It wasn’t always pretty, and Michigan allowed UCLA to hang around for a bit too long, but in the end the Wolverines took care of business and knocked off the UCLA Bruins convincingly by a score of 79-63. The win moved Michigan to 5-1 overall (2-1 in Maui) and secured a third place finish in the 2011 Maui Invitational. The story for John Beilein’s club in this game was on the offensive side of the ball where the Wolverine offense showed significant improvement for the sixth consecutive game.
Michigan’s offense was nearly flawless, scoring an impressive 1.29 points per possession. The most encouraging aspect of the Wolverine’s offensive dominance was success in areas other than shooting. This wasn’t just Michigan hitting a barrage of three point shots, this was systematic destruction of a dysfunctional Bruin defense. Michigan did shoot the ball extremely well – 67% on twos and 50% on threes for a 69% effective field goal percentage – but the Wolverines attempted attempted an out of character 70 percent of their field goals from inside the arc. Michigan also got to the free throw line more than we’ve seen in the past but more importantly dominated the offensive glass, grabbing 43% of its missed shots. The Achilles’ heel of the Michigan offense was also a deviation from the norm with U-M struggling to hold onto the basketball and turning it over on 23% of its possessions.
The Michigan defense wasn’t nearly so perfect, allowing UCLA to reach a season best per possession scoring output (versus D-I opponents) of 1.00 point per possession. Luckily, UCLA was content to bail Michigan’s defense out by attempting threes – 4 of 17 from three point range – but UCLA did make half of its twos. Michigan’s defensive rebounding also left something to be desired as the Bruins grabbed 36% of their misses on the night. Michigan’s defense might not have been awful on the night but these last two games have raised some legitimate concerns, or areas of focus, for the U-M defense going forward.
It was tough not to question Michigan before these three games in Maui. The Wolverines first three performances were as nondescript as their opponents and many outsiders, both partisan and neutral, expected a long week for John Beilein’s team in Hawaii. It remains to be seen just how good Memphis (probably pretty good), Duke (probably very good) and UCLA (probably terrible) are but Michigan earned the results it needed. After a third place finish in Hawaii, Michigan sits at 5-1 and will travel to Virginia next Tuesday for the Big Ten-ACC Challenge as a team carrying a significant injection of confidence.
- Tim Hardaway Jr.: Haradaway is dominating games and doing it without the three point shot. That should be scary for future opponents because that ability wasn’t there a season ago. His slashing ability and cutting has elevated his game and he also continues to appear comfortable shooting mid-range jump shots. His weakness to date this season is the three point shot: 31% on the year and 25% in Maui.
- Jon Horford: Jon Horford was simply outstanding in the first half scoring 12 points on 5 of 5 shooting and holding his own defensively and on the glass. His baskets came in a multitude of ways: he slipped screens, cut back door, rolled to the basket, scored off a put back and added in a turnaround jumper for good measure. He finished the game with 12 points, seven rebounds, three blocks and two steals in 19 minutes – easily his best game in a Michigan uniform.
- Evan Smotrycz: Smotrycz was awful in the first half and early in the second half until he finally got a shift at the five position for Michigan. Suddenly he was making plays – a back door pass, a tapped out offensive rebound and a three over Josh Smith stand out – and playing with confidence. His final stat line is a mixed bag: 7 points on 3 of 8 (1-3 3pt) shooting, eight rebounds, four assists, one block and one turnover in 23 minutes. His decision making is frustrating at times but the numbers support the notion that Smotrycz is bringing more to the table this season.
- Zack Novak: Novak notched a career high 22 points on just eight field goal attempts. He was hitting threes (4-5) but more impressive his twos (3-3). More than any other Michigan player, he’s become comfortable with the pump fake. He hit two long twos after pump faking and dribbling forward and also got to the free throw line after following a pump fake with a dribble drive. Novak hit 9 of 16 three point attempts (56%) over three games in Maui but his 64% two point shooting on the season might be more impressive.
- Trey Burke: Trey had a quiet game – 5 pts (2-7 fg), 5 assists, 3 rebounds, 3 turnovers – but he still had his fair share of highlights. His spin move in transition was beautiful and for the second game in a row he got his own rebound a made something happen, this time a touch pass to Hardaway for a layup. Two causes for concerns: freshman fouls (especially on jumpshots) and UCLA’s ability to more effectively defend him on the pick and roll tonight (especially late shot clock scenarios).
- Stu Douglass: Stu shot the ball well (3 of 4, 1-2 3pt) but this was not a good performance. He had a career high five turnovers, most of which were blatant mental mistakes, and zero assists on the night. Douglass has been more aggressive driving the ball this season and has been relatively effective, 8 of 13 on twos. He’s also already made as many free throws this year (3) as he did all of last season.
- Jordan Morgan: Morgan was fantastic versus Duke but just looked out of it against UCLA. He played just 11 minutes, missed one shot, missed two free throws, grabbed one rebound and turned the ball over once.
- Eso Akunne: Eso got first half minutes yet again and knocked down a nice pull-up jumpshot in transition.
- Matt Vogrich: Vogrich took a charge but otherwise did nothing in his eight minutes of playing time. Beilein needs to get Vogrich going as a shooter in the offense over the next month leading up to conference play.
- Carlton Brundidge: Brundidge also got a couple first half minutes, as well as garbae minutes at the end, but didn’t do much. His notable play in the first half was a travel after over penetrating into the UCLA defense.