In a season so far of ups and downs, Michigan’s recent upswing to start Big Ten season has brought a bit of stability with it. Tonight, in a game Michigan had to have if they are to compete in the Big Ten, the Wolverines closed out a relatively stress-free 80-67 home victory over Penn State to open their conference schedule on a four-game spurt after winning their last two non-conference games as well.
Michigan got off to a blazing start this evening on the backs of true freshman point guard Derrick Walton, Jr., who scored the game’s first eight points, including five in the first 24 seconds. Penn State, not to be put away quietly, rallied with the help of big man Donovon Jack, who scored six early points as well, but the Wolverines steadily increased their lead throughout the majority of the half.
With 4:20 to go in the first half, Michigan’s Glenn Robinson III continued to showcase his improved game, making a smooth midrange jumper from the right wing followed by two free throws and a pretty step back three with 3:58 left to give the Maize and Blue a 14-point lead – their biggest before the break.
Not to be outdone, star senior guard Tim Frazier put the Nittany Lions on his shoulders, scoring seven straight points for Penn State late in the first half to key a 10-3 run that cut Michigan’s lead to seven at the half. In the second half, Penn State came out hot again, scoring the first four points to make it a three-point lead and then four more points after a Caris LeVert three to cut the deficit to just two. From there, the two Big Ten foes battled back and forth a while longer until Michigan went on a 16-3 run of its own starting at the 13:45 mark.
Penn State guard D.J. Newbill did his best to keep his team afloat after the run, scoring 16 second half points after notching just one before halftime, but his Nittany Lions would never cut Michigan’s lead to less than eight.
Michigan is still figuring out exactly who they are, but John Beilein’s squad continues to trend toward being an offensive power with some defensive issues.
After the game, Beilein praised his team’s 80-point outburst on just 52 shots and pointed out the chemistry on offense that led to 18 assists on 28 made buckets, but he also singled out Nik Stauskas as being a defensive liability.
“I thought Nik got really tired when they were making that run, Nik was matched up on Newbill, and he was just taking him. You know, I told you, the Philly guys can get buckets.”
For his part, Stauskas took the blame himself.
“The second half, I was having trouble staying in front of D.J. Newbill. He was kind of just big-bodying me, putting down his shoulder, (and) I really couldn’t stay in front of him, so that was my fault.”
Certainly Frazier and Newbill, with 17 points a piece, scored a few more than what Beilein would have liked to see, but Michigan was at least able to keep one of them cold while the other was hot, as Frazier scored six in the second half and Newbill had only one in the first.
If Michigan can continue running their offense so smoothly and scoring seemingly at will, however, they can get away with some defensive letdowns, but with a big trip to Wisconsin looming this Saturday, Michigan cannot afford too many of those breakdowns.
Stauskas, who was again brilliant offensively with 21 points on 7-of-12 shooting (3-of-8 3PT), five assists, and six rebounds (two offensive), knows that each win is important and indicated that Michigan will only be concerned with the game at hand.
“We know we’re gonna have big stretches, the Big Ten has some of the best teams in the country here, but we just like to take it one game at a time, and we’re just happy we’re 4-0 right now. We’re not trying to get too excited about that…we’re just happy we’re 4-0.”
Maybe Michigan isn’t too excited about their start, but they have to be happy to be sitting 4-0 and tied for the conference lead with in-state rival Michigan State.
21 points (7-of-12 FG, 3-of-8 3PT, 4-of-5 FT), six rebounds (two offensive), five assists, zero turnovers in 37 minutes
**Glenn Robinson III**
15 points (5-of-013 FG, 2-of-3 3PT, 3-of-5 FT), five rebounds (two offensive), three assists, one steal, zero turnovers in 34 minutes
17 points (7-of-12 FG, 0-of-2 3PT, 3-of-3 FT), six assists, three rebounds, two steals, two turnovers in 35 minutes
• Nik Stauskas continues to show off an impressive dribble-drive game, but his shooting prowess keeps defenses honest on the outside, which has really allowed him to build chemistry with Jon Horford. Horford had another outstanding performance tonight with 11 points and seven rebounds (two offensive), but much of the credit goes to Stauskas, as the Candiana sophomore assisted three of Horford’s four field goals.
• Mitch McGary was not on the bench for tonight’s game after going through back surgery last week. He is most likely out for the remainder of the season, and his timeline to return to the bench is unknown.
• Freshman Zak Irvin played sparingly tonight, missing his only field goal attempt and recording a turnover in just nine minutes on the court while fellow first-year player Derrick Walton had one of his best games to date, scoring 16 points on nine shots and recording three assists.
|Final Game Stats|
|01||Glenn Robinson III*||5-13||2-3||3-5||2||3||5||1||15||3||0||0||1||34|
|10||Derrick Walton Jr.*||6-9||2-5||2-2||0||3||3||1||16||3||3||0||0||31|