Michigan beat Oakland, 90-80, at the Palace on Saturday afternoon but had to do it on Oakland’s terms. John Beilein’s teams have been easy to define: they play at a slow tempo, limit turnovers, rarely foul, and attempt more than their fair share of three pointers. There was only one element of Beilein-ball in this game – three point shooting. Oakland controlled the tempo, forced turnovers, and got to the free throw line so effectively that with a little over ten minutes to play the Grizzlies had a very real chance of achieving the monumental upset that they so badly crave. The Wolverines were too much in the end, escaping the Palace with a ten point win on the back of clutch performances from Trey Burke, Evan Smotrycz and Tim Hardaway Jr.
It’s a struggle to find a Michigan performance that compares to this game under John Beilein. Michigan turned the ball over on nearly a quarter of its possessions and many of them were unforced. Burke (6) and Hardaway (4) were the primary culprits but Michigan’s less frequent ball handlers were equally culpaple, coughing the ball up seven times combined. It was Michigan’s shooting that won this game. The Wolverines connected on 62% of their twos and 54% of their threes for an effective field goal percentage of 71.3% that’s been matched in only two games under John Beilein (Iowa ‘10-11, Purdue ‘09-10). Simply put, it’s tough to lose games when you shoot the ball that well.
Michigan’s defense was far from flawless. The two greatest struggles for the Wolverine defense were keeping Oakland off the free throw line – 57% free throw rate (FTA/FGA) – and slowing down the Grizzlies in transition, especially off of made baskets. In the half court, Michigan did a decent job of challenging Oakland shots as the Grizzlies converted 47% of their twos and 38% of their threes for a 51% effective field goal percentage. Michigan’s defense excelled on the defensive glass against the smaller Oakland front line, rebounding over 80% of Oakland’s missed shots on the evening.
John Beilein knew this game was going to be a battle and he received every bit of the challenge that he expected. Michigan’s performance was far from perfect but it was able to ride strong individual performances from Trey Burke (career high), Evan Smtorycz (career high) and Tim Hardaway Jr. who all poured in 20 points or more.
- Trey Burke: More than any other player on the roster, Trey Burke makes good things happen when he’s on the floor. He affected the game in so many ways that it’s almost impossible to touch on all of them in one bullet. His final stat line today: 20 points, nine assists, two rebounds, steal, block and six turnovers. He was lethal in transition, penetrated Oakland’s defense easily to create for himself (4-5 2p) and others and hit some huge three point shots (3-6 3p). He made a few huge second half plays including an NBA-distance three to break Oakland’s zone, a great one-on-one block of Reggie Hamilton and then the huge assist to Tim Hardaway Jr. while falling out of bounds to ice the game. The six turnovers are a problem and a stern reminder of his freshman status but Michigan is a different team with Trey on the floor.
- Evan Smotrycz: Evan finally managed to stay out of foul trouble and he produced: 20 points on 7 of 8 (4-5 3pt) shooting with nine rebounds, two steals, one assists and two turnovers. This was the most complete game of Smotrycz’s career and he was as efficient offensively as he was effective on the defensive glass.
- Tim Hardaway Jr.: Hardaway had just three points and two fouls in the first half but, as we’ve become accustomed to, exploded for 18 points in the second half. All it seems to take is one hot stretch from Hardaway for three or four possessions to completely change the complexion of a game. Hardaway was more effective outside (5-9) than inside (1-4) today and also had his fair share of turnovers (4).
- Zack Novak: He only took three shots but he left an imprint on the game: 5 points, 9 rebounds and 8 (!) assists. Novak is handling the ball with more confidence this year and his mid-range jumper continues to be a pleasant surprise.
- Jordan Morgan: Morgan looked tentative in the first half. He was beat for position around the basket, missed an easy look or two and never seemed to find a rhythm. He was a different player in the second half and it all started with two great defensive possessions to open the half: the first a big help side block and the second a drawn charge. His confidence grew from there as he continued to play well defensively and knocked down a nice mid-range jumper late. Morgan finished with nine points and eight rebounds in 27 minutes including four vital offensive rebounds.
- Stu Douglass: Douglass had a lackluster first half but hit some big shots in the second, finishing with 13 points on 4 of 7 (2-4 3pt) shooting including a transition dunk. He seemed to finally find some comfort with his shot in the second half and this was the sort of performance he can build off of offensively.
- Jon Horford: Horford still struggles catching the ball around the basket and looked tentative today. He’s playing injured but the production wasn’t there: five rebounds, three turnovers, one block and 0-2 s hooting in in 11 minutes.
- Eso Akunne: Akunne was thrown into as tough of a spot as we’ve seen with Burke and Novak sidelined with four fouls late. Unlike his earlier playing time this season, he didn’t rise to the occasion – coming up with a turnover and a missed three.
- Matt Vogrich: Vogrich appears to be rushing his three point shots and also got back-doored for an easy basket. He did have a very strong take to the basket and finished through a foul.