Michigan and Texas both were able to do what they do best in their round of 32 clash on Saturday night in Milwaukee, but Michigan controlled the game with a 27-6 run midway through the first half and never looked back.
The Longhorns imposed their will in the paint, rebounding over half of their misses, and defended the rim, but they shot like they’ve shot all season and couldn’t defend the Wolverines on the perimeter.
“We knew that number, that rebounding number, we probably weren’t going to win that today,” John Beilein said in his postgame press conference. “We had to win the other numbers to win the possession number.”
Michigan won all of the other numbers.
The Wolverines racked up 16 assists and only turned the ball over four times. They outscored the Longhorns 15-2 in points off of turnovers, 10-5 on the fast break and got to the free throw line more often. Most importantly, they made 14-of-28 threes, a program record in the NCAA tournament, while Texas attempted just 11.
There’s more than one way to win a basketball game, but right now it’s tough to argue with Michigan’s formula for success.
Michigan shot just 38.5% on two-point field goals, but still managed to score 1.38 points per possession – the most Michigan scored against a major-conference foe this season and the most that Texas allowed this season. How did the Wolverines manage it? They turned the ball over just 4 times in 57 possessions and shot 14-of-28 from three-point range. Six different Michigan players made at least one three and they all shot 50% or better from long range.
Texas has done a great job of defending the interior, but Michigan’s perimeter talent was just too much. Texas couldn’t come up with a working solution to defend Michigan’s ball screens. Wolverine guards drove off the switch, shot over the soft-hedge or found the roll man on the trap. Texas’ bulk is great around the rim, but stretched out onto the perimeter the Longhorn man-to-man defense had no hope of containing Michigan’s wealth of attacking talents.
The story of the game was tempo. In the first half, both teams went up and down for eight and a half minutes without a break. There were no fouls or timeouts until the 11:25 mark in a stretch of basketball that went back and forth more like soccer.
The Wolverines did a very good job on the defensive glass in the first half, grabbing two-thirds of Texas’ misses, as the up-and-down action clearly tired Texas’s big men. Clean defensive rebounds allowed Michigan the opportunity to push the ball off and it racked up 10 fast break points and scored 1.45 points per trip in the first half.
Texas managed to change the complexion of the game in the second half by unleashing a zone defense. The zone slowed down Michigan’s offense a little bit — it still managed 1.30 points per trip in the second half – but it kept the Texas big men near the rim and saved their energy to crash the offensive glass. Texas rebounded 68% of its misses in the second half and Michigan snagged just five live ball rebounds – eliminating almost all transition offense. Texas’ offense was able to keep pace in the deliberate second half game as they scored 1.27 points per trip.
That was enough to keep Texas in the game – the Longhorns eventually cut the deficit to six points – but Michigan had too much clutch production from Glenn Robinson III, Caris LeVert and Jordan Morgan down the stretch.
Michigan is headed back to the Sweet 16 and maneuvered its way through the opening rounds without breaking much of a sweat. Sterner challenges do lie ahead, but the Wolverines are guaranteed to face a double-digit seed in the Sweet 16 against either No. 11 Tennessee or No. 14 Mercer.
- Nik Stauskas: Stauskas didn’t make a two, but he was 4-of-9 from three-point range and had eight assists to zero turnovers. He was the facilitator of Michigan’s offense, but he set the tone with his three-point shot early. He did a great job getting in the middle of the zone, even if he only made one field goal in the second half.
- Jordan Morgan: Morgan had his second straight double-double and finished with 15 points and ten rebounds. All of the hype leading up to the game was about Cameron Ridley, but Morgan vastly outplayed him during the 35 minutes (a career high) he was on the floor. The idea of making ‘winning plays’ feels cliché and beaten to death, but at this point that seems to be what Morgan does every game.
- Glenn Robinson III: Robinson had 14 points on 5-of-10 (2-3 3pt) shooting, five rebounds, two steals and a block. When Texas was making a run midway through the second half it was Robinson that answered the bell. He had a huge block, a very strong drive and finish at the rim and then a wing three-pointer. Robinson is slowly starting to look like the player that everyone wanted him to be and he couldn’t be rounding into form at a better time for the Wolverines. Jonathan Holmes, who I thought could be Michigan’s biggest match-up disadvantage, scored just nine points on 4-of-9 shooting
- Caris LeVert: LeVert drew the assignment of guarding Isaiah Taylor and he struggled a bit with his quickness. Offensively, he finished with a solid 14 points on 5-of-12 shooting with three assists and hit the three that gave Michigan the cushion to hold on late.
- Derrick Walton: Walton scored 8 points on 3-of-7 shooting, handed out two assists and most importantly didn’t turn the ball over. He kncoked down a nice 11-foot pull-up jumper and was one of five Wolverines to make at least two threes on the night.
- Spike Albrecht: Albrecht’s second-half performance was reminiscent of last year’s NCAA tournament as he helped seal the deal. He checked into the game with Michigan leading by eight and 8:27 to play. When he left with 2:10 remaining, Michigan had re-secured a 15 point lead. He added a three, two free throws and two rebounds in that six minute span.
- Zak Irvin: Irvin scored six points on 2-of-4 three-point shooting in nine minutes. He goes as his three-point shot goes, but his ability to catalyze a Michigan run with a couple quick threes off the bench is invaluable.
- Jon Horford: Morgan was so dominant that Horford couldn’t really stay on the floor. He only played five minutes and was whistled for two fouls and picked up a turnover on an ill-advised backdoor pass.