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Five Key Plays: Elon at Michigan

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Michigan survived an early challenge to knock off Elon 88-68 on Monday afternoon. Here are Five Key Plays from the victory.

Michigan survived an early challenge to knock off Elon 88-68 on Monday afternoon. Here are Five Key Plays from the victory.

1. Michigan squashes upset hopes, Duncan heats up

The game began in familiar fashion for the Michigan basketball team. The Wolverines were struggling to make things happen in the half-court offense, and Elon had used a 7-0 run on the other end of the court to take the lead. But with both teams opening their bench midway through the first half, Michigan capitalized.

Emphasizing their advantage in speed and length on three straight possessions, the Wolverines scored six unanswered points in 31 seconds to take the lead for good. Redshirt freshman forward D.J. Wilson’s alley-oop layup broke the 5:17 scoring drought, and the steals were a welcome sight to a still-struggling defense, but the highlight of the sequence was redshirt sophomore forward Duncan Robinson’s dunk. Normally a 3-point specialist, Robinson brought the crowd to its feet with the two-handed slam.

“(It was) a little easier than in the past,” Robinson said of his dunk with a grin. “Spending time last year with (strength and conditioning) Coach (Jon) Sanderson helped out a lot there.”

2. Duncan Robisnon heats heats up

Everyone knew Robinson could shoot 3-pointers, right? Apparently the Phoenix didn’t get the same memo, as they left Robinson open several times in the first half. As expected, the Williams College transfer made all of them, pacing Michigan’s offense for much of the game.

“Usually when the first one goes in, I feel pretty good about it,” Robinson said. “But even if it doesn’t, I trust our preparation as a team and everyone to get each other open and get open looks.”

Robinson went dark in Friday’s season opener, with just one field goal attempt, but finished with 19 points on six shots Monday. Plenty of credit for the open looks is owed to good ball movement, but when he’s open, you can count on Robinson to knock them down.

“He’s the best shooter I’ve ever seen,” said junior guard Derrick Walton Jr. .

And no, Walton was not forgetting 2014 Big Ten Player of the Year Nik Stauskas in that list.

3. Passing potential on display

Twenty-four seconds, seven passes, three points. Ball movement was on display for much of Michigan’s blowout win, and this possession was no exception.

Both Walton and senior guard Caris LeVert had seven assists in the game, nine different players scored in the game and the Wolverines had assists on 20 of their 31 field goal makes for a solid 64.5 assist rate.

“We had some issues early in practice with the ball sticking at different spots and one guy would take that extra minute,” Beilein said. “It’s really important that we look for each other. There was not much sticking today, we just kept the ball moving and found the open man.”

With many Michigan players — such as junior forward Zak Irvin, who went 0-for-5 in his return from injury — struggling from the field, spreading the wealth proved to pay off.

4. Wolverines can’t miss

Michigan had no shortage of offensive firepower Monday, finishing with 1.3 points per possession on the night, but the most dominant stretch occurred at the beginning of the second half. The Wolverines entered halftime on a 12-3 run to take a 10-point lead, but had looked far from perfect.

That all changed 57 seconds into the second half, when more good ball movement led to a wide-open layup for Aubrey Dawkins beneath the basket. On the next possession, another seven-pass sequence led to a wide-open 3-pointer by Walton. By the time Caris Levert pulled off the steal-and-score 10 seconds later, the game was over.

In the second half, Michigan’s PPP hit 1.55, and the Wolverines were clicking inside and out on the offensive side of the ball.

5. Mo Weezy takes (a) charge

Perhaps the lone weak spot in Monday’s game for the Wolverines came in the play of the team’s big men. Wilson, junior Mark Donnal, sophomore Ricky Doyle and freshman Moe Wagner are all battling for playing time down low, and all four showed major weaknesses Monday.

“We can’t rotate four guys there, somebody’s going to beat somebody out and we’ll go with two or three,” Beilein said. “Usually you need three, two primarily, a third guy will back him up and a fourth will wait his turn.”

But a welcome bright spot came from Wagner, the youngest forward, toward the end of the second half. After giving the team an energy boost with a strip, Wagner brought the crowd to its feet by drawing a charge — and some blood.

The German import came up pounding his chest and shouting, embracing the hard-nosed spirit that Beilein preaches. He had to be taken out of the game, but won’t be out for long if his performance Monday was any indication.

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