Michigan earned its first road win of the season Tuesday night by defeating Penn State, 73-64. For a closer look at how it happened and to see which players delivered in the clutch, check out our Five Key Plays from the game.
1) Zak Irvin dominates with LeVert sidelined by foul trouble
When Caris LeVert picked up his second foul with six minutes remaining in the first half, it presented Penn State with the opportunity to extend its slim lead. Instead, the opposite happened: Michigan rattled off seven-straight points en route to a halftime lead.
In the first possession without LeVert, the Wolverines isolated Zak Irvin at the top of the key. The sophomore guard blew by Ross Travis for a layup, drawing a foul in the process. Irvin attacked off the dribble again the next time down the floor, this time receiving a pass in the wing and getting fouled by D.J. Newbill in the paint.
Then, after Derrick Walton missed a three-pointer, Irvin got the offensive rebound and — though he was wide open and perhaps expecting a pass at the rim — eventually got an open look on a feed and screen from Spike Albrecht. Irvin buried the three-pointer to cap an impressive stretch for the sophomore with LeVert on the bench.
2) Derrick Walton fouled on three-pointer after PSU ties the game
With 7:40 to play, Penn State had clawed back from a 10-point deficit to tie the game, and it seemed as if the Wolverines were going to suffer a similar second-half collapse to the one endured against Purdue.
But the Nittany Lions fouled Walton on a three-pointer, and the guard hit all three free throws to quiet the crowd and give Michigan the lead for good.
The look was created by Albrecht, who got a bit of penetration thanks to a screen set by Ricky Doyle. The center peeled off toward the basket for a potential pick-and-roll feed, causing three Nittany Lions defenders to collapse around Doyle and Albrecht. Instead, the guard passed to Walton, and Shep Garner committed the crucial foul.
Walton has always done a good job of drawing fouls on three-pointers, but most impressive was the fact that the sophomore calmly knocked in his free throws — something Michigan has struggled with from time to time this season.
3) 1-3-1 zone forces shot-clock violation
The Wolverines have used the 1-3-1 zone more frequently as the season has progressed, and it worked to perfection on one possession Tuesday night.
After the Walton free throws, Michigan turned to the zone, and Penn State couldn’t crack it. The Nittany Lions moved the ball well against the 1-3-1, actually creating an open look with seven seconds left on the shot clock. Brandon Taylor was unmarked for a corner three, but by the time Geno Thorpe made the pass, Albrecht had beaten a screen by Jordan Dickerson. Taylor had to attack the baseline, where he was immediately double-teamed, and an off-balance pullup jumper hit the side of the backboard.
After a scramble for the ball, the shot clock expired, and the Nittany Lions turned the ball over to Michigan.
4) Caris LeVert takes over late in second half
Michigan needs Caris LeVert to make big plays late, and he did Tuesday night. The junior scored on three consecutive trips to keep Michigan ahead.
With 5:40 remaining and Penn State running a 2-3 zone, LeVert received a pass in the perimeter and then made his way around Thorpe into the zone’s weak spot at the free throw line. Bracketed by two defenders, LeVert pump-faked and then buried a jumper.
The Nittany Lions responded with a three-pointer, but LeVert wasn’t done. The next time down the floor, he demanded the ball, calling for a pass when Albrecht was double-teamed in the corner. LeVert then asked for a screen from Doyle, and, with the shot clock winding down, the guard cut into the lane and banked in a floater.
Then LeVert became the point man in the middle of Penn State’s 2-3 zone. He received a bounce pass from Albrecht, and, when the defense didn’t collapse around him, used a crossover to blow by Donovan Jack and then buried a fadeaway jumper.
The three shots kept Michigan ahead entering the game’s closing stages, setting the Wolverines up for one final push.
5) Irvin seals game with jumper, dunk
Michigan led by just two with 1:30 remaining, but Irvin delivered a pair of key plays that helped seal the road victory.
First, he received a pass in the corner from Walton, then dribbled by Taylor and pulled up for a jumper to the right of the elbow to put the Wolverines up four.
After Walton stretched the lead with free throws, Irvin came up big again. That time, he stepped away from his defender on the wing to double-team Newbill. Irvin poked the ball away and raced up the court, receiving a return feed from LeVert before unloading with a one-handed Tomahawk slam.
That steal and dunk put Michigan up eight with 40 seconds remaining — instead of perhaps only being up by three or four had Penn State scored — and the Wolverines hit their free throws to earn their first road win of the year.