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Posts Tagged ‘John Beilein’

Michigan hoops preview: #10 Michigan State

Saturday, February 6th, 2016


UM-MSU
Michigan vs Michigan State
Saturday, Feb. 6 | Ann Arbor, Mich. | 2 p.m. EST | CBS
Line: Michigan +3.5
Offense
76.9 Points/gm 79.0
(627-1,296) 48.4 Field Goal % 47.8 (651-1,362)
(240-588) 40.8 3-pt FG % 41.4 (195-471)
(275-372) 73.9 Free Throw % 72.4 (320-442)
12.0 FT Made/gm 13.9
32.7 Reb/gm 43.1
15.7 Assists/gm 10.4
9.8 Turnovers/gm 12.0
Defense
65.0 Points/gm 62.4
(551-1,287) 42.8 Field Goal % 36.7 (492-1,341)
(161-481) 33.5 3-pt FG % 28.2 (120-426)
32.2 Opp. Reb/gm 30.4
5.5 Steals/gm 4.3
2.4 Blocks/gm 5.4
Individual Leaders
Caris LeVert (17.6), Duncan Robinson (12.5) Points/gm Denzel Valentine (18.5), Bryn Forbes (13.6)
Derick Walton (5.8), Caris LeVert (5.4) Reb/gm Matt Costello (8.3), Denzel Valentine (7.8)

Michigan’s Big Ten title hopes suffered a big setback on Tuesday night when Indiana came into the Crisler Center and humbled the Wolverines with a 80-67 rout. The final score doesn’t reflect just how far apart the two teams were. Indiana shot the lights out and put themselves in great position to play for the conference title.

Michigan gets a chance to bounce back this afternoon when in-state rival Michigan State comes to town. The Spartans are a game behind Michigan in the Big Ten standings at 6-4, but since a three-game losing streak they have rattled off three straight wins. One of those was a 74-65 win over No. 7 Maryland and the last two were by a combined 65 points over Northwestern and Rutgers.

Michigan State is led by senior Denzel Valentine (6-foot-5, 220), who averages 18.5 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 6.6 assists per game. He’s pretty much a lock for Big Ten Player of the Year unless he falls apart the rest of the season. He ranks second in the Big Ten in scoring, fifth in rebounding, and first in assists. His 3.2 three-point field goals made per game are tied with Duncan Robinson for tops in the conference, though he has made 16 fewer. He has two triple-doubles and four more double-doubles this season with a high of 32 points against Boise State on Nov. 27. In his last four games he has made 19-of-34 three-point attempts including six in two of those.

Senior guard Bryn Forbes (6-foot-3, 190) ranks second on the team in scoring with 13.6 points per game and leads the team with a 48.2 percent three-point average. He has been a hot and cold scorer in Big Ten play. In the Spartans’ four losses, he averaged just five points per game on 6-of-27 (22.2%) shooting from the field and 3-of-18 (16.7%) three-point shooting. In the six wins, he has averaged 18.2 points on 38-of-73 (52.0%) shooting from the field and 26-of-44 (59.1%) three-point shooting. Michigan can let Valentine get his points, but must focus on holding Forbes in check.

Redshirt junior guard Eron Harris (6-foot-3, 185) is the third Spartan averaging double figures at 10.0 points per game. He’s a capable three-point shooter at 39.7 percent, though he attempts half as many Valentine and Forbes. Harris has raised his scoring during Big Ten play, averaging 11.9 points per contest after averaging 8.5 in the non-conference.

Senior forward Matt Costello (6-foot-9, 245) is the brute down low, averaging 9.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. The rebounding ranks second in the Big Ten behind only Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan and he leads the Big Ten with 2.7 offensive rebounds per game. Like Harris, Costello has raised his play in the conference season, averaging 12.3 points and 10.8 rebounds since Dec. 29 with six double-doubles in 10 games.

Freshman forward Deyonta Davis (6-foot-10, 240) has started the last five games in place of sophomore guard Lourawls Nairn Jr (5-foot-10, 175), who has been sidelined with plantar fasciitis. Davis hasn’t been a big scorer as of late — 16 points combined in his last three games — but does average eight points per game on the seasons. He ranks third in the Big Ten with two blocked shots per game and second with a 63.6 percent field goal rate. Nairn, meanwhile, started all 18 games before his injury, averaging 4.1 points and 4.5 assists per contest.

Junior forward Gavin Schilling (6-foot-9, 250) is another big body inside, averaging 4.3 points and 3.5 boards per outing. He missed the first 11 games of the season due to turf toe and has averaged 12.4 minutes per game since his return. His most important asset for Tom Izzo is his interior defense where he has both size and quickness to defend other bigs.

Freshman guard Matt McQuaid (6-foot-5, 190), junior guard Alvin Ellis (6-foot-4, 205), and redshirt freshman forward Kenny Goins (6-foot-6, 225) are the other regular contributors off the bench. McQuaid is a three-point shooter, averaging 42.2 percent, but has attempted only 45, which would rank sixth on Michigan’s team. Ellis isn’t a great shooter at 38.6 percent from the field and 35 percent from three-point range. He averages 2.6 points. Goins provides 9.7 minutes per game, but averages just 1.7 points and 2.8 rebounds.

As a team, Michigan State has the Big Ten’s best defense, allowing just 62.5 points per game and holding opponents to 36.7 percent shooting from the field and 27.8 percent from three-point range. Michigan struggled with Indiana’s defensive pressure on Tuesday and the Hoosiers rank in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten defensively. If Michigan is forcing the same bad shots they did against IU, it will be a long day. If they move the ball and get off good shots they can compete with the Spartans, and if they can avoid the long drought that doomed them against IU and keep the home crowd into the game, Michigan can come away with a win. But I think Michigan State has too much size and will hand Michigan its second straight defeat.

Michigan hoops preview: #22 Indiana

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016


UM-Indiana
Michigan vs Indiana
Tuesday, Feb. 2 | Ann Arbor, Mich. | 9 p.m. EST | ESPN
Line: Michigan -3
Offense
77.4 Points/gm 85.2
(600-1,234) 48.6 Field Goal % 51.7 (667-1,291)
(233-565) 41.2 3-pt FG % 43.2 (220-509)
(269-361) 74.5 Free Throw % 71.8 (321-447)
12.2 FT Made/gm 14.6
32.8 Reb/gm 38.2
16.0 Assists/gm 16.7
9.8 Turnovers/gm 14.6
Defense
64.4 Points/gm 68.5
(518-1,221) 42.4 Field Goal % 43.4 (558-1,287)
(151-451) 33.5 3-pt FG % 33.3 (125-375)
31.6 Opp. Reb/gm 30.0
5.7 Steals/gm 7.4
2.5 Blocks/gm 4.3
Individual Leaders
Caris LeVert (17.6), Duncan Robinson (12.5) Points/gm Yogi Ferrell (17.5), James Blackmon (15.8)
Derick Walton (5.9), Caris LeVert (5.4) Reb/gm Troy Williams (6.5), Thomas Bryant (5.5)

After sweeping its easiest four-game stretch of the Big Ten season, Michigan returns home Tuesday to kick off a much more difficult second half of the conference slate against Indiana. Meanwhile, the Hoosiers come into the game after a pretty worry-free first half of their own.

