It took 30 minutes for Wofford to make a three-pointer.
Wofford star Karl Cochran hit the shot with 9:35 to play in the second half and cut Michigan’s lead to seven points. A sloppy, but otherwise uneventful game between Michigan and Wofford suddenly showed signs of March. The shot sparked life into a pro-Wisconsin crowd that had been mostly content to watch in silence.
The Wolverines had controlled the game from the opening tip, but were never dominant. In the first half, foolish turnovers kept the Terriers close. In the second half, Michigan went cold from the field. Wofford didn’t play close to its best game, but it was right there with under ten minutes to play.
Michigan responded to Cochran’s shot, outscoring the Terriers 17-7 over the final 9:25. Jordan Morgan finished an and one layup before Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton hit back-to-back threes to ice the game away. The Wolverines would go on to win comfortably by 17 points in a 56 possession game.
But Cochran’s three, the only one that Wofford made in 19 attempts, showed what could have been. The Terriers were disciplined, slowed down the game and defended Michigan better than most have managed this season. But the perimeter shots never fell and Michigan is moving on to face Texas on Saturday.
Michigan’s offense only managed 1.03 points per possession, its worst offensive output in a winning effort this season. In the first half, the Wolverines couldn’t hold onto the ball, coughing it up on 26% of their possessions. The Wolverines fixed the turnover issues, but lost their jump shot at halftime. Michigan shot just 31% on twos and 36% on threes in the second half after shooting 69% on twos and 50% on threes in the opening 20 minutes. The Wolverines gave the ball away on 20% of their possessions and six different players had at least one turnover.
This was Michigan’s second best defensive performance of the season (only topped by holding UMass-Lowell to .69 PPP) and it was Wofford’s worst offensive performance of the season. Michigan looked well-prepared for Wofford’s offensive sets and stifled Terrier star Karl Cochran. The Wolverines switched the right screens, banking on the fact that Wofford’s supporting stars couldn’t pick up the slack, and the gamble paid off. Wofford’s starting guards were just 10-of-31 from the floor (1-13 from 3) and their teammates weren’t much better at 8-of-23. Michigan rebounded 76% of Wofford’s misses, kept the Terriers off the line, but could couldn’t force many turnovers.
Michigan’s defense showed improvement, but the Terriers just couldn’t make a shot. Wofford shot a respectable 50% on two-point attempts and if it managed its season average of 35% from three-point range this would have been a different game.
Survive and advance is the mantra in March and Michigan managed to do just that. The Wolverines didn’t near their top-gear against Wofford, but they’ll need it on Saturday if they want to play in Indianapolis next weekend.
- Jordan Morgan: Morgan had a 10 point, 10 rebound double-double in 29 minutes of playing time. He was 4-of-6 from the field including a nice jumper from the free throw line. He was very active in the paint and gave Michigan just a bit of everything they needed, including arguably the biggest basket of the game – his and-one layup to put Michigan back up 10.
- Derrick Walton: Walton finished with 6 points, five assists, two turnovers and two steals in 31 minutes. It was Walton, not LeVert that was tasked with chasing Karl Cochran off the ball and he seemed to do a pretty good job. Cochran had to work for everything he got (17 points on 21 attempts and 0 FTA) and Walton deserves a lot of credit. Offensively he had some great passes, but I thought he could have been more aggressive looking for his offense.
- Glenn Robinson III: Wofford dared Robinson to shoot and he did, finishing with 14 points on 6-of-14 shooting. Robinson was 5-of-8 in the first half and the early makes turned out to be a bit of a curse because they didn’t fall in the second where he was just 1-of-6 from the floor.
- Nik Stauskas: Stauskas couldn’t miss in the first half and seemed like he wasn’t aggressive enough looking for his shot. Then in the second half he was a bit more aggressive, but couldn’t hit anything. Stauskas still finished with an efficient 15 points on 5-of-9 (3-6 3pt) shooting, but he had 3 turnovers to 1 assist.
- Caris LeVert: LeVert looked a bit out of control from the opening tip. He knocked down an early pull-up jumper, but struggled for the middle 30 minutes of the game. He was forcing his offense in the lane and threw up a couple of wild spinning shots attacking the basket. His other made shot put Michigan up 15 with 4:19 to play and iced the game away for the Wolverines.
- Jon Horford: Horford was active offensively (2-3 fg) with 4 points, three rebounds and two steals in 11 minutes. He still struggled a bit on the defensive end, but he had a nice reverse finish and a dunk in the second half to stop a Wofford run.
- Spike Albrecht: Albrecht notched one assist in eight minutes of playing time, but the drop-off from Walton to Albrecht defensive was pretty clear against Cochran.
- Zak Irvin: Irvin was just 1-of-5 from the floor and missed all four three-point attempts. He had a very quick trigger and probably could have done without one or two attempts that were either rushed or too deep, but he’s in the game to shoot.