win.

In a game that never saw a lead bigger than eight points on either side and had too many ties and lead changes to count, Michigan somehow overcame a quasi worst-case scenario on the shoulders of two unlikely heroes.

With McGary out, Beilein decided to give the starting nod to fifth-year senior Jordan Morgan once again, but Morgan was ineffective overall, scoring only three points and grabbing two rebounds while also picking up three fouls in nine minutes of play.

Jon Horford scored a career high 14 points to give Michigan a huge boost down low (Marilyn Indahl, USA Today Sports)

Insert redshirt junior Jon Horford, a player who has shown great potential but has never produced consistently and has been battered throughout his career, and you have hero number one. Horford, who certainly had some defensive struggles trying to cover the much wider Eliason, put forth an incredible effort on both sides of the floor to help make up for Michigan’s injuries and showed great leadership throughout the night – something that would have been unheard of a few years ago.

With the game going back and forth, Horford was the one fighting for rebounds inside and finishing some nifty plays on offense to end up with a career-high 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting, nine rebounds, two steals, one block, and just one foul in 30 efficient minutes (also a career high). Many think of Horford as a slow big man who is able to alter some shots defensively, but the younger brother of NBA All-Star Al Horford showed why Michigan may be able to compete in the Big Ten after all. The Grand Ledge native showed off a beautiful turnaround jumper on one back-to-the-basket move, converted an often-overlooked 10-foot spot-up on another trip, and finished off two dunks, one a monster slam over two defenders, in a night’s work that most will call his best career game.

The second unlikely hero on the night was Zak Irvin, a freshman who has been coming on of late and shone brightly tonight. With GRIII on the bench and sophomore starter Caris LeVert struggling mightily, Irvin came in firing and made five of his eight threes for a game-high 15 points while also grabbing three rebounds and recording one block in a career-high 27 minutes.

Tonight’s win was certainly not pretty for the Maize and Blue, but John Beilein will take any road win, especially against a quality 11-2 opponent in the first game of the Big Ten season. McGary’s absence was felt throughout, as Minnesota posted a 44.1 percent offensive rebounding rate, but Michigan fought defensively and won the shooting, free throw, and turnover battles – all of which are Beilein staples.

Shortly after the tip, it looked to be the Glenn Robinson III show again, continuing a marvelous five-game stretch for the outstanding sophomore, as Little Dog scored six early points and swatted four shot attempts by 5’9″ Minnesota guard Deandre Mathieu, but the fourth block saw Robinson land awkwardly on his ankle and exit for the evening.

Minnesota, however, could not take full advantage of Robinson’s absence and gave up a number of easy back-door looks to a Michigan offense that ran some crisp offensive and out-of-bounds sets. The Gophers were led by junior guard Andre Hollins and senior FIU-transfer Malik Smith with 12 points apiece, but Richard Pitino’s squad was unable to generate any consistent offense and finished shooting under 40 percent from the field and 26.3 percent from downtown.

With a raucous crowd of 12,225 at their backs, the Gophers couldn’t maintain an early 15-7 lead and ended up fading down the stretch in yet another heart-pounding finish for Michigan.

Derrick Walton Jr handled the Minnesota pressure nicely, tallying four assists, seven points, and just one turnover (Marilyn Indahl, USA Today Sports)

Following a monster dunk with 1:53 remaining by Jon Horford and assisted by Nik Stauskas out of a timeout, Mathieu threw the ball away under pressure on the other end and then fouled Derrick Walton, who converted two free throws at the 1:18 mark to give the Wolverines a 59-54 lead.

On the next possession, Mathieu rebounded his own miss but then had it stolen by LeVert before Nik Stauskas made one of his two freebies to bump the lead to six with just 36 seconds on the clock to apparently seal the deal. Minnesota, however, had other plans, as Mathieu quickly came down the floor and found Smith wide open for a corner three to halve the lead and make it a one-possession game.

Then came perhaps the most interesting play of the game, as Nik Stauskas received the inbounds pass and appeared to be fouled more than once before getting the ball poked away out of bounds; the refs, however, egregiously swallowed their whistles and awarded possession to Minnesota before conferring around the video screen for what seemed like an eternity to the Wolverines and correctly giving the ball to Michigan (taking advantage of a new rule that allows late out of bounds calls to be reviewed for accuracy).