Seven of Michigan’s last nine games will come against teams with a winning conference record, and none will be bigger than Tuesday’s matchup against an Indiana team currently tied at the very top. The Hoosiers, though they’ve yet to play any of the Big Ten’s top six teams, are 8-1 and winners of 13 of their last 14 games.

With top-five duo Maryland and Iowa setting the pace, Michigan will have to put together a string of quality wins in February to earn a double bye in next month’s Big Ten Tournament. That journey begins Tuesday night.

Here are three keys to the game.

1. Bielfeldt is back

It’s been a wild ride for former Michigan forward Max Bielfeldt over the last 12 months, going from bench warmer to rotation center to starting big man at Indiana.

Calves came out of nowhere in 2015, playing more than 20 minutes in eight of Michigan’s final 14 games. The redshirt junior topped 20 minutes only once in the team’s first 18 games: A four-point effort against Detroit.

But now Bielfeldt is a major contributor for the Hoosiers, averaging 8.1 points and 4.6 rebounds in 17 minutes per game. He’s also raised his field goal percentage by more than 10 percentage points, shooting a stellar 58.2 percent from the floor.

As a graduate transfer, this will be Bielfeldt’s last game at the Crisler Center, but Michigan fans will see a much different player than the one who came off of John Beilein’s bench with a minute left in blowouts. Bielfeldt is more involved on both ends of the floor with the Hoosiers and has scored in double figures nine times this season.

Beilein said on Monday that he didn’t agree with the NCAA allowing Bielfeldt to transfer to another Big Ten school. That quote alone will tell you Bielfeldt’s old coach understands the veteran’s value on the court.

2. To Caris, or not to Caris?

While the mysterious absence of Caris LeVert in Michigan’s backcourt continues to drag on, both sides of Tuesday’s matchup are focused squarely on one question: Will he play?

But regardless of LeVert’s status, the more appropriate question for Michigan fans might be, “Should he play?”

That’s no knock on LeVert. The senior guard is clearly the team’s most valuable player, leading the way in points, assists and rebounds before his “lower leg” injury. But it’s worth wondering if such a big stage is the right time for Beilein to pull the trigger.

Since LeVert hit the bench, Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton have really stepped up their play. Irvin is making a concerted effort to drive to the basket and find his teammates while Walton is filling LeVert’s absence on the defensive boards.

With the offense starting to click in its current rotation, is it the right time to reinsert a player like LeVert, who not only demands the basketball in his hands on most of the team’s possessions, but also might be knocking off a month’s worth of rust?

The obviously problem is that, with Michigan’s upcoming schedule, there’s really no good time to make the transition. The Wolverines only have two opponents left on their schedule — Northwestern and Minnesota — that they can beat without playing a solid game. With having LeVert ready by March as Beilein’s primary goal, he might have to bite the bullet and accept the growing pains that’ll come from putting LeVert back on the court.

Would the future first-round draft pick agree to come off the bench? If so, that might be a good way to ease him back into the flow of things. LeVert has never suggested to be a player with a huge ego, but coming off the bench would definitely be a transition for the third-year starter.

Michigan has been very vague about the nature of LeVert’s injury, so we probably won’t get an answer to our questions until he trots onto the court.

3. Protect this house

Michigan will play perhaps the most difficult second-half schedule in the Big Ten, but it can at least watch its destiny play out on its own turf.

Over the next five weeks, Michigan will host Indiana, Michigan State, Purdue, Northwestern and Iowa at the Crisler Center. That means before the conference title is decided, four of Michigan’s five greatest competitors for the conference crown will take a trip to Ann Arbor.

If the Wolverines can take care of business on their home court, the path to the Big Ten championship will run along Stadium Boulevard.

The Hoosiers didn’t make the trip north last season as the only meeting between these two teams came at Assembly Hall. In fact, last time Indiana saw Crisler, Michigan was cutting the nets and getting ready to raise another banner.

Michigan’s 84-80 win over the Hoosers on March 8, 2014, put the cherry on top of another Big Ten title for Beilein’s squad. Michigan polished off a 23-7 regular season with a 9-5 run in the final minute to hold off Tom Crean’s upset attempt. After a Stanford Robinson bucket tied the game at 75 with under 90 seconds to go, a Glenn Robinson 3-pointer and six perfect free throws sent Michigan into the conference tournament with a No. 1 seed.

Tuesday night’s game will begin with a much different feel. Michigan, for one, is unranked and expected to be a middling seed when it heads to Indianapolis. Meanwhile Indiana, at 18-4 overall, has its eyes set on a top-three seed in the Big Dance.

But those differences don’t change the importance of this game. Michigan can’t afford to drop home games like this if it hopes to emerge as a true contender. This appears to be a bit of a validation game for two teams hoping to keep pace with loaded rosters like the Hawkeyes and Terps.

Michigan’s guards will have their hands full with Ferrell on defense, but Indiana’s athleticism in the front court might be the biggest deciding factor in this contest. With eyes on LeVert, Bielfeldt, Crean and Ferrell in his last trip to Crisler, it should be an entertaining matchup to kick off February in the Big Ten.

Michigan 79 – Penn State 72: Season low six threes can’t stop Michigan in MSG

Saturday, January 30th, 2016


Robinson vs PSU(Julie Jacobson, AP)

John Beilein’s Michigan teams have always gotten the “live by the three, die by the three” saying tacked onto them – but sometimes mistakenly so. In today’s matchup with Penn State at Madison Square Garden, an uninformed observer would have been forgiven if he thought the saying applied more to the Nittany Lions, as Michigan attempted only 20 triples (versus 35 two-point attempts) and made just six of them.

That’s in stark contrast to the Wolverines’ normal trend of taking nearly half of their field goal tries from distance – at 46.9 percent, they attempt more threes per field goal attempt than all but seven other teams in the country.

The Wolverines, however, still managed to get the job done with a 79-72 victory to bring their conference record to 7-2 halfway through Big Ten play.

With Penn State selling out to guard the deep shot, Michigan was content to drive inside and take what was left to them, led by Zak Irvin and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman’s efforts, who combined to make 12 of their 19 (63.2%) attempts inside the arc. The duo paced Michigan with 35 total points on an array of hard takes to the rim while Derrick Walton and Mark Donnal added 13 and 10 points, respectively, and cleaned up the boards to the tune of 16 rebounds.

Four Factors
Michigan Penn State
51 eFG% 49
32 OReb% 36
11 TO% 17
56 FTR 24

Duncan Robinson was the odd man out as the only starter to not reach double figures, and the one Wolverine neutralized most by Penn State’s aggressive defensive tactics. The pure shooter only got one trey to fall – the first time he’s failed to make multiple threes since a late November loss to UConn – on a measly (for him) five attempts, which ties for his lowest triple tries in a single Big Ten game.

Throughout the first half, the two teams happily traded punch for punch as each seemingly scored at will after a couple quick steps into the lane. But an Irvin corner three at the buzzer put the “visiting” Wolverines up by 12.

