Photo: Ann Arbor.com
After coasting through a number of early season games against subpar competition with underwhelming results, Michigan finally put together a dominating performance against Alabama A&M. The Wolverines ran the Bulldogs out of the gym and the outcome was never in doubt as nine Michigan players, four in double figures, scored en route to an 87-57 victory.
Despite a below average performance from Tim Hardaway Jr., this was as smoothly as the Michigan offense has ran this season. The Wolverines per possession output was a sizzling 1.24 points per trip, just shy of their season high-water mark (1.27) versus UCLA. The game was played at a quick pace with over 70 possessions but John Beilein reiterated that his team has no problem playing at any tempo. Michigan is the third best shooting team in the country and the shots were falling again today. The Wolverines shot 61 percent on twos and 46 percent on threes for a 64 percent effective field goal percentage. What might be most impressive about the shooting performance is that it’s not that much better than Michigan’s seasonal shooting numbers. If the Wolverines continue to shoot the ball this well they will be a tough out in Big Ten play.
Michigan got to the free throw line a bit more often than it has on average and converted at a solid 81% – well above its season average of 66%. This would have been an even more dominant performance were it not for turnovers, again. The Wolverines turned the ball over on 22 percent of their possessions which marks the third consecutive game with a turnover rate over 20 percent. Turnovers are worrisome because Beilein’s teams have historically done a great job valuing the basketball. They are excusable now but will be the difference between wins and losses against Big Ten teams.
Michigan’s defensive performance was good but far from awe inspiring against such a mediocre offense. A&M scored .83 points per trip with a 39% effective field goal percentage – actually a shade higher than their season average versus Division I opponents. Michigan didn’t send the Bulldogs to the free throw line and did a great job on the defensive glass, especially early in the game. The Bulldogs had their fair share of turnovers – both forced and unforced – and the result was an A&M offense that couldn’t really score.
This was the sort of performance that’s expected against a SWAC team but at the end of the day Michigan isn’t in a much different spot. Next up is a slightly more stringent test against Bradley on Thursday and then a manageable start to Big Ten play with home games against Penn State and Minnesota. We’ve seen Burke excel, Novak and Smotrycz improve by leaps and bounds and can be confident that Tim Hardaway Jr. is still Tim Hardaway Jr. Now it’s time to wrap up the preamble on a positive note and see what this group can do in the grind of Big Ten play.
Photo: Ann Arbor.com
- Trey Burke: Burke seems to get better every game and it’s his three point jumpshot that is coming into form lately. He’s now made 9 of his last 14 three point attempts after going three-for-three today and that jumpshot will prevent teams from playing under screens when defending the freshman. He’s just so productive with the ball in his hands that you can live with three turnovers per game, he finished with 19 points on 10 shots, four assists and three rebounds today.
- Evan Smotrycz: This was Evan Smotrycz’s first career double-double and he produced efficiently: 17 points on 4-5 (3-3 3pt) shooting with 11 rebounds, an assist, three steals and three turnovers in just 21 minutes. He still has his awkward moments (3 TOs) but he’s making over half of his threes, rebounding and attacking the basket. Smotrycz is averaging 18 points and nine rebounds over Michigan’s last three games with a 105% effective field goal percentage thanks to 10 of 12 three point shooting.
- Zack Novak: Novak reached double digit scoring (13pts) while attempting (and making) just one three pointer. He was 5 of 7 inside the arc and also handed out four assists. Novak is going to play significant minutes but he’s developed to the point where he can play both the two and the four and make the right plays. The plays that Novak is making in the open floor lately are plays that I never expected to see much of during his senior year.
- Tim Hardaway Jr.: Hardaway was about the only Michigan player that didn’t have a good game. He got his points (13) but was just 5 of 13 (1-6 3pt) from the field and turned the ball over twice. Michigan didn’t need him and Hardaway always seems to play a level or two better when he is needed
- Jordan Morgan: A pair of early fouls and a couple of frustrating turnovers seem to be par for the course from Morgan, who finished with six points on 2-3 shooting and grabbed five rebounds. Morgan isn’t going to face many pesky quick teams like Alabama A&M in Big Ten play, his true test will be whether he can provide the sort of defensive and rebounding impact that Michigan needs against conference foes.
- Stu Douglass: It was a quiet but steady game for Douglass who had seven points on 2 of 5 (1-3 3pt) shooting with three rebounds, two assists and two steals. He didn’t turn the ball over, didn’t force things and had a couple of very nice plays including a drop off pass to McLimans for an easy bucket
- Blake McLimans: With Horford not dressed (foot injury) and Morgan sidelined with two early fouls, McLimans played significant minutes in the first half. He was surprisingly productive in his 15 minutes with four points, six rebounds, two blocks and a turnover. He’s Michigan’s third option at the five but I’d be slightly more confident if he had to be thrown into the mix in a pinch later this season.
- Carlton Brundidge: Similar to McLimans, it was great to see Brundidge get “meaningful” first half minutes. He didn’t find the range with his jump shot but it’s quality game action and he reminded us what he can do: attack the basket. He had a nice finish but needs to be more consistent at the line (1-3 FT with a missed front end).
- Matt Vogrich: Four rebounds and two assists but 0 for 2 on threes in just 12 minutes.