With a three-point lead and 20 seconds on the clock, Walton came open for the next inbounds play and proceeded to miss both free throws, again giving Minnesota a chance to tie it late. Andre Hollins raced down the floor to go for an easy layup but ended up with an awkward shot, which Jon Horford rebounded. Horford then went to the line and split a pair to go up 61-57, surely enough to let Michigan ride it out comfortably.

Yet again, though, Minnesota inexplicably stayed in it, this time by way of three Malik Smith free throws on a Stauskas three-point foul. Stauskas made up for his error the next time down, however, calmly sinking both free throws before Mathieu’s deep three clanged off the rim to mercifully end the game.

There is no doubt that this game was enormous for Michigan if the Maize and Blue are to compete in the Big Ten and find their way into the Big Dance in March, and a first true road win on the year should provide a huge confidence boost for the young and battered Wolverines.

Michigan knows by now that wins don’t come easy, but it’s a lesson learned much easier when leaving an opponent’s home floor with a mark in the left column in the paper.

Three Stars

***Jon Horford***
Career-high 14 points (6-of-8 FG, 2-of-4 FT), nine rebounds (two offensive), one block, two steals, one turnover in career-high 30 minutes

**Zak Irvin**
15 points (5-of-8 FG, 5-of-8 3PT), three rebounds (one offensive), one block in career-high 27 minutes

*Nik Stauskas*
14 points (3-of-7 FG, 1-of-4 3PT, 7-of-8 FT), seven assists, one rebound, two steals, two turnovers in 36 minutes

Quick Hitters

Tonight might have been the worst game of the season for Caris LeVert (Marilyn Indahl, USA Today Sports)

The Big Ten-opening win is Michigan’s third straight to open conference play, but this one probably couldn’t come at a better time. With McGary’s loss still stinging for a team that seemed primed to make another deep run, a softer start to this season’s Big Ten season should boost spirits and get Michigan rolling when it counts.

Now sitting pretty at 1-0, the Wolverines next three games are versus Northwestern, at Nebraska, and versus Penn State. A potential 4-0 start would be massive, as the three games after that are at #4 Wisconsin, versus #23 Iowa, and at #5 Michigan State before another four-game stretch in February that includes games at Iowa and #3 Ohio State and home versus Wisconsin and Michigan State.

Tonight’s victory at The Barn marks Michigan’s fifth straight on Minnesota’s home floor, going all the way back to the 2008-09 season. The two teams only squared up in Ann Arbor in the 2010-11 campaign, but Beilein’s teams have, for whatever reason, experienced great success against some quality Golden Gopher outfits.

In the 2008-09 win, Michigan got a huge game out of Laval Lucas-Perry and punched their tickets to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 10 years. The Wolverines’ win late in the 2011-12 season was also critical for them to get into the Big Dance.

Caris LeVert played perhaps his worst game of what has become an incredibly inconsistent season for the gangly sophomore. With Robinson III on the bench and Michigan desperately needing someone to step up, LeVert picked a bad time for his line of four points (2-of-7 FG), two rebounds (one offensive), three assists, three steals, and four turnovers. While LeVert did a few little things tonight, his turnovers were cough-ups that are unacceptable at this point in the season and his head-scratching play throughout the season has left much to be desired after a great start to the season.

In the 11 games since Michigan blew out South Carolina State, LeVert is averaging 10.9 points but has scored double-digits in back-to-back games just twice – a three-game stretch that included a loss to Charlotte, a win over Coppin State, and a loss at Duke – and has scored five or fewer points five times. Over the past three games, LeVert has managed just 21 points, 16 of which came against Holy Cross, and is shooting a dreadful 36.4 percent (8-of-22) from the field.