Penn State would never get closer than five in the second half despite some beyond-NBA-range threes falling for sophomore Shep Garner late; Michigan pushed the lead to as many as 15.

As soon as it seemed that the Nittany Lions could threaten to take the lead following a 9-0 run late in the second half, Robinson made his biggest shot of the game on a beautiful drive and left-hand finish before Walton threaded a dime – one of his game-high seven assists – to Rahk on the fast break to bring the lead right back to nine points with just over four minutes remaining.

Penn State’s magic proceeded to run out and Michigan made nine of their 10 free throws over the final 1:49 to put the clamps on their third straight win.

The Wolverines continued to play without star senior Caris LeVert, as he was dressed in street clothes for the eighth straight game, but his left ankle is reportedly getting close to full strength.

His return over the next week would be a major boon for a Michigan team that has impressively navigated through the first half of their conference schedule but faces Indiana and Michigan State this coming Tuesday and Saturday, respectively.

Nonetheless, Beilein’s squad has held serve against the teams they’ve been expected to beat and has looked competitive in their two losses.

Today’s win in the first half of a basketball/hockey double-header in the heart of the Big Apple was another expected victory for Michigan, but perhaps a step in the right direction, complete with proof that Beilein doesn’t need to see his team drain everything from deep to remain in control.

Michigan’s Three Stars

***Zak Irvin***
20 points (5-of-8 2pt, 2-of-4 3pt, 4-of-7 FT), two rebounds, one assist, one turnover in 34 minutes

**Derrick Walton Jr.**
13 points (2-of-5 2pt, 1-of-4 3pt, 6-of-6 FT), 10 rebounds (one offensive), seven assists, three steals, zero turnovers in 39 minutes

*Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman*
13 points (7-of-11 2pt, 0-of-2 3pt, 1-of-2 FT), three rebounds (two offensive), one assist, one steal, two turnovers in 35 minutes

Season Three-Stars Standings

Derrick Walton Jr – 23
Duncan Robinson – 16
Caris LeVert – 15
Zak Irvin – 10
Aubrey Dawkins – 5
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman – 4
Mark Donnal – 1
Spike Albrecht – 1
Moritz Wagner – 1
Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
34 Mark Donnal* 2-4 0-0 6-8 4 2 6 3 10 1 1 1 0 25
10 Derrick Walton* 3-9 1-4 6-6 1 9 10 2 13 7 0 0 3 39
21 Zak Irvin* 7-12 2-4 4-7 0 2 2 1 20 1 1 0 0 34
22 Duncan Robinson* 2-6 1-5 4-4 1 1 2 3 9 2 0 0 1 27
12 Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman* 7-13 0-2 1-2 2 3 5 2 15 1 2 0 1 35
05 D.J. Wilson 0-2 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 4
11 Andrew Dakich 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1
13 Moritz Wagner 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 2
24 Aubrey Dawkins 2-5 2-4 1-2 1 1 2 2 7 1 1 0 2 19
32 Ricky Doyle 2-4 0-0 1-2 1 2 3 1 5 0 0 1 0 16
Totals 25-55 6-20 23-31 11 23 34 14 79 13 7 2 7 200
Penn State 26-62 9-29 11-15 13 23 36 23 72 13 11 4 3
200
Full Stats

Michigan 68 – Rutgers 57

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016


Irvin-Robinson vs Rutgers(MGoBlue.com)

Remember last week’s message from Richard Pitino to his own team that Michigan enacted by winning ugly? Well…Michigan did it again, this time against the cellar-dwelling Scarlet Knights of Rutgers in a 68-57 win.

It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t all that encouraging. But it was a win. That’s the message the Wolverines seemed to be preaching in the aftermath of a sloppy victory that saw the home squad stumble, brick, and crawl its way to an 11-point win with only 20 made field goals (and only nine two-pointers) in a game they were favored to win by 25.

After the win, John Beilein did not hide his displeasure with the way things went, saying that he saw a big family hanging out by the main staircase and hoped that they had a good time, because Beilein “did not”.

“So somebody had to have a good time today,” he went on. “You have those games where we’re fortunate to get a win based on your performance, but we’ll just grow from it and learn from it and see where we go moving forward.”

Fortunate is a pretty apt word to use in this case, given that Michigan very well may have lost to any other team in the Big Ten with the way they played this evening. To say that Rutgers is bad this season would be putting it kindly. Eddie Jordan’s Scarlet Knights are undermanned, undersized, and in over their heads. They are now 6-15 on the season and 0-8 in conference play, with not much hope of pulling a win out of their hats before the end of the year. Rutgers sits at a woeful #274 on kenpom.com, flanked by the almighty New Hampshire Wildcats and Fairleigh Dickinson Knights, and a whopping 74 spots behind the next-worst team in the Big Ten in Minnesota (also winless in conference play). They shoot a lowly 45.6 percent from inside the three-point line and an even lowlier 30.9 percent outside the arc. You get the point – Rutgers is a poor excuse for a Big Ten basketball team this year.

Four Factors
Michigan Rutgers
52 eFG% 47
17 OReb% 17
15 TO% 22
41 FTR 28

And the Wolverines could not slam the door on them all night.

Duncan Robinson led the way in the scoring column with 18 points on 14 shots, but was just 1-of-5 from two-point range with a pair of ugly turnovers.

Derrick Walton added 14 on 10 shots while missing all four of his attempts inside the arc and also coughing it up twice.

Zak Irvin did well to tally eight assists and 12 rebounds, but he too struggled to knock down shots, going 1-of-6 from distance on his way to just eight total points and two turnovers.

Mark Donnal was the beneficiary of many of those assists, finishing with 10 points on six shots, but also gave it away twice.

Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman rounded out the starting lineup and did not turn the ball over, but he remained quiet offensively, missing all three of his shot attempts (all triples) and collecting a single assist in 29 minutes.

Perhaps Aubrey Dawkins was the best overall performer for the Maize and Blue with an efficient 11 points (1-of-2 2pt, 3-of-4 3pt) in just 19 minutes. But even he missed a wide open, violent tomahawk jam attempt down the heart of the lane when he tried to finish with a one-handed flourish and instead sent the ball clanging off the heel all the way back to half court.

There’s good reason to believe that Michigan took this one lightly, and it’s hard to blame them for it given the competition level. A loss here, however, would have been absolutely devastating. And though tonight’s matchup had all the makings of a trap game, Rutgers is not quite good enough yet to win on the road versus a talented Michigan squad even when they are off.

Still, this one never felt in great doubt despite Michigan trailing for 14+ minutes of the first half and never leading by more than 14 throughout.

So the Wolverines will march on with another ‘W’ notched on their resume – no asterisk needed – for the third straight game to bring their conference mark to 6-2 and their overall record to 16-5, already reaching last year’s win total with 10 regular season games to play.

At the end of the night, a win, as they say, is a win. No matter how it comes.

