Michigan picked up its first road win of the season at Indiana, here are Five Key Plays from the win.
1. Derrick Walton sets the tone
Before the game, the common thought was that the first five minutes of the game would be critical. Indiana was a team with its back against the wall and needed to play well. A hot start could have easily revived their confidence, instead Michigan took the early look and never gave it back.
2. Duncan Robinson buys Michigan space
Michigan was marred in an agonizing scoring drought that extended between halves and allowed Indiana to creep back into the game. Suddenly the Wolverines led by only 6 points and needed an answer. John Beilein went to Duncan Robinson off the bench and he answered the call.
“And it’s so good for us to be able to come out here and get a lead, keep a lead,” Beilein said. “They didn’t make any significant charges other than Blackmon hits a three, gets it to six in the second half, and then Duncan answered right back with DJ with the assist. Huge play of the game.”
Robinson has quietly been settling into a grove lately. He’s made 42% of his Big Ten threes and has also been making some great cuts to the basket while gradually improving his defense.
3. Simpson provides a spark
For the second game in a row, Xavier Simpson gave Michigan a critical boost off of the bench. Michigan isn’t a deep team, but Simpson playing an increased role could be critical down the stretch.
“Especially with X in there and some others, we just really tried to attack with the lead,” John Beilein said after the win. “But maybe get a little bit of a rest as well, start running our stuff and trying to get two feet in the paint without throwing it into the paint.”
Simpson made an impact on two critical possessions in the second half as he drove into the paint and dumped off a pass to Mark Donnal, then drove into the paint and scored on his own when the Hoosiers played the pass. After 5 straight games with single digit minutes, Simpson has played 12 in back-to-back games and has played well. The coaching staff has started to experiment slowly with more two point guard looks as well.
One other unsung possession in the second half was the defense that Simpson played on a Josh Newkirk drive to the hoop. Simpson played strong and bodied up Newkirk juts enough that he missed a driving layup attempt.
4. 1-4 Ball screen game
This was a new wrinkle that we haven’t seen nearly as much from Michigan: Derrick Walton and DJ Wilson in the pick-and-roll game.
Wilson had only used 7 possessions as a roll man all season before Sunday afternoon, per Synergy, but he proved to be very effective with that action against the Hoosiers.
Wilson knocked in a three off the pick-and-pop early on, but as he got more comfortable he started attacking the rim against the recovering help. Michigan already has one great pick-and-pop man in Moritz Wagner, but this is a creative way to get Wilson involved against teams that don’t just out-and-out switch the 1-4 ball screen.
The only reason that Michigan could play so much of this action is because the Hoosiers were insistent on guarding Wilson with Bryant and Wilson made them pay.
Wilson admitted after the game that he had been playing hurt over the last few weeks, but was starting to feel better of late. Beilein was impressed with how many things that Wilson is doing now that weren’t even in his game early on.
“When he’s critiqued, when we try to coach him up, he’s so receptive. Some things he’s doing now that he wasn’t doing at the beginning of the year. He asked, ‘Coach, was I doing that against SMU?’ and I said, ‘No, you weren’t,” Beilein explained. “These are just habits that we just get. So he’s really been a pleasure to coach.”
5. Walton with the dagger
When Michigan needs a big shot, it goes to Walton. He helped the Wolverines off to a strong start, scored another critical and-one layup that probably should have been included in this writeup, then wrapped things up down the stretch.
Some may complain about burning clock and running the high pick and roll late in games, but it says a lot about how much confidence Beilein has in Walton at this point — and rightfully so. Walton locked the game up by attacking out of the ball screen game, drawing fouls, finishing at the hoop and then hitting this critical late shot clock pull-up jumper.
The senior point guard is creating over a point per possession in the ball screen game, leading the Big Ten in efficiency among qualified players, and he’s been on fire. Give #10 the ball and get out of the way.