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
01 Glenn Robinson III* 2-5 0-1 2-2 0 1 1 1 6 0 2 4 0 20
10 Derrick Walton Jr.* 1-4 1-1 4-6 0 4 4 3 7 4 1 0 1 30
11 Nik Stauskas* 3-7 1-4 7-8 0 1 1 3 14 7 2 0 2 36
52 Jordan Morgan* 1-2 0-0 1-2 1 1 2 3 3 0 0 0 0 9
23 Caris LeVert* 2-7 0-0 0-0 1 1 2 3 4 3 4 0 3 31
02 Spike Albrecht 0-2 0-2 0-0 0 1 1 1 0 2 0 0 0 16
15 Jon Horford 6-8 0-0 2-4 2 7 9 1 14 0 1 1 2 30
21 Zak Irvin 5-8 5-8 0-0 1 2 3 2 15 0 0 1 0 27
44 Max Bielfeldt 0-1 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
Totals 20-44 7-17 16-22 5 19 24 17 63 16 10 6 8 200
Minnesota 21-53 5-19 13-19 15 23 38 18 60 16 15 4 9 200
Full Stats

Sam’s 3 thoughts: Minnesota

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014


The first semester of the 2013-14 Michigan basketball campaign brought a roller coaster in Ann Arbor that took many by surprise. With a top-10 preseason team again, the Wolverines were expected to dominate most opponents before duking it out for a Big Ten title. Instead, Michigan finds itself heading into Big Ten season tonight at Minnesota (7pm on BTN) with an 8-4 record and plenty of question marks.

John Beilein’s preseason All-American, Mitch McGary, is likely lost for the year and inconsistency on both ends of the court have plagued the team so far, but there can be no excuses now that conference play has arrived. If Michigan is to compete in the Big Ten once again, they must take advantage of a relatively easy start to the 2014 schedule.

Here are my keys for tonight’s game.

Break the Zone: New head coach Richard Pitino has brought about a new mentality in Minneapolis centered on aggressiveness. Offensively, Minnesota will try to run often and will shoot from anywhere on the floor while defensively the Golden Gophers sport a 2-3 zone that will look to maximize turnovers.

For John Beilein’s squad, the opening Big Ten game is probably as good a matchup as possible, as Michigan can certainly shoot down any zone and will protect the ball with the best of teams, but road games have been anything but a relief for this year’s squad. To compete tonight, Michigan must come out of the gates with a calm and focused approach and run their offense perfectly. Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert need to find the openings in the zone and make shots from the wings and corners while Jon Horford, Glenn Robinson III, and Jordan Morgan sit in the middle of the zone and make quick, smart decisions.

Andre Hollins leads Minnesota with 16 points per game (AP photo)

Michigan cannot play into Minnesota’s teeth and pass poorly, letting the Gophers get comfortable at home, but rather slow the game down, shoot with confidence, and find the openings down low. In Minnesota’s home win over Florida State earlier this season, the Gophers were outshot from the field by 12.5 percent but finished plus-11 in turnover margin, resulting in 10 more shots and two more buckets than the Seminoles.

Cage Mathieu: Deandre Mathieu, a junior transfer from Morehead State, was absolutely lauded by Beilein earlier this week in his press conference previewing Minnesota, being called “the difference” in Minnesota’s impressive 11-2 start. Beilein said that Mathieu makes both Andre and Austin Hollins better in the backcourt while also praising his excellent shot selection and an outstanding 2.4:1.0 assist-to-turnover ratio so far.

Standing at just 5’9″, Mathieu does most of his damage inside the arc and doesn’t get to the free throw line incredibly often, but he has made eight of his 14 three-pointers and is shooting 80.9 percent from the charity stripe on the season while also averaging a little over two steals per game. Perhaps most important for Pitino is Mathieu’s ability to handle the ball and let junior Andre Hollins play off the ball more and get more shots up.

This evening, look for Derrick Walton to draw Mathieu on defense and win the lion’s share of minutes at the point guard. Spike Albrecht continues to play well, but his defense will not be desirable against a quicker guard.

Win the Free Throw Battle: The Hollins brothers, who are actually not related, are without a doubt the guys who will do most of the damage for the Gophers, as they take 38.4 percent of Minnesota’s shots overall and nearly half of the team’s threes, but they are most dangerous when driving to the lane and getting to the free throw line. In addition to Mathieu’s 80.9 percent mark from the line, Austin and Andre Hollins make 84.5 percent and 73.2 percent of their free throws, respectively, but they combine to take just 36 percent of the team’s free throws on the year.