Quick hitters

• Following the win, John Beilein said he got an ominous feeling when, before the game, he could not find his scouting report on Rutgers for one final pre-game read through, as he does so every game day. As of press time, he had yet to locate it, but he claims this was the first time it had ever happened to him (perhaps unsurprisingly, given the level of competition) in his many years of coaching.

• Speaking of bizarre and unique happenings tonight, Rutgers made a mental mistake that John Beilein also never remembers having seen in his career that started when, late in the game, Zak Irvin stepped to the free throw line for a one-and-one opportunity and bricked the first attempt off the rim. A Rutgers player nonchalantly caught the carom, glanced around briefly as everyone looked confused and sat still (including Irvin, it should be noted), and proceeded to toss the ball to a referee sitting out of bounds on the baseline, giving Michigan the ball back. Four seconds later, Derrick Walton drew a foul and made both his freebies.

Beilein felt it was a critical possession, given that Michigan was up just eight points with 45 seconds remaining when the gaffe occurred. It seems highly unlikely that Rutgers would have pulled off the miraculous last-minute comeback á la Virginia, but we’ll never know.

Michigan’s Three Stars

***Derrick Walton Jr.***
14 points (0-of-4 2pt, 3-of-6 3pt, 5-of-5 FT), three rebounds (two offensive), four assists, one steal, two turnovers in 38 minutes

**Aubrey Dawkins**
11 points (1-of-2 2pt, 3-of-4 3pt), one rebound, one assist, zero turnovers in 19 minutes

*Zak Irvin*
8 points (1-of-2 2pt, 1-of-6 3pt, 3-of-5 FT), 12 rebounds, eight assists, two turnovers in 38 minutes

Season Three-Stars Standings

Derrick Walton Jr – 21
Duncan Robinson – 16
Caris LeVert – 15
Zak Irvin – 7
Aubrey Dawkins – 5
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman – 3
Mark Donnal – 1
Spike Albrecht – 1
Moritz Wagner – 1
Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
34 Mark Donnal* 4-6 0-0 2-2 0 4 4 2 10 1 2 1 1 31
10 Derrick Walton* 3-10 3-6 5-5 2 1 3 1 14 4 2 0 1 38
21 Zak Irvin* 2-8 1-6 3-5 0 12 12 2 8 8 2 0 0 38
22 Duncan Robinson* 5-14 4-9 4-4 1 3 4 3 18 2 2 0 0 34
12 Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman* 0-3 0-3 3-4 0 2 2 1 3 1 0 1 1 29
03 Kameron Chatman 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 2
11 Andrew Dakich 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0+
13 Moritz Wagner 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 2
24 Aubrey Dawkins 4-6 3-4 0-0 1 0 1 2 11 1 0 0 0 19
32 Ricky Doyle 2-2 0-0 0-0 0 2 2 1 4 0 0 0 0 7
Totals 20-49 11-28 17-20 5 24 29 13 68 17 10 2 3 200
Rutgers 22-50 3-18 10-14 5 25 30 18 57 11 14 0 6 200
Full Stats
Beilein tie watch
(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

Michigan 81 – Nebraska 68

Saturday, January 23rd, 2016


Walton vs Nebraska(Nati Harnik, AP)

It might not look like much on paper, but Michigan added another impressive win to its resume Saturday afternoon, knocking off a red-hot Nebraska team in Lincoln.

Tim Miles’ team kicked off the season a mediocre 8-8, but kicked things into gear when Big Ten play began. Close losses to Indiana and Iowa, the lone conference undefeated teams, berthed a four-game winning streak that included two 25-plus point wins and road victories over Illinois and Michigan State.

Michigan, despite knocking off conference favorite Maryland, had lost two of three entering the contest. But it was the Wolverines who dominated the pace wire-to-wire and put an end to the Cornhuskers’ winning streak.

Four Factors
Michigan Nebraska
65 eFG% 53
33 OReb% 25
22 TO% 16
49 FTR 16

Derrick Walton led the way for Michigan, dropping 19 points and pitching in with six assists. He also grabbed a team-high 12 rebounds for his 3rd double-double (one was a triple-double) of the season. His backcourt-mate Zak Irvin didn’t light up the stat sheet, but he dished out five big assists and never turned it over.

Duncan Robinson put an end to his brief shooting woes by hitting six of 12 shots for a game-high 21 points.

Mark Donnal benefitted from some great inside passing and finished with 14 points on six of eight shooting.

The Wolverines shut down a hot Nebraska offense, which was led by Andrew White’s 15 points on six of 14 shooting. Star forward Shavon Shields scored just 11 points on 11 shot attempts.

With the win, Michigan sits in a fourth-place tie with Purdue in the Big Ten. The Wolverines return home Wednesday to host the last-place Rutgers Scarlett Knights (0-7).

Michigan’s Three Stars

***Derrick Walton Jr.***
19 points (5-of-8 2pt, 4-of-6 3pt, 6-of-8 FT), 12 rebounds (two offensive), six assists, two steals, four turnovers in 37 minutes

**Duncan Robinson**
21 points (6-of-12 2pt, 3-of-7 3pt, 6-of-6 FT), two rebounds, three assists, two steals, one turnover in 39 minutes

*Mark Donnal*
14 points (4-of-8 2pt, 6-of-8 FT), four rebounds (all offensive), two blocks in 26 minutes

Season Three-Stars Standings

Derrick Walton Jr – 18
Duncan Robinson – 16
Caris LeVert – 15
Zak Irvin – 6
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman – 3
Aubrey Dawkins – 3
Mark Donnal – 1
Spike Albrecht – 1
Moritz Wagner – 1
Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
34 Mark Donnal* 4-8 0-0 6-8 4 0 4 1 14 0 0 2 0 26
10 Derrick Walton* 5-8 4-6 6-8 2 10 12 3 19 6 4 0 2 37
21 Zak Irvin* 3-7 2-4 0-0 0 4 4 1 8 5 0 0 1 37
22 Duncan Robinson* 6-12 3-7 6-6 0 2 2 2 21 3 1 0 2 39
12 Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman* 2-5 1-1 3-3 0 3 3 4 8 3 3 0 0 25
03 Kameron Chatman 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 3
11 Andrew Dakich 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0+
13 Moritz Wagner 2-2 0-0 0-0 1 1 2 2 4 0 2 0 0 8
24 Aubrey Dawkins 2-4 1-3 0-0 1 1 2 1 5 1 0 0 0 19
32 Ricky Doyle 1-1 0-0 0-0 0 2 2 1 2 0 1 0 0 6
Totals 25-47 11-21 20-23 8 24 32 15 81 18 14 2 6 200
Nebraska 28-58 6-22 6-9 8 16 24 18 68 11 10 3 9 200
Full Stats

