The Brooklyn Winter Hoops Festival paired two teams going in opposite directions. From the opening tip, it wasn’t hard to tell which team was which. Michigan jumped out to a 13-4 lead and rarely if ever looked back despite a handful of mini-runs by the Mountaineers while cruising to an 81-66 victory. West Virginia cut the first half lead to five points and was able to reach a single digit deficit in the second but the Wolverines were always in control. Mostly because their All-American point guard played his best game of the season – a tall task considering his fast start to the season.
Burke finished with 27 points, eight assists, five rebounds, three steals and zero turnovers. He was lethally efficient from the field, connecting on 12 of 16 field goals. While Burke looked every bit the NBA prospect he’s capable of becoming, he had plenty of help from his backcourt mate. Tim Hardaway Jr. had one of his strongest performances of the year as well, finishing with 25 points on 7-of-12 shooting.
Michigan’s offense continues to hum along smoothly – even if in a different format. West Virginia’s ball pressure defense forced turnovers and disrupted Michigan’s traditional offense but the Wolverines had an answer. John Beilein turned to his horses and unleashed a dribble drive offense that was lethally effective. Hardaway and Burke combined for 19 of Michigan’s 28 made field goals and handed out 11 assists on top of that. The approach was different but the result was the same.
The Wolverines scored an efficient 1.22 points per possession thanks to lethal shooting – 21-29, 72% on twos and 7-21 33% on threes for a 63% effective field goal percentage. The Wolverines aggressive dribble drive offensive approach also yielded significantly more free throw attempts than we’ve seen this season. Michigan rebounded 35% of its missed shots but did struggle with turnovers, coughing the ball up on more than once in every five possessions. The Wolverine offense was forced to rely on its superstars but they were more than up for the challenge under the bright Barclays Center lights.
There are still concerns on the defensive end of the ball for Michigan. West Virginia is not a good offensive team yet managed to score a point per possession. There were times Michigan’s defense looked steady but there were other times when the Wolverines were on the ropes. The Mountaineers weaved back into the game with timely threes and breakdowns in Michigan’s zone looks. To Michigan’s credit, West Virginia rebounded a more respectable 31% of its missed shots and still had an effective field goal percentage (44%) around its season average of 42%.
The Wolverine defense isn’t bad but it continues to lag behind the offense. If Michigan is really the No. 2 team in the country (seemingly inevitable after Indiana’s upset loss to Butler) then it will have to improve on its defensive consistency in Big Ten play.
The heavy lifting portion of Michigan’s non-conference schedule is in the books. The Wolverines will host Eastern Michigan next Thursday before resting over the holidays and wrapping up the non-conference slate against Central Michigan on December 29th.
- Trey Burke: If tonight made one thing clear it’s that if you try to force Trey Burke to beat you then he will. Burke has been playing great basketball the last couple of weeks (just ask our form tracker) but he upped the ante in Brooklyn on Saturday night. Burke played a nearly flawless first half scoring 17 points on 8-of-10 shooting (90% eFG%) while handing out five assists and adding three rebounds and three steals. He wasn’t much worse in the second half finishing with 27 points on 12-of-16 shooting with eight assist to no turnovers.
- Tim Hardaway Jr.: Shooting slump be damned, Hardaway loves to play in New York City. Hardaway missed his first three of the game but came right back to drill his second on the very next possession. He shot the ball well from long range (4-8 on the night) but he was even more impressive attacking the hole with 3-of-4 two point shooting and 7-of-8 free throw shooting. This was a huge bounce back game for the Michigan junior and should serve as solid footing to give him confidence heading into Big Ten play.
- Nik Stauskas: Stauskas is a lethal shooter so it’s not worth worrying about one 2-of-7 night, but he needs to clean up his game a little before Big Ten play. He’s capable of putting the ball on the floor and taking it to the cup but he needs to rein his game in just a bit. Turnovers are becoming a real issue, especially after 6 turnovers in 34 minutes. There’s a fine line to straddle because he can be effective attacking but he needs to let the game slow down just a bit.
- Glenn Robinson III: Robinson had a tremendous take late in the first half after West Virginia cut the Michigan lead to two possessions. He caught the ball on the wing and drove without hesitation in easily his best dribble drive of the year. He had a somewhat quiet night overall but still stuffed the stat sheet with 8 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks, a steal, an assist and two turnovers in 31 minutes.
- Jordan Morgan: It was a slow but steady night for Morgan who continued to do most of the things you’d expect from the experienced big man: taking charges, cutting to the basket and playing strong. Morgan finished with 8 points on 3-of-4 shooting
- Mitch McGary: McGary’s foul woes are going to become a serious issue, especially if Horford’s injury becomes long term. He picked up four fouls in his first eight minutes of playing time. He also had a nice layup, being rewarded for running the floor with an and-one transition layup. Free throw shooting is another woe, finishing 0-of-3 on the night.
- Spike Albrecht: For one of the first times this season, Michigan struggled to initiate its offense with Albrecht in the game. Early on he looked overwhelmed by West Virginia’s quickness on defense and then threw an errant backdoor pass. In the second half, Michigan struggled to initiate its offense and was forced to take a couple difficult shots.
- Caris LeVert: LeVert’s perimeter shot isn’t quite there and he still seems to be playing a bit reactive. As he becomes more comfortable he won’t be thinking about what’s happening but making things happen.
- Jon Horford: Horford had a pair of strong offensive rebounds but the news here is obviously his injury. It looked painful but John Beilein compared it to an early season knee injury which only lasted a couple of weeks. He was clear to emphasize that no official diagnosis has been made but there’s at least some hope that the injury isn’t long term.
- Max Bielfeldt: Bielfeldt did not play but has reportedly been practicing well and will be available going forward as he gets back up to speed especially given Horford’s injury.