For two minutes, Eastern Michigan looked like a team that might be ready to catch Michigan in a pre-Holiday snooze Thursday evening at the Crisler Center. The Eagles jumped out to a 6-2 lead and Michigan showed just the slightest bit of hesitation against Rob Murphy’s Syracuse-style 2-3 zone. Then the Wolverines woke up, rattling off a 20-0 run over the next seven minutes of clock time, and put the game away before the second media timeout.
The Wolverines cruised to victory, 93-54, and moved to 12-0 on the season. Michigan’s offensive attack was steady, balanced and consistent as five different Wolverines reached double figures. Tim Hardaway Jr. led the way with 17 points and seven assists but Nik Stauskas’s five threes for 16 points and Trey Burke’s 11 point and eight assists were also impressive in support. Eleven Wolverines found the scoring column on the stat sheet and an impressive 26 of Michigan’s 35 field goals were assisted by nine different players.
Michigan’s offense showed no signs of rust after final exams as it cruised to a blistering 1.33 points per possession. Michigan’s shooting attack was equally accurate outside – 12-of-24 (50%) on threes – as inside – 23-of-45 (51%) on twos – of course threes are worth more than twos which yields a 59% effective field goal percentage. Michigan’s proficient shooting was combined with dominating and relentless offensive rebounding as the Wolverines grabbed just shy of half of their missed shots on the night. Michigan’s typical reliable ball handling was unfazed by Eastern Michigan’s trapping zone looks and the Wolverines offensive performance was its second best of the year.
The anemic Eastern Michigan offense was unable to play any better than it has over its last three games, failing to surpass the .8 point per possession mark for the fourth consecutive outing. Eastern struggled to shoot inside (42%) and out (27%) and Michigan was able to do a good enough job neutralizing Eastern Michigan’s offensive rebounding attack. The shots that the Eagles did make were generally contested and weren’t close to enough to make up for turnovers on one out of every four possessions. Strictly statistically speaking it was one of Michigan’s strongest defensive performances of the season but attempting to draw conclusions from that statistic is a fruitless effort.
Eastern Michigan was clearly outmatched in talent, discipline and effort while Michigan played with the sort of focus and intensity needed to blow open a blowout win. If one play stood out more than any other it was watching five Michigan players sprint down the floor past all five Eagle defenders for a five-on-zero fast break dunk by Caris LeVert. Michigan’s zone-offense looked well drilled and was extremely effective at getting the ball to the middle of the zone then throwing drop offs to cutters along the baseline.
Michigan’s schedule will provide its players with a bit of extended time off over the holidays. Players will be able to return home for four days to spend time with their families before heading back to campus to prepare for the Wolverines’ non-conference finale against Central Michigan on December 29th.
- Trey Burke: When 11 points and eight assists is a quiet night, then you are talking about a special player. Most importantly, Burke set the tone in Michigan’s early run. He scored seven and assisted 10 of Michigan’s first 25 points in the game. Michigan was up 17 at that point and from there on out Michigan’s All-American was in cruise control.
- Tim Hardaway Jr.: Hardaway’s career high seven assists stand out and while it wasn’t his best shooting night – 5-of-13 (1-4 3pt) – he was very aggressive against Eastern Michigan’s 2-3 zone. Hardaway finished the night with a loaded stat line: 17 points, seven assists and five rebounds, two steals, a block and four turnovers. His turnovers are a slight negative but this was still a more complete, aggressive and attacking game than we’d see from Hardaway in past season.
- Mitch McGary: McGary’s play has the tendency to snowball. If he makes a couple of mistakes, he can lose his rhythm completely but if he makes a couple of good plays then his confidence swells exponentially. His first half playing time was an example of the negative as he missed a couple of finishes then forced a turnaround jumper. In the second half, he exploded. He grabbed offensive rebounds, deflected passes, ran the floor hard in transition and seemed to be everywhere on the court. When the dust settled he was left with his first double-double, 10 points and 11 rebounds in just 18 minutes
- Nik Stauskas: You could basically write the same thing for Stauskas’s player bullet every game: “Can this kid possibly keep shooting this well and will he please not try to be too fancy when he’s driving the lane?” Stauskas had two first half turnovers that were of the unforced variety, trying to be too fancy or do too much driving the lane. His behind the back pass attempt found him a seat on the bench next to Beilein but if he keeps going 5-of-8 from three point range then his turnovers (8 in the last two games) are somewhat bearable.
- Glenn Robinson III: Robinson blends so seamlessly into Michigan’s offense that it’s hard to not begin to take him for granted. 13 points on 5-of-7 (1-1 3pt) is nearly a flawless performance. He started quietly with a couple of cuts along the baseline for easy baskets, but extended his game as well by hitting a nice elbow jumpshot and his only three point attempt.
- Caris LeVert: This was LeVert’s best game in a Michigan uniform and he seemed to settle down a bit after getting some extended playing time. Hardaway passed him the ball on Michigan’s 5-on-0 fast break to get him some early confidence then he stroked a three off of an out of bounds set. He finished the night with an effective 8 points on 3-5 (2-2 3pt) shooting with a pair of an assists and a block.
- Jordan Morgan: Morgan had 8 points (3-5 fg) and six rebounds on the night ,playing just 15 minutes. The numbers are solid but his two turnovers and two missed field goals were particularly frusturating because most probably should have been dunks or layups. To his credit, Morgran scored his first post-up basket of the year and played as hard as we’ve come to expect but this wasn’t his best night by any stretch.
- Spike Albrecht: Albrecht seemed at ease passing against the zone but did have one ill-advised skip pass intercepted. Now 5-of-11 from three on the year, after making a deep one this evening, Albrecht has to be respected as a three point threat when he’s on the floor.
- Max Bielfeldt: Bielfeldt is solid for Michigan’s fourth option in the post. He’s not going to wow you but he’s aggressive on the offensive glass and knows how to use his body. He’s patient with the ball in his hands, even handing out two assists, but his size and athleticism will affect his ability to finish against bigger and more athletic teams.