Michigan hoops preview: Nebraska

Saturday, January 23rd, 2016


UM-Nebraska
Michigan at Nebraska
Saturday, Jan. 23 | Lincoln, Neb. | 2 p.m. EST | ESPN2
Offense
77.6 Points/gm 74.4
(530-1,083) 48.9 Field Goal % 46.3 (529-1,143)
(205-496) 41.3 3-pt FG % 36.2 (131-362)
(209-287) 72.8 Free Throw % 71.1 (300-422)
11.0 FT Made/gm 15.0
33.0 Reb/gm 37.7
15.9 Assists/gm 12.5
9.7 Turnovers/gm 13.0
Defense
64.2 Points/gm 67.1
(422-1,051) 42.1 Field Goal % 41.6 (452-1,086)
(133-382) 34.8 3-pt FG % 33.1 (123-372)
31.9 Opp. Reb/gm 31.8
5.7 Steals/gm 7.1
2.5 Blocks/gm 3.1
Individual Leaders
Caris LeVert (17.6), Duncan Robinson (11.9) Points/gm Andrew White III (17.0), Shavon Shields (16.1)
Caris LeVert (5.4), Derrick Walton (5.4) Reb/gm Andrew White III (6.1), Shavon Shields (5.3)

After facing three straight ranked opponents — two of them on the road — Michigan got a bit of a breather with a win over Minnesota on Thursday night. Now, they travel to Nebraska for a Saturday afternoon tilt that fits the definition of a trap game. It falls in the middle of a four-game stretch of games Michigan should win before a key set of games against Indiana and Michigan State. But Pinnacle Bank Arena has proven to be a tough place to play, and Michigan hasn’t been great on the road.

Additionally, Nebraska is riding the high of knocking off Michigan State in East Lansing on Wednesday — their fourth straight win after opening Big Ten play 0-3.

Nebraska is led by junior guard Andrew White III (6-foot-7, 216) and senior forward Shavon Shields (6-foot-7, 225). White leads the team with 17 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. Shields is second with 16.1 and 5.3. They rank fifth and eighth in the Big Ten, respectively, in points per game. Michigan State limited White to his lowest totals of the season, just seven points and one rebound, due to foul trouble, but the Cornhuskers still won the game. Shields picked up the slack with 28 points on 12-of-20 shooting. White, meanwhile, has scored 28 points twice this season — against Rutgers and Creighton — and scored a season high 30 against Abilene Christian. The Kansas transfer is the team’s best three-point shooter, shooting 43.4 percent. His 53 made threes are more than all Michigan players save Duncan Robinson’s 64.

Shields is less adept at the three, shooting just 30.4 percent, but takes more shots than anyone else on the team, averaging more than 12 per game. He scored 28 points in an overtime loss to No. 21 Miami in December, 25 against Samford, and 24 against Minnesota last week.

Behind White and Shields, junior guard Tai Webster (6-foot-4, 196) averages 9.9 points and four rebounds per game. He has two 20-point games, including a 22-point performance against Iowa, but he followed that up with six points in a 3-of-10 outing against Rutgers. He’s a capable three-point shooter, averaging 40.4 percent, but only averages one-and-a-half attempts per contest.

Freshman guard Glynn Watson Jr (6-foot-0, 165) is the team’s fourth leading scorer, averaging 8.1 points. During the current four game winning streak he’s averaging 12.5 points, including 17 against Illinois and 13 against MSU.

Senior guard Benny Parker (5-foot-9, 175) has started every game, but scores just 4.6 points per game. Despite playing 20 minutes or more in every game, he has scored just six points combined in the last four games. He has a season high 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting against Northwestern in the Big Ten opener, but has managed just 22 points combined in the six games since.

Freshman forward Michael Jacobson (6-foot-8, 222) has started 11 games, averaging 4.2 points, while fellow freshman forward Jack McVeigh has 5.4 points off the bench.

As a team, Nebraska is averaging three points fewer than Michigan and shoots slightly worse all around. They also allow three points more per game than the Wolverines, but their field goal defense is slightly better. In Lincoln, this should be a pretty even contest and Michigan will be happy to come home with a win.

The last — and only other — time Michigan came to Pinnacle Bank Arena, the Wolverines survived with a 71-70 win. Derrick Walton Jr. hit a layup with 23 seconds remaining and Nebraska missed two game winning attempts at the buzzer. They look to do the same, but with a little less drama, this afternoon.

Michigan 74 – Minnesota 69

Thursday, January 21st, 2016


Irvin vs Minnesota(MGoBlue.com)

After Wednesday night’s game that saw Minnesota visit Michigan, Golden Gopher coach Richard Pitino revealed that he’s been pleading with his hapless team to “win ugly”.

Unfortunately, his players only got the former half of that right.

The Wolverines, however, fully personified the phrase with a thank-goodness-that’s-over 74-69 victory to move to 4-2 in conference play and 14-5 overall. Minnesota left Ann Arbor still in search of their first Big Ten win after their seventh failed effort.

Once again without the services of senior leader Caris LeVert, whose fifth straight absence with a mysterious lower left leg injury continues to make fans increasingly nervous, Michigan’s juniors stepped up to the plate to lead the effort.

Zak Irvin, whose three-point shooting mark sat at a brutal 20 percent after non-conference play, continued to show off a more confident stroke – hitting three of his five triples – while mixing in a handful of comfortable drives, dishes, and finishes at the rim on his way to a 19-point, 11-rebound, three-assist performance. Since turning the calendar to Big Ten play, Irvin has flipped a switch, with a 46.4 percent mark from deep (13-of-28) and 23 assists in six games (3.8 per on a 21.2 assist rate – tops on the team since the New Year). And while his finishing inside the arc has actually been worse than from distance (40% in conference play), the Indiana native appears to be more aggressive driving to the rack without LeVert available.

He insists that it’s all simply part of the team’s “Next Man Up” mentality.

Derrick Walton, Irvin’s classmate, helped out with 22 points and six rebounds while playing nearly from tip to buzzer. Walton struggled from deep, converting on only one of his six triple tries, but he looked better finishing at the rim last night and made good from the charity stripe (11-of-12) despite coming into the game with an uncharacteristically low 73.8 percent conversion rate at the line (he made 79.3% and 83.3% in his freshman and sophomore campaigns, respectively).

Four Factors
Michigan Minnesota
44 eFG% 47
23 OReb% 19
8 TO% 17
37 FTR 29

No other Wolverine managed to reach double figures despite what seemed like a bevy of open looks, as the team finished with a rancid 29 percent rate from three and 43.8 percent rate from two for an effective FG% of just 43.7 percent.

Despite the shooting struggles, it never felt like Michigan was in serious danger of dropping the game – even if they did appear to be in hibernation for much of the contest. For what it’s worth, KenPom’s statistical win probability meter agreed, with the Maize and Blue never falling below a 90.8 percent likelihood of pulling it out – they were up by at least three points the entire second half.

Minnesota was paced by sophomore Nate Mason’s career high 25 points on 16 shots while Carlos Morris and Jordan Murphy combined for 27 points on 23 shots. As a team, the Gophers simply couldn’t hit anything from deep when it mattered – they didn’t make a three in the second half until there were 25 seconds left in the game – and finished with a poor 27.3 percent mark from distance. The visitors did, however, have some success driving and made 51.4 percent of their two-point looks, which Beilein attributed to a defensive focus on sticking with Minnesota’s perimeter shooters. And though Beilein said that strategy worked, citing the Golden Gophers’ shooting woes, Minnesota’s strength has always been getting to the hole and drawing fouls. Still, it was never going to be enough for Pitino’s squad, who also could not overcome then-leading scorer Joey King’s quiet three-point outing.

