2008-2009 Season

NCAA First Round: Michigan 62, Clemson 59

freshAnd One. (Photo Credit: Detroit News, David Guralnick)
It wasn’t easy but it was definitely fun. This team wasn’t going to settle for their first tournament berth in eleven years, they wanted a win.

Michigan looked rattled and intimidated early on; they struggled with the full court press and shot a couple air balls. Luckily Manny Harris shouldered the load and carried Michigan with 14 first half points. Manny managed to settle Michigan down and he got a little help in the way of the three ball. The final product: a slim three point first half lead.

Michigan came out to play in the second half with a purpose, they pushed their lead to fourteen points in the first 4 minutes of the second half. Clemson lost Terrence Oglesby (who had a forgettable night) to an ejection and it took them a while to regroup. For Michigan fans, the clock just couldn’t tick fast enough. Unfortunately Michigan got cold down the stretch and only scored three points in the final five minutes.

Clemson made it a game in a hurry with three straight triples but Michigan just managed to hold on. Yet again it was Manny who saved the day, he had the play of the game when he drove through a crowd for a three point play with only 37 seconds remaining. Then with a 2 point lead and under 20 seconds left, Zack Novak split a pair of free throws giving Clemson a chance. KC Rivers desperation heave missed and Michigan escaped.

In the preview I said it would come down to turnovers. Michigan did a pretty good job holding onto the ball for the middle 30 minutes or so but the first and last five minutes were certainly scary. The end result was a 22.6% turnover rate, a shade under what Clemson forces per game. Clemson stayed in the game on rebounding alone. They rebounded a staggering 46.2% of their misses and 71.9% of Michigan’s misses.

Michigan won this game with their defense. Clemson is a dynamic offensive team that ranks in top 15 in offensive efficiency . Michigan silenced them tonight, holding them to .952 points per possession which is well below their season average of 1.17 ppp. Clemson’s starting guards combined to shoot only 5 of 27 from the field. Their bigs did better, Booker and Sykes combined for 26 points on 11 of 15 shooting inside, but they couldn’t do it all. Maybe there is something to be said about Big Ten defense after all. Michigan played their tempo (62 possessions) and held one of those vaunted ACC offenses to only 59 points.

Michigan had a game plan and they executed it very well. I give all the credit in the world to John Beilein who continues to prove that he is a one of the best NCAA tournament coaches in the country. There is no doubt that he had the team prepared to play today. We just won an NCAA tournament game with three starters who most people probably didn’t expect to even be contributors.

It’s on to the second round (5:50 PM approx. tip off). Oklahoma is a load but there is always a chance, especially with John Beilein at the helm.  I’ll have the preview tomorrow but here is what’s on my mind right now. The good, Clemson dominated the boards just about as well as anyone can and got tons of easy points inside but Michigan still won. The bad, Michigan is playing on short rest.

I know the Michigan fans who were in Kansas City with me tonight will agree, it definitely feels great to be a part of March Madness.

Player Bullets:

  • Manny Harris: Manny wasn’t good tonight, he was great: 23 points on 7 of 15 (3-6 3pt) shooting with seven rebounds and six assists. Manny was responsible for 13 of Michigan’s 20 made field goals on the night and he also made the biggest plays. Simple a spectacular effort, hopefully the national media gives him the credit he deserves.
  • DeShawn Sims: This was one of those games where Peedi “lacked focus”. He looked flustered early on by Clemson’s physical play and he also airballed a couple shots. DeShawn finished the game with 9 points on 4 of 12 shooting with only three rebounds. He’s going to need to play better Saturday against the Griffin brothers. Hopefully he hits his first shot.
  • Zack Novak: Zack gave us all a heart attack but at least he made the second. Novak hit two huge three pointers when Michigan was playing well and he also got robbed on another one that was half way down. Novak was severely outmatched inside but he fought hard. A typical game for Zack statistically: 7 points, 4 boards, and four assists.
  • Zack Gibson: His numbers aren’t necessarily impressive (2 points, 4 rebounds, and a block) but he gave Michigan quality minutes. He had at least two tip outs that ended up in offensive rebounds and he hustled as hard as I have seen him all year. In a game where DeShawn Sims really struggled, Gibson was definitely the unsung hero.
  • Stu Douglass: Stu didn’t really shoot it well but he got to the line and managed 12 points. It was also great to see him get the steal and fastbreak dunk. I also think Stu is by far the best at feeding the post on this team.
  • Anthony Wright: Ant knocked down a three in the first half and provided some quality minutes when Michigan neeeded some size. Three points and four rebounds in only 10 minutes is not bad for a guy that many had written off this year.
  • Dave Merritt: 15 minutes and only one turnover but not much else statistically. The job he did on KC Rivers at the end of the game makes up for anything else he could have done all day.
  • CJ Lee: CJ knocked down 2 three pointers and dished out three assists but he also had four turnovers. He struggled with the press at times but Grady didn’t look much better out there. Clemson has one of the best full court presses in the country so a few turnovers should be expected. You have to give credit to CJ, Merritt, Grady, Stu, and LLP for the defensive job they did on Clemson’s guards for the entire forty minutes.
  • Kelvin Grady and LLP: Only 11 minutes between the two and not much production. Grady didn’t look like a starting point guard but he at least got his shot. Laval didn’t look bad but he wasn’t hitting either.
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