Iowa came to Ann Arbor and landed the first punch. The Hawkeyes opened the game on a 7-0 run and looked like a team ready to give Michigan a fight but the Wolverines shouldered the early blow and responded with gusto. Michigan battled back and forth with the Hawkeyes for much of the first half before delivering a swift knockout blow. The Wolverine offense rounded into form and a Mitch McGary block provided energy as the Wolverines closed the half on a 18-8 run. Iowa couldn’t ask to play much better in the first half, but almost inexplicably found itself trailing by 11 points at the break.
The Hawkeyes were broken at halftime and Michigan finished them. The second half was more of an offensive showcase than a competitive basketball game. The Wolverines outscored the Hawkeyes 72-36 over a 23 minute period that began with seven minutes to play in the first half and ended when Michigan’s starters were removed from the game with four minutes to play. (Yes, that’s a 125 point per 40-minute pace.) The Wolverine offense evolved into a contest of showmanship and one-upmanship as Michigan players exchanged step-back jumpers, alley-oops, fancy passes and three pointers throughout the final 20 minutes.
Michigan’s offense scored 95 points on 67 possessions for the game. That’s an impressive 1.42 points per trip, the Wolverines’ best output of the 2012-13 season, but what’s truly remarkable is that Michigan was so efficient despite scoring just two points on its first seven possessions of the game. Michigan shot the ball extraordinarily well — 65% on twos, 46% on threes for a 66% effective field goal percentage – but such stellar shooting nights have almost lost their luster due to their regularity. Despite the fun-and-gun style of the second half, the Wolverines kept their discipline, turning the ball over on just 9% of their possessions. A turnover rate under 10% is impressive for a senior-laden team, it’s incredible in a game where over 55% of Michigan’s minutes were given to freshman.
Iowa managed one point per possession on the nose offensively but much of that production came in garbage time (the game was statistically finished with over 6 minutes to play). Once again Michigan’s offense was so dominant that the defensive end of the floor was merely an afterthought. Iowa shot 48% on twos and 35% on threes for a 49% effective field goal percentage right around its season average. As it has done all season, the Michigan defense dominated the defensive glass and rebounded 84% of Iowa’s misses on the night. Iowa valued the basketball well (10% turnover rate) but Michigan did a great job of preventing the Hawkeyes from getting to the charity stripe where they’ve made hay all season. Defensively, Michigan’s Achilles’ heel continues to be isolation situations on the block. At this point, that flaw has been manageable given that the Wolverines haven’t faced many dominant big men and do such a great job of rebounding the shots that are missed.
The show goes on. Michigan will play tougher games but the Wolverines are playing arguably the best basketball in the country. The Wolverines already ranked 1st nationally in offensive efficiency and managed to play an even better offensive game than we’ve seen yet. Northwestern and Iowa are far from the class of the conference but scoring 189 points on 136 possessions (1.39 PPP) in league play is an awe-inspiring statistic. Just a year ago Michigan averaged 1.06 points per trip in league games and its best conference performance was 1.19 PPP at Penn State.
Fifteen games into an undefeated season, Michigan is still improving with every performance as the ceiling seems to rise daily. Next up is a home game against Nebraska (Wednesday, 7 p.m.), fresh off of a 47-41 home loss to Wisconsin, and an opportunity to tie the best start in program history.
- Trey Burke: Burke missed his first three shots of the game but he wouldn’t miss again. Finishing 7-of-10 from the field for 19 points and a career high 12 assists (to just one turnover). Perfect is a scary descriptor to use when analyzing sports but there’s no one in the country playing the point guard position better than Burke. Dave Revsine tweeted a statistic that does Burke’s early production in perspective: Burke is the first Big Ten player to average at least 17 points and seven assists since Magic Johnson in 1979.
- Tim Hardaway Jr.: Hardaway is dialed in from inside and out. He hit 3-of-5 triples – shooting without conscience or hesitation – but continues to attack the basket aggressively while not falling in love with the three. He was 4-of-7 inside the arc and tallied five rebounds and five assists to boot. Hardaway has already hit 7 threes on 10 attempts in Big Ten play, a year ago it took him five league games and 26 attempts to make his first seven triples.
- Mitch McGary: For probably the first time this season, Mitch McGary dominated a game. McGary controlled the paint, grabbing 11 rebounds and blocking three shots, and simply imposed himself physically. He ran the floor hard, threw quick outlet passes (or simply starting the break himself), and handed out a pair of assists. Almost forgotten in the mix was the nice elbow jumper he buried early on. His energy was infectious and this was his best performance of the season, even if he only scored four points.
- Glenn Robinson III: The phrase “making your teammates better” is generally associated with players known for passing the ball. Robinson is just the opposite (although he had three assists). He turns his teammates into better passers and turns their missed shots into points. Of Robinson’s eight made field goals, six were assisted and two were offensive put-backs. Robinson is always there to provide an outlet for a driving teammate and even in a blowout he’s willing to out-hustle (or simply out-jump) the opposition to grab offensive rebounds.
- Nik Stauskas: His back-to-back sequence driving the ball to the hole in the second half was special. On the first play he rejected a screen to drive baseline for a dunk. Then from the top of the key he rejected a screen again before spinning through the lane for a finger roll. Combine that with 3-of-6 three point shooting and you should have an efficient outing in any context. Getting that sort of production from a No. 4 scorer? That’s just not fair.
- Caris LeVert: LeVert’s growth in nine games has been tremendous to watch. He’s confident on the offensive end of the floor and is looking to make plays, no longer settling to just make the next pass along the perimeter. The lanky freshman knocked down two triples and finished with 9 points (3-5 fg) in just 15 minutes. With a quick first step, deceiving handle and increasingly consistent three point stroke (he’s now hit 7 of his last 8 threes), LeVert has emerged as a reliable backcourt scorer off the bench.
- Jordan Morgan: Morgan just can’t seem to string multiple great performances together. After a solid double-double in Michigan’s opener, he had just four points and two rebounds in 14 minutes. Morgan struggled with fouls (four for the game) and was never able to find a rhythm. The good news for Michigan is that there are backup options and McGary is capable of stepping up when Morgan struggles.
- Spike Albrecht: Albrecht has struggled a bit and maybe he’s judged unfairly because he’s attempting to replace Burke, who’s playing at such a high level, but the drop-off is obvious. He got caught out of position to surrender an open three in his first half shift and Michigan’s offense seemed to stagnate when he was on the floor.
- Max Bielfeldt: Bielfeldt had a quiet performance notching a rebound and a point in eight minutes. He’s solid but limited at this point and it will be interesting to see if he still finds minutes after Jon Horford (who dressed but did not play) returns.