Michigan cruised to its sixth consecutive victory on Tuesday evening, topping Penn State by a final score of 80-67.
Michigan shared the ball and had four players reach double figures, in arguably its most impressive offensive performance of the season. Nik Stauskas faced little resistance driving to the basket, finishing with a game-high 21 points on 12 shots along with five assists. Freshman point guard Derrick Walton added a career high 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting, and the Wolverines got a combined 19 points and nine rebounds from Jon Horford and Jordan Morgan.
But it’s the defense that’s going to cause the coaching staff to lose sleep in the coming weeks. Michigan struggled to stop a decidedly average offensive team for the second game in a row. The Wolverine defense was just picked apart by the No. 69 and No. 91 offenses in the country and will face the No. 3 and No. 4 most efficient offenses in the country in their next two games.
No win is a bad win, but the Wolverines will have their work cutout for them with games at Wisconsin, vs. Iowa, and at Michigan State in the next 10 days.
Michigan’s offense was nearly flawless, racking up 80 points on just 60 possessions. An impressive 18 of 28 of the Wolverines field goals were assisted and they shot 68% on twos, 38% on threes for a sterling 62.5% effective field goal percentage. This was a classic offensive performance on par with the Wolverines’ best conference performances last season. The Wolverines shot the ball so well that few other offensive stats mattered. Nik Stauskas almost single-handedly got Michigan into the bonus in the second half with 11:25 to play. The Wolverines only rebounded a modest 30.8% of their misses, but turned eight offensive rebounds into 15 second chance points.
The Wolverine defense took a sideways step at best. Penn State scored 1.12 points per possession despite turning the ball over on its first four possessions (just five times in the next 55 possessions). Michigan’s defensive effort was impressive in small bursts but lacked consistency. The Nittany Lions scored 43 of their 60 points on 22 possessions that spanned three woeful defensive stretches.
- Penn State scored on 6 possessions out of 8, from 4:47 to 1:00 in the first half.
- Penn State scored on 5 possessions in a row, and 7 out of 8, from 19:01 to 14:28 in the second half.
- Penn State scored on 6 possessions in a row, and 7 out of 8, from 8:52 to 5:07 in the second half.
The Wolverines surrendered only 17 points on the other 38 possessions of the game, so they did manage to clamp down at times. However, just one four or five minute lapse in defensive effort will cost a game against a quality opponent.
Michigan’s defensive problems continued to originate around the rim. The Nittany Lions shot 62 percent on 2-point attempts and there wasn’t much of a secret to their success. Penn State gave the ball to DJ Newbill and Tim Frazier and let them attack the basket. Only eight of Penn State’s 26 field goals were assisted, but Newbill and Frazier combined for 34 points on 22 shots.
It’s no secret that Michigan’s opening Big Ten schedule has been soft. The Wolverines have two road wins, but have the weakest KenPom in-conference strength of schedule by a wide margin. Michigan’s first four games might have been the easiest stretch in the conference, but its next three might be the toughest. First up, a trip to Madison to face a Wisconsin team that John Beilein has beaten just once since arriving at Michigan.
- Nik Stauskas: Stauskas played a tremendous offensive game. He continued to excel distributing the ball off the ball screen (5 assists to 0 turnovers). He continued to attack the basket off the bounce (4-of-4 2-point shooting, 5 FTA). He also knocked down 3-of-8 triples and grabbed six rebounds for good measure. His defensive effort, like that of many of his teammates, left something to be desired (DJ Newbill abused him mid-way through the second half), but this was Nik’s most efficient offensive game this season against a reasonable opponent.
- Derrick Walton: Walton exploded out of the gate with Michigan’s first eight points of the game. He shot the ball very well, 6-of-9 (2-5 3pt) for a career high 16 points and he continues to develop – but more so with his scoring ability. Walton has strung together his best four game stretch of the season, and is is shooting 66% on twos and 46% on threes in Big Ten games. His emergence seems to coincide with Michigan initiating more offense through Nik Stauskas. Walton is playing more on the wing, catching the ball and attacking the basket – almost as an off-guard. He needs to continue to improve his assist and turnover numbers going forward as he had some frustrating giveaways tonight.
- Caris LeVert: LeVert was just 2-of-6 from the floor, but he made other things happen offensively. I was very impressed with how he let the game develop in the first half. Penn State was almost daring him to shoot, but instead he attacked the lane and found his teammates. His first half stat line was 4 assists, 2 steals and 2 shot attempts.
- Jon Horford: Horford looked extremely comfortable after an underwhelming effort at Nebraska. He caught the ball in a number of tough spots and finished with 11 points on 4-of-5 and seven rebounds. He knocked down a jumper, finished a number of great passes in the screen and roll game and played solid defensively.
- Glenn Robinson III: Robinson missed a lot of shots that he usually makes – he was just 3-of-10 on 2-point attempts – but it was encouraging that he kept attacking. The 6-foot-6 sophomore did hit 2-of-3 3-point attempts, grabbed five rebounds and handed out three assists. Michigan dialed up a new set featuring an off-ball screen to free Robinson for a 3-point jumper at the top of the key – another nice wrinkle in the offense.
- Jordan Morgan: Morgan had 8 points, two rebounds, an assist and a block in 22 minutes. He had a great hook shot, a superb outlet pass, and a couple of nice finishes for a solid effort on the night.
- Spike Albrecht: Albrecht knocked down a deep three, but missed the mark on his next two. Overall it was a quiet night for Michigan’s backup point guard.
- Zak Irvin: Irvin seems to be rushing things a bit offensively and he’s just 2-of-7 from the field since his scoring outburst at Minnesota.