Photo Credit: AnnArbor.com
It’s only natural that Michigan’s worst defensive performance of the year comes just two days after I wrote an entire post devoted to improved perimeter defense. Tonight, Michigan’s defense looked like it had taken off early for Christmas break. Bryant started hot, connecting on three pointers all over the court, and Michigan was never able to slow them down. Luckily, Michigan shot the ball well enough that it didn’t really matter how bad their defense was. In many ways this game was the opposite of Michigan’s handful of ugly wins earlier this year where the defense was excellent and the offense never got going.
This was an example of what happens when two perimeter oriented teams collide and everything goes right. There were 114 shots attempted by both teams combined and over half of them (57) were three point attempts. While that stat is unusual, it’s even more bewildering that both teams made a higher percentage of their three point attempts than two point attempts. Michigan shot 50% outside and 46% inside while Bryant shot 52% outside and just 42% inside. Combine those unusual shooting metrics with little offensive rebounding and few turnovers on either end and you are left with a true perimeter oriented shoot out.
Michigan’s offense was more efficient than we’ve seen all season as they scored 87 points in just 62 possessions. That divides out to 1.43 points per possession, a plateau that Michigan has only topped twice under John Beilein (Oakland 08-09, Minnesota 09-10). Shooting 50% on 32 three point attempts is obviously impressive and was good enough to set the school record in made threes. The most impressive offensive statistic was that 21 of Michigan’s 28 field goals were assisted and the Wolverines turned it over just three times – that’s a 7 to 1 assist to turnover ratio. So while Michigan took plenty of threes, the assist numbers give credence to the notion that Michigan did a better job of attacking Bryant’s 2-3 zone that we’ve seen.
Considering how well Michigan has played defensively this season, I think it’s fair to give them a mulligan for today’s subpar defensive performance. If Michigan comes out with that sort of defensive intensity, or lack thereof, on Tuesday you can expect Purdue to run them right out of the gym without breaking a sweat. Michigan will head home for Christmas but the team is due back in Ann Arbor by 10 p.m. on Christmas night to start preparations for the Big Ten opener versus Purdue on Tuesday.
Photo Credit: AnnArbor.com
- Darius Morris: I was more surprised by Morris’ three point shooting – 4 of 6 – than his double digit assist performance. That’s probably because we’ve been spoiled as it was Morris’ fifth double digit assist game of the season. Morris finished the game with 26 points on 7 of 16 shooting (just 3 of 10 on 2pfga), 12 assists, and 6 rebounds. He’s obviously taken ownership of this team, more specifically the offense, and seems to improve with every game.
- Tim Hardaway Jr.: He’s obviously extremely comfortable shooting the ball from deep whenever he’s got it, and his confidence doesn’t wane. He seems to be heating up, having made 10 of his last 26 (38.5%) from distance over the last four games after a 10 of 42 (24%) start. The more intricate parts of his game are a work in progress but he seems to be getting to the line more frequently of late, a sign that he’s looking to be more aggressive with his offensive game.
- Evan Smotrycz: Smotrycz is going to get his 20 minutes and 7 shots per game, it’s on him to make the most of them – tonight he did. Evan finished with 14 points on 5 of 7 (4-6 3pt) shooting with 3 assists and 2 rebounds in 20 minutes. This was easily Smotrycz’ best performance since Clemson and it would be a good time to build on it heading into conference play.
- Jordan Morgan: His offensive production has fallen a bit but he’s still giving Michigan good solid minutes. Morgan had 4 points on 1-2 shooting with 6 rebounds (3 off, 3 def) and a block in 27 minutes. He’s bobbled a few more passes in recent weeks which has cost him an open look or two per game, but he also just doesn’t have the ability to create his own offense.
- Jon Horford: Horford impresses more and more with each game: 6 points on 3 of 3 shooting, 5 rebounds, and a block in 11 minutes. Horford provides so much energy, whether it’s blocking shots or making hustle plays, that it’s going to be tough to keep him off the court. He seems to be a better defensive rebounder than Morgan despite his slender frame. It’s tough not to be excited with his future.
- Matt Vogrich: Vogrich continues to provide a great spark off the bench, especially in the first half. He was 2 of 5 from three and also converted a great layup in transition during the first half. If I have one guy with a wide open look from three on this roster, Vogrich is one of the top two candidates.
- Zack Novak: Novak was relatively invisible: 3 points on 1 of 3 shooting, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists in 37 minutes. Michigan didn’t really seem to need him offensively and it’s not like Michigan had problems on the defensive glass, so I’m not sure he had much of a negative effect either.
- Stu Douglass: Similar to Novak, Douglass had a quiet night with 6 points on 2 of 6 (1-4 3pt) shooting. He did a nice job drawing a foul on a pump fake and seemed comfortable, if he hits one more three we are talking about what an efficient night he had.
- Blake McLimans: He was the first big off the bench yet again but he looked weak on his one layup attempt and was pulled immediately, finishing with 1 minute of playing time.