It wasn’t always pretty but Michigan grew up on Friday night.
The Wolverines were beaten up by a bigger, faster and stronger Florida State team for about 25 minutes and no one stepped up. Nik Stauskas fired errant pull-up jump shots, Glenn Robinson III sat expressionless in the corner of the floor, and Mitch McGary played his tail off but couldn’t do it alone.
There was no leadership or backbone as Florida State got whatever shot it wanted on offense. The Seminoles extended their lead to 16 points with 17:18 to play in the second half and had their sights set on back-to-back wins against top-15 foes.
Finally, the Wolverines had enough. Michigan’s stars realized that this was their team and they had to own it. Stauskas tallied 25 points while playing 44 minutes, carrying the Wolverines down the stretch. McGary posted his first double-double of the season with 14 points and 12 rebounds and Robinson awoke burying a handful of huge shots down the stretch.
There were still mistakes along the way and John Beilein had to reach deep into his bag of tricks to pull out the 1-3-1 zone but the Wolverines finally looked like a team on the same page. Michigan grew up and pulled out a game that it probably had no business winning.
Michigan’s offense was as effective in the second half as it was dreadful in the first. The Wolverines scored 27 points on 30 first half possessions compared to 55 points on 42 possessions in the second half and overtime. That’s .9 points per possession in first and 1.31 points per possession after the halftime horn.
Florida State’s length was as advertised inside and Michigan shot just 46% on twos but made some threes, 37.5%, and got to the free throw line. Converting the freebies was a different story, Michigan was just 17-of-27 at the stripe. The free throw shooting almost cost the Wolverines down to the final horn when Florida State had a desperation heave at the win. The one thing that Michigan didn’t do was turn the ball over against FSU’s pressure defense, giving the ball away on less than 10% of its offensive possessions.
Michigan dominated the glass on both ends of the floor against one of the tallest teams in the country. The Wolverines rebounded 36% of their misses (15 offensive rebounds) for 14 second chance points. Florida State managed to rebound just 23% of its misses for a meager six second chance points. McGary had seven offensive rebounds but four other players had at least one offensive rebound. Leonard Hamilton admitted after the game that he couldn’t play as many big men as he wanted because Michigan was able to play four guards and still control the glass.
The 1-3-1 zone is tailor made for a turnover prone team that can’t really shoot the three and it saved Michigan’s defense at the last possible moment. Michigan’s man-to-man defense had been abused all day and the 1-3-1 was a bail out. It’s worth noting that Michigan was only able to run its 1-3-1 so often down the stretch because its offense was nearly perfect – providing time to setup the defense. The Wolverines struggled to defend Florida State in transition or off the bounce and couldn’t force many turnovers with their man-to-man defense.
A loss to Florida State would have been crippling to Michigan with games against Duke, Arizona and Stanford still on the schedule. The win means a game against Charlotte for the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Championship, one of four championships that the Wolverines set their sights on in the preseason.
- Mitch McGary: McGary looked every bit like an All-American, even if he was huffing and puffing to get up and down the court. His array of highlight plays is almost too long to recap from coast to coast layups, tip ins, a (lucky) behind the back transition pass, mid-range jumpers. McGary kept Michigan in the game when it shouldn’t have been and is going to be a monster once he’s fully healthy and in sync.
- Nik Stauskas: Stauskas had a really bad first half but carried Michigan to the finish line down the stretch. His thunderous two handed dunk made a statement: Michigan isn’t going to back down. He was a changed player from that point on, driving the hoop with no conscience and consistently finished or drew a foul. Stauskas is averaging 20 points per game with a 67 eFG% through five games: those are big boy numbers. LeVert’s jump seems more dramatic because Stauskas played so many minutes last year but Stauskas’s improvement from last season is off the charts.
- Derrick Walton: Baptism by fire for Walton isn’t always going to be pretty but he’s hanging in there and making the most of it. He finished with 15 points, six assists, four rebounds and three turnovers in 34 minutes. Was he perfect? No but he kept shooting, kept passing and made plays down the stretch. Six assists was a career high and as his comfort level rises, he’ll start to find a lot more kick-out opportunities.
- Glenn Robinson III: Robinson was almost invisible for the first 35 minutes but hit some huge shots down the stretch. 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting, five rebounds and assist, block and steal isn’t a bad stat line but Michigan needs to figure out a better way to get Robinson involved in the game consistently. He’s not a creator off the bounce but he can’t be a non-factor either.
- Caris LeVert: LeVert had a couple ugly turnovers and struggled to find his offense (5 points) but did hand out five assists and two steals. He just missed about five steals at the top of the 1-3-1 zone but he’s probably the best fit for a top of the 1-3-1 player that John Beilein has had at Michigan. He is Michigan’s best at penetrating for others and his comfort level will continue to grow as the season wears on.
- Spike Albrecht: Albrecht is never shy of the big stage and buried a huge three during Michigan’s second half run. His chemistry with McGary was evident in the first half when the duo exchanged assists on back-to-back possessions.
- Jon Horford: Two points, two rebounds and an assist in 10 minutes of work for Horford. He’s not McGary, no one is, but he was solid when he was on the floor for the most part.
- Zak Irvin: Irvin had a rough stretch in the first half but gave Michigan some energy in the second half when Robinson went to the bench with foul trouble. His crossover dribble drive and finish from the top of the key was one of his best plays of the year.
- Jordan Morgan: Morgan’s one field goal attempt was an open roll to the basket and he was stuffed at the rim. If the Wolverines are going to rely on Morgan they need him to finish ball screen dump offs and play good defense. He only played two minutes tonight.