“If you can’t bounce back in this league, you’re gonna be done very quickly.”
John Beilein always preaches the importance of bouncing back and learning from a loss and Michigan did just that in a 79-50 drubbing of Nebraska on Wednesday night. The Wolverines have only lost consecutive regular season games once in the past two and a half seasons and quickly turned Sunday’s disappointment into an offensive clinic at the Crisler Center.
Nebraska managed to hang around for eight minutes as the Wolverines led just 16-12 midway through the first half. Then Zak Irvin blew the doors off of the game.
Irvin buried his first shot of the night with 11:30 to play in the half and triggered a 27-3 Michigan run. The Wolverines made nine of their next ten field goal attempts – including four Irvin threes – and opened up a 49-21 half time lead.
Irvin had 16 points in the first half and Glenn Robinson III cleaned things up in the second, tying his career high with 23 points on 8-of-14 shooting. Nik Stauskas had a quiet night on the score sheet, 9 points on 1-of-3 shooting, but served as a facilitator and handed out eight assists. Caris LeVert also continued his steady play, adding 16 points and five assists and leading Michigan in rebounding for the third time in four games.
The final stats say that this was Michigan’s seventh best offensive performance of the season, but they don’t tell the whole story. The Wolverines scored 1.5 points per possession over the first 30 minutes of play and were pummeling Nebraska until late game sloppiness and bench clearing substitutions got the best of the game. The Wolverines scored 75 points in the first 30 minutes of play and just four points in the final ten.
Michigan’s offensive attack was predicated with the long range shot, 68% of its field goal attempts were threes, but they were wide open threes. Overall, 21 of Michigan’s 26 made field goals were assisted and the Wolverines routinely broke down Nebraska’s defense for wide open shots. Michigan was 13-of-31 (42%) from long range despite missing its last seven three point attempts of the game. That’s not to say the Wolverines weren’t efficient inside the arc either, they converted 13-of-21 interior looks.
While Michigan’s offense deserves all of the headlines, this was its most complete defensive performance of the 2013-14 season. The Wolverines held the Cornhuskers to just .79 points per possession, their lowest per-possession output of the season, and dominated the game from the opening tip. Nebraska helped Michigan out early on with a handful of rushed shot attempts, but Michigan’s effort was very solid across the board.
Shavon Shields was the only Husker that could get anything started offensively and Michigan did a great job on two players that have hurt them in the past, Ray Gallegos (kudos to Derrick Walton) and Terran Petteway (kudos to Nik Stauskas). Nebraska was just 14-of-32 (42%) inside the arc and 5-of-21 (24%) on threes.
Both teams both struggled to defend the pick-and-roll in the first meeting and made similar adjustments – opting to be very aggressive in doubling or even switching the ball screen. This worked extremely well for Michigan – Terran Petteway was just 2-of-10 from the floor with 4 turnovers to 1 assist – and not so well for Nebraska. Michigan’s ball screen guards, Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert, both were effective in making the extra pass around the trap and combined for 13 assists.
While the Cornhuskers have struggled on the road this season, they are no pushovers. This is the same team that had just beaten Ohio State, Minnesota and Indiana in its last four games and hadn’t been beaten by more than six points since January 4th. Michigan hasn’t won a Big Ten game by 29 points since 1998 and the win was a big step in the right direction before upcoming games at Iowa and Ohio State.
- Zak Irvin: Irvin is a streaky shooter, but when he heats up he can change a game in a hurry. Irvin is a 41% 3-point shooter on the year, so even the streaky label might be a bit harsh. He also hit a pair of nice long twos: one curling off a screen and one in the middle of the Nebraska zone. Even John Beilein admitted his uneasiness with the way that Irvin’s shot looks, but he’s not going to complain with the results.
- Glenn Robinson III: Michigan clearly made an effort to get Robinson off on the right foot with an alley-oop on the first possession of the game. He knocked down 3-of-7 triples and the rest of his game flowed from there. He was efficient offensively, but I was most impressed with his three offensive rebounds. They were hustle plays, but hustle plays that his athleticism enable – the sort we want to see more of on a regular basis. Robinson has scored 42 of his 129 Big Ten points in two games against Nebraska, but is averaging just 10.9 points per game in Michigan’s other eight Big ten games.
- Caris LeVert: LeVert played his most efficient game of the Big Ten season, finishing with 16 points on 5-of-7 shooting, seven rebounds and five assists to just one turnover. He had his jumper going early – he’s looked very comfortable catching and shooting lately – but his move to open the second half was his most impressive: a pump fake and dribble drive past Petteway with a finish through contact at the rim. LeVert also continues to improve defensively and leads Michigan in defensive rebounding in Big Ten play.
- Nik Stauskas: Coming off one of his worst games of the season, Stauskas only attempted three field goals… but he added eight assists, five rebounds and four turnovers. While he threw some uncharacteristically sloppy passes into the paint, Stauskas played within himself despite facing another game planned designed to take him out of the game (blitzing the pick-and-roll).
- Derrick Walton: Walton has quietly been one of the more efficient freshmen in the conference. He’s shooting the ball very well from deep (2-of-5 tonight) and is playing with confidence. He had a great finish through contact at the rim, but he needs to keep improving running the fast break. He allowed Petteway to swat his layup on break and needs to continue to understand court spacing in transition.
- Jon Horford: Horford was very aggressive, but his performance was a bit of a mixed bag. He flung a wild kick out pass out of bounds, missed a post-up move and missed a mid-range jumper. On the good side of the ledger he had some great catches and finishes around the basket in traffic including an exclamation point with the second half alley oop.
- Spike Albrecht: Albrecht only attempted two shots, but was very comfortable orchestrating things with his passing ability. He had a couple of great looks to Jon Horford and finished with four assists in 19 minutes.
- Jordan Morgan: Morgan was the only Wolverine to have a very quiet game. He didn’t attempt a shot, but grabbed four rebounds in 20 minutes.