With an incredible 40 percent FTR, this Minnesota squad’s biggest strength has been in getting to the line. Mathieu and both Hollinses have taken more than 40 attempts at the line while six other Gophers have been to the stripe at least 16 times, and five of those have attempted more than 20 freebies, where as a team Minnesota leads the Big Ten at 76 percent. In their win over Florida State, Minnesota made a whopping 28-of-38 free throws, while the Gophers attempted an average of just 17 freebies in their two losses, against Syracuse and Arkansas.

Again, though, this is a strength that actually bodes well for a Michigan team that rarely fouls and shoots a respectable 74 percent from the free throw line themselves. Either way, however, the Wolverines need to keep their counterparts from getting too many free points and most definitely need to stay out of foul trouble with a squad already short in depth.

Prediction: Michigan has the talent to beat Minnesota tonight and matches up well with these opponents, but the road has been less than kind to Beilein teams in his Michigan tenure and The Barn will certainly provide a difficult environment for this young Wolverine team to kick off the conference stanza. If Glenn Robinson III is aggressive in getting to the basket again, the Maize and Blue can come away with a win at the free throw line and in the record books, but if the Hollinses are living at the stripe, it will be a tough day. In the end, I like Minnesota to close out a tough battle with a 78-75 win.

Michigan hoops preview: Minnesota

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014


#NR/NR Michigan (8-4, 0-0) vs #NR/NR Minnesota (11-2, 0-0) – Minneapolis, MN – 7pm EST – BTN
Offense
79.1 Points/gm 78.4
(329-700) 47.0 Field Goal % 43.9 (311-709)
(109-282) 38.7 3-pt FG % 35.0 (97-277)
(182-246) 74.0 Free Throw % 77.6 (222-286)
15.2 FT Made/gm 17.1
36.2 Reb/gm 37.3
15.8 Assists/gm 13.6
9.2 Turnovers/gm 9.8
Defense
63.5 Points/gm 66.8
(285-676) 42.2 Field Goal % 42.3 (281-665)
(54-165) 34.3 3-pt FG % 30.8 (72-234)
32.1 Opp. Reb/gm 33.5
6.0 Steals/gm 8.1
2.8 Blocks/gm 4.3
Individual Leaders
Nik Stauskas (18.2), Glenn Robinson III (14.2) Points/gm Andre Hollins (16.0), Austin Hollins (13.5)
Mitch McGary (8.3), Glenn Robinson III (5.0) Reb/gm Elliott Eliason (8.4), Austin Hollins (7.1)

______________________________________________________________________________________________

The football season mercifully ended last Saturday which means we can all officially turn our attention to basketball in time for the conference slate to begin. Michigan finished the non-conference schedule 8-4 with good wins against Stanford and Florida State, three losses that won’t hurt them against Iowa State, Duke, and Arizona, and one bad loss to Charlotte.

Three Big Ten foes stand in the top five of the national rankings and Michigan isn’t one of them. One other is in the top 25 and it’s not Michigan. It’s certainly not the position Michigan expected to be in entering Big Ten play, but the Wolverines have been battle tested as much as any team in the conference over the first nine weeks of the season.

The real season begins tonight on the road at Minnesota, which stands 11-2. Winning on the road in the Big Ten is never easy, but it is imperative that Michigan get off to a good start and win the games it should win. The Wolverines get Northwestern, Nebraska, and Penn State after this one, so they have a great chance to start out 4-0 before traveling to Madison on Jan. 18.

Minnesota is led by first year head coach Richard Pitino, the son of Louisville head coach Rick Pitino. The younger Pitino spent one season as the head man at Florida International, guiding the Panthers to 18 wins and the first winning season since 1999-2000. He spent three years on his father’s staff at Louisville before taking over at FIU last season. At age 31, he’s the youngest coach in the Big Ten, and when John Beilein turns 62 on Feb. 5, Pitino will be exactly half his age.