Fortunately, style points do not come into play in college basketball, and a lousy home win over Minnesota still goes into the proper column for Michigan, who has their sights set on competing for a conference title and jockeying for position in the Big Dance. It might sound a little far-fetched right now, and I’m certainly not arguing that the Wolverines are favorites in the Big Ten, but a 4-2 record with a slew of winnable games over the next few weeks is working just fine for now.

Michigan’s Three Stars

***Zak Irvin***
19 points (5-of-12 2pt, 3-of-5 3pt), 11 rebounds (one offensive), three assists, one steal, one turnover in 37 minutes

**Derrick Walton Jr.**
22 points (4-of-7 2pt, 1-of-6 3pt, 11-of-12 FT), six rebounds, one assist, one steal, one turnover in 39 minutes

*Duncan Robinson*
9 points (0-of-2 2pt, 3-of-10 3pt), five rebounds, one steal in 36 minutes

Season Three-Stars Standings

Caris LeVert – 15
Derrick Walton Jr – 15
Duncan Robinson – 14
Zak Irvin – 6
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman – 3
Aubrey Dawkins – 3
Spike Albrecht – 1
Moritz Wagner – 1
Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
34 Mark Donnal* 2-4 1-2 0-1 2 1 3 4 5 2 3 1 0 23
10 Derrick Walton* 5-13 1-6 11-12 0 6 6 2 22 1 1 0 1 39
21 Zak Irvin* 8-17 3-5 0-0 1 10 11 2 19 3 1 0 1 37
22 Duncan Robinson* 3-12 3-10 0-0 0 5 5 1 9 0 0 0 1 36
12 Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman* 0-3 0-2 6-8 0 4 4 4 6 2 0 1 0 29
05 D.J. Wilson 0-2 0-0 0-0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 3
11 Andrew Dakich 0-1 0-1 0-0 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 1 5
13 Moritz Wagner 2-3 0-1 0-0 1 0 1 2 4 0 0 0 0 8
24 Aubrey Dawkins 3-7 1-4 0-0 1 2 3 2 7 0 0 0 0 15
32 Ricky Doyle 0-1 0-0 2-2 1 0 1 1 2 0 1 0 0 5
Totals 23-63 9-31 19-23 9 29 38 18 74 9 6 2 4 200
Minnesota 25-59 6-22 13-17 7 31 38 22 69 10 12 4 1 200
Full Stats
Beilein Tie Watch
(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

Michigan 70 – #3 Maryland 67

Wednesday, January 13th, 2016


Walton vs Maryland(MGoBlue.com)

With seven minutes and 33 seconds left on the clock last night, Michigan came face-to-face with its season. The Wolverines could see the opportunity right in front of them, they could taste it in the beads of sweat running down their faces, they could feel it in their thumping hearts and hear it in the deafening roars of the crowd.

With 7:33 left against No.3 ranked Maryland, Michigan was tied up at 54 on their home floor. They had let the Terrapins chip away at a 13-point second half lead, but the victory could still be wrested from the hands of their foes.

They almost let it slip away. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman would re-take the lead 33 seconds later before Maryland’s freshman sensation Diamond Stone muscled his way to an and-1 – and Maryland’s first lead of the second half – on the other side of the floor.

Down their star senior, Caris LeVert, and struggling to keep their legs under them after a comfortable cushion was so quickly removed, the Wolverines had every reason to give up.

Instead, juniors Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton embraced their squad’s “Next Man Up” mantra, put the team on their shoulders, and led the Maize and Blue to a nerve-racking, season-defining 70-67 win.

When the going got rough, Irvin and Walton stepped up like John Beilein hadn’t seen before to ensure that this game would not fall through the cracks and be another “so close” in the loss column.

A few minutes after Stone’s three-point play, Walton swished a gutsy step-back triple from the right wing to give his team a five point edge, then Irvin took matters into his own hands on the following possession with a no-no-no-YES triple off the bounce from the top of the key to bring the lead to eight. Rasheed Sulaimon quickly nailed a three for Maryland before Walton hit another difficult jumper – this time a two – to go up seven with 2:11 to play.

Another three from Sulaimon would start the serious jitters in the crowd at Crisler, and a missed front-end of a one-and-one from Irvin felt like pandemonium waiting to break out.

Four Factors
Michigan Maryland
58 eFG% 50
22 OReb% 35
13 TO% 19
25 FTR 19

Mark Donnal wouldn’t allow it. After getting called for a questionable shooting foul on Stone, who hit two free throws to make it a two-point game, Donnal secured a crucial offensive rebound off a missed layup from Walton with fewer than 20 seconds to play. Walton corrected his mistake by calling a heads-up timeout to secure an inbounds play, which went to Donnal, who immediately was sent to the line for a one-and-one opportunity of his own. For all those free throws stood for, Donnal remained calm.

“Basically I just gotta focus on making it. You shoot free throws every day in practice and I basically just shut everything out.”

He hit the all-important first free throw and missed the second, but was able to play good enough defense on Sulaimon in the closing seconds off a defensive switch that the Duke transfer couldn’t hit a tying three.

Michigan held on and breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Irvin, who finished with a game-high 22 points on 14 shots and made three of his seven triples, was the star of the night, while Walton’s 12 points all seemed to come at the perfect time despite a poor shooting night inside. Duncan Robinson chipped in with what’s becoming a routine game of five triples to help him pour in 17.

Without LeVert, taking down Maryland seemed like a very tall task. But the defense and distance shooting were just good enough to slay the giant.

That defense, which struggled against an array of bigs from Mark Turgeon’s team, limited star Maryland point guard Melo Trimble to two points on seven shots and forced four turnovers from the First Team All-Big Ten lead man. Perhaps more impressive, however, was the Wolverines’ ability to keep Trimble off the free throw line, where he does plenty of damage. It was just the fifth time in his career that the sophomore did not get a single freebie attempt. Equally impressive was Michigan’s defense on Sulaimon, who needed 10 shots to reach eight points despite being one of the best shooters in the country.

Irvin in particular came up huge offensively with an array of mid-range jumpers, threes, and a few assists as well, prompting Maryland coach Mark Turgeon to call him “unguardable”, and helping him continue to forget about his shooting struggles in the non-conference season.

Asked about where his confidence stands now, Irvin admitted, “I had a little rough patch at the beginning of the season, but I definitely think it’s coming back, especially beating Maryland tonight was huge for us,” as he cracked a smile.

It’s hard to understate the importance of just how huge it indeed was. The Wolverines had a handful of decent wins before turning the calendar to the New Year, but none was of the hat-hanger variety.

Now, they have one locked up in their back pockets.

Another opportunity is right around the corner with a difficult road trip to Iowa City coming this weekend. For now, though, the Wolverines can take a breath and smile. The season has begun.

Quick Hitters

• I thought this was the best Michigan has played as a team in any real game this season. Without LeVert, multiple players needed to step up – and they did just that. In addition to the three stars, I thought that Rahk played within his game despite only posting five points, Donnal had another solid, if unspectacular, performance, and Aubrey Dawkins played spot minutes and got a couple momentous buckets in 12 minutes of action.

