1. Trey Burke’s 3-pointer off the pick and roll
While the pick and roll was one of Michigan’s best weapons last year with Darius Morris, it has scarcely been used so far in this early season. Morris excelled at the play, either driving to the bucket off the pick or dishing it off to the rolling Morgan. But in this clip, we see how the new-look Wolverines can use the pick and roll in a different way. Douglass gets a screen from Morgan on the left side of the arc, but instead of driving to the basket as Morris would have, he takes just one dribble to his right. As Morgan rolls, Trey Burke’s man sags in to cover the pass off the roll, leaving Burke – a much better shooter than Morris ever was – open for three on the left wing. Burke nailed the bucket, one of his three 3-pointers en route to an early career-high 14 points. This shows not just how Burke’s shooting ability can change a game but how Douglass can still utilize some sets that aren’t necessarily best designed for his skillset.
2. Novak’s 3-pointer and steal
Just Zack Novak being Zack Novak. Noticing daylight at the top of the key, Novak pops out behind the arc and drills the 3 ball off the assist from Burke, breaking a 30-30 tie and igniting the crowd. But it’s the ensuing Western Illinois possession that makes this such a typical Novak play and where his experience shines through. Knowing exactly where point guard Ceola Clark wants to pass the ball, Novak leaves just enough room between himself and the man he’s guarding for Clark to think he can get away with the pass. As soon as Clark begins to pull the trigger, Novak jumps the route, deflecting the pass off of the Western Illinois player and out of bounds, giving the Wolverines the ball and further momentum as they look to build on their slim 3-point lead. The first five minutes of the second half are one of the most important stretches of play, especially in a close game, and these two plays really sparked Michigan.
3. Hardaway’s five second half buckets
There’s a reason Tim Hardaway Jr. is and will be Michigan’s best scorer this season — he can score in so many different ways, and in the second half, he showed us several ways how. With Michigan inbounding under its own basket, Hardaway comes off a screen, takes two hard dribbles on the baseline and finishes with a pretty 6-footer off the glass to tie the game up at 30 early in the second half. A couple possessions later, recognizing a defender flying at him after he received the ball at the top of the key, he pump-fakes, takes a couple dribbles, and nails the jumper from the charity stripe. With just over ten minutes to play, Hardaway comes off a screen from Smotrycz, creating just enough space for a jumper at the top of the key. It wasn’t bad defense by Western Illinois — Hardaway is just that good, and when he’s on, he’s nearly impossible to stop. With just over 5 minutes to go, Hardaway proves he can shoot behind the arc as well, hitting a triple off the dish from Burke. Finally, off a Western Illinois miss, Hardaway shows his ability to drive and finish, taking the ball coast to coast and finishing off a sweet crossover from right to left. Hardaway was five of six in the second half and did it without much three point shooting — once he finds a groove with his three point shooting stroke his offensive game should explode.
4. Jordan Morgan’s lay up, block and finish at the other end
I think it’s fair to say this was Jordan Morgan’s best 25 seconds of basketball so far this season and after his 11 points, 5 rebound performance, Morgan has the starting center position locked up for the time being. The sequence of three plays started with a nice finish by Morgan coming off a screen on the opposite block. Then, on the other end, Morgan shows great defensive awareness as Douglass loses sight of his man, allowing the Western Illinois to slip back door for what appeared to be a wide open lay up. Realizing this, Morgan flies in from just below the free throw line and swats away the lay up. What could have been one of many defensive breakdowns on the night for the Wolverines ends up in a fast break opportunity, the only of the game. But Morgan doesn’t stop there. He sprints down the court and plants on the block, where Hardaway finds him wide open for the easy two inside.
5. Smotrycz’s easy bucket off the nice look from Burke
For much of the game, this one had the feeling of an upset — Michigan was looking ahead to Maui, Western Illinois had nothing to lose, Evan Smotrycz was playing an awful game, etc. Things were just off. But after clinging on to a slim lead throughout most of the second half, Michigan finally put it away. Leading by 7 with 50 seconds to go, Burke and Smotrycz executed the pick and roll perfectly. Burke drove off the Smotrycz screen on the right side, attracting three Western Illinois defenders. Instead of trying to do too much, as many freshmen would do, Burke simply passed the ball off to the open Smotrycz on the opposite block for Smotrycz’s first and only bucket of the game. With just 48 seconds left and a nine-point lead, the bucket all but ended any chance of a Western Illinois comeback.