So what can we expect from this revamped version of the Gophers? Let’s take a look:

The Starters
Minutes Points FG% 3FG% FT% Reb Ast TO Blk Stl
Andre Hollins (G) 30.8 16.0 40.3 32.9 83.8 4.1 3.2 1.9 0.1 1.3
Austin Hollins (G) 31.9 13.5 42.0 34.8 74.4 7.1 2.7 1.4 0.9 1.6
Deandre Mathieu (G) 28.3 11.9 51.6 53.8 80.9 2.6 4.8 1.9 0.0 2.1
Oto Osenieks (F) 20.3 7.3 47.1 27.3 69.6 3.3 0.7 0.9 0.4 0.6
Elliott Eliason (C) 24.7 6.1 46.6 00.0 76.0 8.4 0.8 0.9 2.3 1.1
The Others
Minutes Points FG% 3FG% FT% Reb Ast TO Blk Stl
Malik Smith (G) 21.7 10.0 41.5 39.7 85.0 2.0 1.2 1.0 0.1 0.8
Joey King (F) 20.0 8.2 43.5 29.2 74.2 2.7 0.3 0.9 0.3 0.4
Maurice Walker (F) 15.2 5.3 55.6 00.0 80.0 4.2 0.5 1.3 0.7 0.7
Maverick Ahanmisi (G) 11.1 2.8 38.9 42.9 68.8 1.4 0.8 0.6 0.1 0.4

The Hollins brothers are the stars of the team, leading the Gophers with 16 and 13.5 points per game, respectively. Andre Hollins (6’2″, 195) has scored in double figures in 10 of 13 games with a season high of 26 against Richmond. Austin Hollins (6’4″, 190) has reached double figures in all but one game (in which he scored nine) and has a season high of 20 against South Dakota State. The latter has been the better shooter this season, averaging about two percentage points better from both two and three.

Junior guard Deandre Mathieu (5’9″, 165) is the team’s third leading scorer at 11.9 points per game and the best shooter at 51.6 percent overall and 53.8 percent from downtown. The transfer from Moorhead State and Central Arizona College lit up Nebraska-Omaha for 27 points two weeks ago, shooting 9-of-11 from the floor and 8-of-10 from the free throw line.

In the frontcourt, junior forward Oto Osenieks (6’8″, 220) is averaging 7.3 points and 3.3 rebounds in 20 minutes of action. His season high of 14 against Wofford came on 6-of-11 shooting, but he has hit just 7-of-24 three-point attempts on the season. Center Elliott Eliason (6’11″, 240) leads the team with 8.4 rebounds per game and averages just 6.1 points. He scored ten points in back-to-back games against South Dakota State and Nebraska-Omaha, but has been held scoreless twice as well.

Senior guard Malik Smith (6’2″, 200) comes off the bench to be the Gophers’ fourth player that averages double figures. The Florida International transfer put up 16 against Syracuse on 5-of-8 shooting, including 4-of-7 from downtown. He followed that up with games of 15 and 16 against Arkansas and Chaminade, respectively, and has a season high of 19 against UNO.

Sophomore Joey King (6’9″, 225) and redshirt junior Maurice Walker (6’10, 250) are key subs in the frontcourt. King, a transfer from Drake, scored 20 in the season opener against Lehigh, but has reached double figures just twice since. Walker missed the first six games of the season but contributed 11 points and eight rebounds against New Orleans on Dec. 7.

The Schedule
Date Opponent Score
Nov. 8 Lehigh W 81-62
Nov. 12 Montana W 84-58
Nov. 16 at Richmond W 74-59
Nov. 19 Coastal Carolina W 82-72
Nov. 21 Wofford W 79-57
Nov. 25 #8 Syracuse* L 67-75
Nov. 26 Arkansas* L 73-87
Nov. 27 Chaminade* W 83-68
Dec. 3 Florida State W 71-61
Dec. 7 New Orleans W 80-65
Dec. 10 South Dakota State W 75-59
Dec. 20 Nebraska-Omaha W 92-79
Dec. 28 Texas A&M CC W 65-44
*Maui Invitational

At 11-2, Minnesota has done everything it should during the non-conference portion of the schedule. The Gophers’ best win was a 71-61 home victory over Florida State in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. The Seminoles are the only common opponent thus far. Aside from FSU, the rest of Minnesota’s wins have been against a bunch of cupcakes.