Rahk was also tremendous on defense, and his four assists tied a career high. On one fast break, he did an excellent job of cutting to the middle of the floor as soon as he saw Duncan Robinson wide open on the wing, which served to give him a better passing angle that he used perfectly to record a beautiful dime. In a similar fast-break opportunity, Derrick Walton could have found a slasher or Robinson open on the wing and instead bumbled his way right into the defense to give the Terps a fast break the other way.

Additionally, Donnal kept up his solid play. He’s clearly the best option at the five on both ends of the floor right now, and he’s finishing inside better than he ever has before. I was surprised to see him miss two open threes (that was really his forte in high school), but his effort on the glass was spectacular against a ferocious frontline. At the end of the first half, he had a sequence in which he blocked two sure-thing Maryland layups that erased four points and then got his fingers on a tip-in at the buzzer to give Michigan an eight-point lead at the break.

• Against Maryland’s tall and big front line, Beilein said he inserted three different double-down packages into the game plan to help Irvin, Robinson, and Donnal deal with their matchups, but the Wolverines got confused as to who to double-down on at different times, so they eventually scrapped the plan and went all man-to-man down low.

Michigan’s Three Stars

***Zak Irvin***
22 points (5-of-7 2pt, 3-of-7 3pt, 3-of-6 FT), three assists, two rebounds, two steals, one turnover in 37 minutes

**Derrick Walton Jr.**
12 points (1-of-6 2pt, 3-of-7 3pt, 1-of-2 FT), 10 rebounds (one offensive), four assists, one steal, two turnovers in 38 minutes

*Duncan Robinson*
17 points (1-of-1 2pt, 5-of-9 3pt), one rebound, one assist, one steal, one turnover in 35 minutes

Season Three-Stars Standings

Caris LeVert – 15
Duncan Robinson – 13
Derrick Walton – 10
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman – 3
Zak Irvin – 3
Aubrey Dawkins – 2
Spike Albrecht – 1
Moritz Wagner – 1
Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
34 Mark Donnal* 3-7 0-3 2-3 3 6 9 4 8 0 0 2 2 33
10 Derrick Walton* 4-13 3-7 1-2 1 9 10 1 12 4 2 0 1 38
21 Zak Irvin* 8-14 3-7 3-6 0 2 2 1 22 3 1 0 2 37
22 Duncan Robinson* 6-10 5-9 0-0 0 1 1 3 17 1 1 0 1 35
12 Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman* 2-3 1-1 0-0 1 2 3 1 5 4 1 0 0 34
03 Kam Chatman 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2
05 D.J. Wilson 0-2 0-2 2-2 0 0 0 0 2 0 1 2 0 5
11 Andrew Dakich 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2
24 Aubrey Dawkins 2-4 0-0 0-0 2 0 2 0 4 0 0 0 1 12
32 Ricky Doyle 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 2
Totals 25-53 12-29 8-13 7 20 27 12 70 12 8 4 7 200
Maryland 26-58 6-24 9-11 11 25 36 16 67 8 12 2 3 200
Full Stats
Beilein Tie Watch
Beilein vs Maryland

(Sam Sedlecky, M&GB)

Michigan hoops preview: Maryland

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016


UM-Mayrland
Michigan vs #3 Maryland
Tuesday, Jan. 12 | Ann Arbor, Mich. | 9 p.m. EST | ESPN
Offense
78.7 Points/gm 78.4
(457-913) 50.1 Field Goal % 50.9 (441-866)
(174-408) 42.6 3-pt FG % 38.6 (129-334)
(171-237) 72.2 Free Throw % 75.8 (244-322)
10.7 FT Made/gm 15.3
33.1 Reb/gm 35.9
16.5 Assists/gm 14.8
9.9 Turnovers/gm 13.3
Defense
62.6 Points/gm 63.6
(360-873) 41.2 Field Goal % 40.9 (380-930)
(111-314) 35.4 3-pt FG % 31.0 (99-319)
31.6 Opp. Reb/gm 29.4
6.1 Steals/gm 6.1
2.4 Blocks/gm 5.3
Individual Leaders
Caris LeVert (17.6), Duncan Robinson (11.8) Points/gm Melo Trimble (14.8), Diamond Stone (13.1)
Caris LeVert (5.4), Derrick Walton (5.2) Reb/gm Robert Carter (6.9), Diamond Stone (5.4)

Coming off its first conference loss of the season, Michigan returns home for a date with the best team in the Big Ten Tuesday night. Since a close road loss to North Carolina on Dec. 1, Maryland has won nine straight games heading into its first trip to the Crisler Center.

Last season, Michigan lost its only matchup with the Terrapins, a 66-56 final in College Park. Now the Wolverines face an even greater test as the No. 3 team in America comes to town.

Here are three thoughts on Tuesday night’s matchup.

1. Efficiency is the key

Basketball fans who tune into the Michigan-Maryland game are sure to see plenty of made baskets. Both teams are ranked in the top 10 in the country in shooting percentage, Michigan shooting 50.1 percent and Maryland shooting 50.9 percent.

Fortunately for Maryland, the Terps’ shooting is better distributed throughout their roster. Each of Maryland’s top five scorers shoots over 48 percent and averages more than 10 points per game. Michigan will need a great shooting night from Duncan Robinson, who makes 55.7 percent of his three-point shots, to combat Maryland’s depth.

Diamond Stone and Robert Carter will prove especially troublesome for Michigan, which has yet to establish an inside presence this season. Stone and Carter combine to average about 25 points and 12 rebounds per game. If Ricky Doyle and Mark Donnal can’t somehow rise to the occasion, John Beilein’s defense will be in big trouble.

2. No Caris, no problem…for Maryland

There’s really no way to sugarcoat it: Caris LeVert’s absence is a crippling blow to Michigan on both ends of the court. The senior leader averages 17.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game, all tops on the Wolverine roster.

Even if Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin accept greater offensive roles, they can’t fill the void left by LeVert’s injury.

Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman is playing his best basketball to lessen that blow. He scored 39 points in two road games without LeVert, shooting over 65 percent from the floor and committing zero turnovers. MAAR looked like the odd man out of the rotation early in the season, but LeVert’s injury seems to have given him new life. He’ll be a major X-factor, especially on defense, against Maryland’s electric backcourt.

If Michigan knocks off a loaded Maryland team without its best player, it’ll be one of Beilein’s most impressive single-game coaching jobs at Michigan.

3. The clock is ticking

The Big Ten season just started, and Michigan is on a much better track than last season, but it’s nearing danger time for a team without a single eye-catching win on its resume.

Michigan’s back-to-back wins over Texas and N.C. State added some substance to its resume heading toward the new year, but now those wins look far less impressive. Texas lost three of its last four games and sits at just 9-6 on the season. Meanwhile, N.C. State is dead last in the ACC after losing three straight games and falling to 10-6.

