Photo Credit: AnnArbor.com
On Monday night we saw a Michigan team that lacked fired and looked like they’d rather be anywhere but Crisler Arena. Tonight, we saw a team that brought it all. They didn’t just play with energy and passion, they played smart on both ends of the court. In a game that Michigan led from wire to wire, and wasn’t as close as the score indicated, the Wolverines simply ran Utah out of the gym.
On an individual level there were positives across the board. Darius Morris was phenomenal and Tim Hardaway Jr. was explosive. Jon Horford played the game of his career and Jordan Morgan put forth another solid effort down low. Matt Vogrich even chipped in with arguably his best half of the year. But in this game it wasn’t about the individual performances, it was about how Michigan’s offense played together.
While Utah’s offense revolved around isolations and pick and rolls, Michigan looked to get out in transition, worked the basketball through their offense, and scored on a variety of easy looks. When you are looking at a box score you love to see stats like these: 22 points in the paint, 27 points off turnovers, 17 fast break points, and 17 bench points. The Wolverines took 37% of their shots from three point range, well under their season average, and connected on a respectable 36% of their long range attempts. All of these are signs that the offense is running smoothly.
Defensively, this was a tale of two halves. Michigan’s defense was phenomenal in the first as the Wolverines forced 14 turnovers and held the Utes to just .63 points per possession. In the second half, Michigan fell asleep on the defensive end as Utah scored at twice the rate they did in the first half, 1.27 points per trip. Most importantly, as I laid out in the preview, Michigan kept Utah off the free throw line, allowing just 13 Utah free throw attempts. Michigan also controlled the defensive glass, allowing the much taller Utah team to only rebound 29% of their missed shots.
Utah isn’t a great team but it was clear that Michigan prioritized this game – they spoke constantly of last year’s debacle and even wore the maize jerseys. Michigan realizes that they will win games with their defense this year and their first half intensity carried them until they were able to heat up on the offensive end.
Next week will follow a similar pattern as this one with a Tuesday game versus North Carolina Central followed by a tougher game versus Greg Kampe’s Oakland Golden Grizzlies.
Photo Credit: AnnArbor.com
- Darius Morris: There’s just not much to say about Morris right now as the numbers speak for themselves. Tonight: 19 points on 7 of 13 (1-3 3pt) shooting, 10 assists, three rebounds, and one turnover. Morris is just playing tremendous basketball right now and he probably should have had a few more assists if his teammates had made a few more layups.
- Tim Hardaway Jr.: You could tell that Hardaway was just as relieved to bust out of his slump as we were. Hardaway demonstrated the type of electric scorer he can be when he notched 8 points in just 90 seconds of game clock. Hardaway was as emotional as we’ve seen him and this game certainly has the potential to be the type that turns his confidence for the better.
- Jon Horford: Horford did it all tonight. He had a big dunk, hit a three, had an assist on a backdoor cut, had a monster block, and pulled down 5 defensive rebounds in 16 minutes. At the very least, Horford made it clear why he needs to play, not redshirt, this season.
- Jordan Morgan: I certainly didn’t expect this production for Morgan before the season but he keeps providing extremely solid minutes. 11 points (4-8 fg) and four rebounds (3 off.) with three steals. Morgan set the tone early by going right at 7-foot-3 David Foster and luring the big man into a pair of early offensive fouls – it was as physical as I’ve seen Morgan play and judging by this tweet from Bacari, I’d guess it was a coaching point this week in practice.
- Zack Novak: Novak has been tenacious on the defensive glass, grabbing 8 defensive rebounds today. His offensive game was shaky, with a couple of bad shots that he shouldn’t have even considered taking, but it’s tough to complain with 11 points and 9 rebounds from your starting two guard – although he did play a number of minutes at the four today.
- Matt Vogrich: Not only is he feeling it with the jumper – 5 of 6 from three over the last 3 games – he’s also starting to do a better job of using his length to make up for his lack of foot speed on defense. If Vogrich is hitting threes, there’s definitely a role for him off the bench.
- Stu Douglass: With his season 3 point average over 50%, Douglass was due for a poor shooting night and he provided it tonight (0-4 3pt). Stu did stuff the statsheet in a couple other categories with 4 defensive rebounds, an assist, and a block in 19 minutes.
- Evan Smotrycz: When you account for almost 40% of your teams turnovers in just 10 minutes, you know it’s not your night. Evan has scored just 2 points on 10% shooting over the last three games but these are the kind of slumps that freshmen have to work through. The pump fake is there, but Smotrycz needs to work on what to do when he gets in that intermediate range and the defensive slides.
- Blake McLimans: McLimans has fallen behind Horford a bit, but he has also shown signs of steady improvement. He had a perfect long outlet pass that led to Hardaway’s breakaway dunk, one of his two assists. Two blocks in six minutes isn’t bad either but he needs to be stronger on the defensive glass.
- Eso Akunne: Picked up some playing time in the first half but came close to Club Trillion-esque production if it not for his one attempted field goal.
- Colton Christian: Eso came close to posting a “trillion” but Christian succeeded: 3 minutes and no stats on the board.