The only other major conference foes, #8 Syracuse and unranked Arkansas, resulted in losses, both in the Maui Invitational. The Gophers did play Syracuse tough, however, falling 75-67 after trailing by just three at halftime. The Gophers were within two with under two minutes remaining. Against Arkansas, Minnesota held a 40-35 halftime lead, but was outscored 52-33 in the final 20 minutes.

The Series

Michigan holds a 86-65 all-time lead in the series including wins in the last four and eight of the last nine. Michigan is 31-44 all-time at Minnesota but has won its last four games at Williams Arena.

Notes

• Michigan is 54-43 all-time in Big Ten openers.

• Glenn Robinson III is averaging 19.3 points and is shooting 66.7 percent from the field and 46.7 percent from three-point range in his last four games.

Michigan 83 – Minnesota 75: Wolverines rebound with big road win

Thursday, January 17th, 2013


Final 1st 2nd Total
#5 Michigan (17-1, 4-1) 36 47 83
#9 Minnesota (15-3, 3-2) 30 45 75

Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 21 points on just eight shots (Paul Battaglia, AP)

After suffering defeat for the first time on Sunday, Michigan answered bounced back with an impressive performance on the road in one of the Big Ten’s toughest venues. The Wolverines knocked off the 9th-ranked Minnesota Gophers 83-75 for their first road win over a top 10 team since beating Duke in 1996.

Just like in Sunday’s loss to Ohio State, scoring was hard to come by at the beginning, as Michigan scored just two points in the first three-and-a-half minutes. But the difference in this one was that the game didn’t get away from them during that time as Minnesota only managed six points.

Two threes by Tim Hardaway Jr. tied the game at 10 heading into the first TV timeout. Gopher Austin Hollins hit a three out of the break, but a free throw followed by a three by Hardaway gave Michigan a lead it would never relinquish. The Wolverines carried a 36-30 lead into the half.

In the second, Jordan Morgan scored the first two baskets for Michigan and a Hardaway dunk opened up a 10-point lead. Michigan continued to pull away over the next few minutes, punctuated by a Glenn Robinson steal at midcourt and 360 dunk that silenced the Gopher crowd. Michigan led 56-37.

However, just like Minnesota did against Indiana last week, they started chipping away at the lead. But the closest they would ever get was seven. The final six minutes of the game became a free throw competition and Michigan hit enough of them – and Minnesota didn’t – to seal the win.

Hardaway led the way for Michigan with 21 points and six rebounds on 4-of-5 three-point shooting. Trey Burke matched his season average with 18 and dished out nine assists. Nik Stauskas was the only other Wolverine in double figures with 11. Robinson and Morgan each added nine, while Mitch McGary scored eight.

Michigan shot 54.9 percent for the game and hit 10-of-20 three-pointers, while Minnesota shot 48.1 percent and was also 50 percent from downtown. Michigan pulled in just 25 rebounds, a season low, compared to Minnesota’s 33, but the Gophers are one of the best rebounding teams in the Big Ten.

Michigan now gets a week off before hosting Purdue (9-8, 3-2) next Thursday and then visiting Illinois (14-4, 1-3) on Sunday.

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
01 Glenn Robinson III* 3-8 1-3 2-2 0 5 5 4 9 1 1 0 3 33
52 Jordan Morgan* 4-6 0-0 1-3 2 2 4 2 9 0 1 0 1 20
10 Tim Hardaway Jr.* 7-8 4-5 3-6 1 4 5 2 21 3 6 2 3 37
03 Trey Burke* 5-15 3-6 5-6 1 0 1 4 18 9 1 1 1 36
11 Nik Stauskas* 3-6 1-4 4-6 0 2 2 1 11 3 0 0 2 37
02 Spike Albrecht 1-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 1 2 2 0 0 0 7
04 Mitch McGary 4-5 0-0 0-0 2 0 2 4 8 1 1 1 3 20
13 Matt Vogrich 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0+
22 Blake McLimans 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2
23 Caris LeVert 1-2 1-2 2-2 0 0 0 1 5 0 1 0 0 5
44 Max Bielfeldt 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3
Totals 28-51 10-20 17-25 9 16 25 19 83 19 12 4 13 200
Minnesota 25-52 8-16 17-27 14 19 33 21 75 16 15 6 10 200