The Wolverines don’t have any bad losses, but they haven’t been remotely competitive against tournament competition. In four games against would-be tournament teams (assuming SMU would make the field if it was eligible), Michigan has lost by a total of 71 points. Three of those games were over before the halfway point of the 2nd half.

Tuesday night offers another chance to earn a statement win for Michigan. Maryland is coming off an emotional buzzer-beating win, Michigan is coming off a blowout loss and it’s a Tuesday night game in Ann Arbor. If there was ever a time to pull an upset, tonight is the night for the Wolverines.

If it falls short once again, Michigan will fall to 0-5 in its five toughest games and miss another opportunity to boost its resume. Sunday’s road game in Iowa City pins even more importance on tonight’s game, as Michigan doesn’t want to flirt with a three-game losing streak that would largely sink any distant thoughts about conference contention.

Tuesday’s circumstances suggest to a possible upset for Michigan, but without LeVert, and without any evidence that the Wolverines can hang with elite teams, I expect it to be Maryland’s night.

#20 Purdue 87 – Michigan 70

Thursday, January 7th, 2016


MAAR vs Purdue(Dustin Johnson, UM Hoops)

Tonight started with bad news for the visiting Michigan Wolverines when Caris LeVert was deemed unable to play for the second straight game.

Unfortunately, the news never got much better, as the senior-less Wolverines dropped their first Big Ten road game this season by an 87-70 mark to Purdue in West Lafayette, Indiana. And while the final score is a bit deceiving, given that the Maize and Blue never trailed by more than 11 points before the 4:13 mark of the second half, and cut the deficit to as little as five points thrice in the second half, it never fully felt like they had much of a chance in a matchup against the stifling Boilermaker different.

One of the few bright spots for Michigan would prove to be sophomore Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who ducked, drove, shot, and weaved his way to an impressive and career best 25-point showing. But the majority of his teammates never got it going from the floor versus the statistically best defensive team in the country when it comes to opponents’ field goal percentage, and Purdue’s size and timely shooting were too much to overcome for the short-handed visitors.

A.J. Hammons, the behemoth star senior Boilermaker, was a terror all night on both ends of the floor. Michigan players tried time and again to find their way into the paint, but they either quickly thought better of it and turned around, put up an altered prayer of a shot, or had it swatted right back in their faces. Offensively, Hammons was able to use his wide frame to get and maintain great post position, helping him to make six of his nine two-point attempts from close range while also putting a cherry on top of his performance with a three from the top of the key (putting him at a perfect 4-of-4 from deep on the season). When Michigan double- or triple-teamed him, he remained calm and found open shooters on the perimeter. Hammons final line – 17 points, five rebounds, four blocks, and three assists – looks unspectacular, but showcases his efficiency and supremely improved all-around game.

Senior Raphael Davis also joined the party for Purdue with 16 points on nine shots, six assists, five rebounds, and a block of his own while locking down Duncan Robinson, Zak Irvin, and Derrick Walton intermittently throughout the evening. Davis dished out a game-high six assists as well to help his squad record dimes on a mind-blowing 86.7 percent of their made field goals (26-of-30).

The loss is certainly not unexpected for the Maize and Blue, but it is an opportunity unseized after starting conference play with two convincing wins (albeit against lesser opponents) and having a fighter’s chance for most of tonight. At the same time, this will likely go down as one of their toughest games all year, and with LeVert watching from the bench, it was going to require a mammoth effort and a pristine shooting night – and at 37.7 percent from the field for John Beilein’s vaunted offense, it was anything but that.

Michigan entered the night as the best effective field goal percentage (calculated by (FGM + 0.5 * 3PM) / FGA to account for the added value of triples) offense in the country, but struggled to penetrate or shoot over the strong Purdue defense. Rahk emerged as one of the few brave enough to drive into Hammons and fellow seven-footer Isaac Haas, and was the only one to make more than half of his field goal attempts (10-of-16 total), while the only two others to reach double figures – Derrick Walton Jr. and Duncan Robinson – needed nine and eight shots to score 12 and 10 points, respectively.

Mark Donnal, coming off two breakout showings to kick off conference play, managed seven points, but did so by making his two triple tries and one free throw while going 0-of-4 from two-point range. He also grabbed three offensive rebounds and five total to help the Wolverines mitigate Purdue’s advantage on the glass, for what it was worth.

Zak Irvin also managed only seven points on a miserable 2-of-10 shooting night (0-of-3 from deep) riddled with poor shot selection and led the team with both four turnovers and three assists.

Luckily for Michigan, tonight’s loss was of the house money variety. Purdue’s size and defensive prowess were bound to give a more finesse Wolverine team problems and only the least knowledgeable or most demanding of fans can be too disappointed in the outcome. Beilein will likely watch the tape once, glean any small bits of positive information out of it (perhaps a bit more isolation play for Rahk), and then chalk it up to a brutally difficult matchup.

But some quality wins will be needed in the not-so-distant future if Michigan is to be watching comfortably on Selection Sunday. There will be more chances on that front – the Wolverines welcome Maryland to Ann Arbor next Tuesday before traveling to Iowa City the following Sunday – but it’s going to take a battle.

Enter Caris LeVert and a bit of a softer defensive opponent and those chances look a lot more obtainable.

Michigan’s Three Stars

***Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman***
25 points (8-of-11 2pt, 2-of-5 3pt, 3-of-3 FT), two assists, four rebounds (one offensive), two steals, zero turnovers in 39 minutes

**Duncan Robinson**
10 points (1-of-3 2pt, 2-of-5 3pt, 2-of-2 FT), five rebounds, one assist, one steal, zero turnovers in 30 minutes

*Derrick Walton Jr.*
12 points (1-of-6 2pt, 2-of-3 3pt, 4-of-6 FT), six rebounds (one offensive), one assist, one turnover in 33 minutes

Season Three-Stars Standings

Caris LeVert – 15
Duncan Robinson – 12
Derrick Walton – 8
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman – 3
Aubrey Dawkins – 2
Spike Albrecht – 1
Moritz Wagner – 1
Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
34 Mark Donnal* 2-6 2-2 1-2 3 2 5 1 7 0 1 0 1 13
10 Derrick Walton* 3-9 2-3 4-6 1 5 6 3 12 1 1 0 0 33
21 Zak Irvin* 2-10 0-3 3-3 1 1 2 1 7 3 4 0 1 38
22 Duncan Robinson* 3-8 2-5 2-2 0 5 5 3 10 1 0 0 1 30
12 Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman* 10-16 2-5 3-3 1 3 4 4 25 2 0 0 2 39
05 D.J. Wilson 1-5 1-5 0-0 0 0 0 3 3 2 0 1 1 15
11 Andrew Dakich 0-1 0-0 0-0 1 1 2 2 0 1 0 0 0 8
13 Moritz Wagner 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 4
24 Aubrey Dawkins 2-5 2-4 0-0 1 0 1 0 6 0 0 0 1 12
32 Ricky Doyle 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 8
Totals 23-61 11-27 13-16 9 19 28 21 70 10 8 2 7 200
Purdue 30-54 9-18 18-21 6 30 36 13 87 26 9 7 5 200
Full Stats