Team 101

NCAA 2017: Michigan vs. Oklahoma State Recap

Michigan played one of its best offensive games and worst defensive games of the season, but outlasted Oklahoma State with hot three-point shooting and Derrick Walton.

Michigan vs. Oklahoma State lived up to its billing on Friday afternoon.

The Wolverines and Cowboys exchanged baskets and dazzling plays by their star point guards in a breathtaking back and forth affair. The game featured 12 ties and 16 lead changes but Michigan had just enough firepower to advance.

The Wolverines found themselves facing early deficits in both halves, but figured out a way to regroup, adjust and take control of the game in both instances. That’s a luxury that teams have when they have the best point guard on the floor and Derrick Walton kept up his dominant March.

Walton was just 1-of-6 from the field in the first half, but he made 6-of-7 shots in the second including 5 threes, one of which was from the March Madness logo at center court. He finished with 26 points and 11 assists, leaving another highly touted individual point guard match-up in the dust. He also had some help as three other starters reached double figures and five Wolverines made at least one three-pointer.

This was an unforgettable offensive performance and a defensive performance that was every bit as bad. Basically everything that we wrote this week previewing the game turned out to be true: Michigan couldn’t defend Oklahoma State and Oklahoma State couldn’t defend Michigan. The Wolverines just hit a couple more shots when it counted.

Michigan’s offense has actually played four better games (IU, at NEB, MES, C Ark) this season, which is scary to think about, but this was a flawless offensive showing. The Wolverines scored 1.41 points per possession in a 65 possession affair — slightly closer to the Wolverines’ average of 62 possessions per game.  Michigan shot better from three (16-of-29) than two (13-of-27) and there were times when it felt like they just couldn’t miss from beyond the arc.

Early on in the game, there were some rocky moments for the U-M offense. The Wolverines missed 7 of their first 8 threes until Zak Irvin broke the seal with 8:09 to play in the first half. Michigan would only miss seven more threes for the rest of the game, going on to make 16 three-point attempts on the day.

The offensive numbers for the game are impressive, the second half numbers are insane. Both teams scored 51 points in 32 possessions for an incredible 1.58 points per possession. The Wolverines had an 86% effective field goal percentage in the second half as they made a ridiculous 11 threes on 15 attempts. Not to be forgotten in Michigan’s offensive performance is the fact that the Wolverines only turned the ball over 4 times in 65 possessions (and Beilein still complained about the turnovers when discussing the game with media) and outscored the Cowboys 15-7 in points off giveaways.

Defensively, Michigan held Jawun Evans to 23 points on 10-of-26 shooting, but he also handed out 12 assists to 4 turnovers. Add in the missed floaters that were put back in his by his wings and wings and he was responsible for most of Michigan’s headaches on the night. His dribble penetration gave the Wolverines fits all game and was the number one reason that Oklahoma State managed to rebound half of its missed shots.

March is about figuring out how to win a game and moving onto the next one. Michigan got the job done even if it wasn’t always comfortable and will face Louisville in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Michigan probably won’t score 1.4 points per possession against Louisville, but the Cardinals also probably don’t have the firepower to keep up in a similar shootout.

Player Bullets:

  • Derrick Walton: Maybe you thought Walton’s March heroics were over at halftime after he missed 6 of his 7 shots from the floor. Maybe you thought the time was up when John Beilein yanked him out of the game and Oklahoma State extended its lead to 6 points in the second half. You’d be wrong, Walton is still here and he’s still dominating. He not only spent the entire game chasing Jawun Evans around (until he picked up his third foul late), he also recorded a 26 point, 11 assist triple-double while making 6-of-9 threes. He only made one two-pointer on the night, but it was the dagger as he muscled Evans into the paint and knocked in a 10-footer to push the Wolverines’ lead to 7 with under a minute to play. The game is a lot easier when the best player on the floor wears your uniform and Walton keeps proving that.
  • Zak Irvin: Irvin went the full 40 minutes and scored 16 points on 6-of-11 (4-6 3pt) shooting with 3 assists to 0 turnovers. It would have been almost unthinkable to expect this kind of performance from him a couple weeks ago, but he was locked in and hit some huge shots down the stretch — none bigger than his pull-up jumper with 1:50 to play and Michigan leading by only 3 points.
  • DJ Wilson: Wilson went 40 minutes, scoring 19 points on 6-of-12 shooting, grabbed five rebounds, blocked four shots and handed out an assist. Wilson at the five has emerged as Michigan’s closing lineup and it’s hard to knock it. He’s holding his own defensively and gives Michigan more flexibility to defend ball screens and he’s also the best rim protector on the roster. Some of his block opportunities lead to offensive rebounds, but this was another impressive two-way game by the big forward.
  • Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman: Michigan’s forgotten man, Abdur-Rahkman had 16 points on 6-of-11 (3-6 3pt) shooting with 4 assists, a block and a steal in 38 minutes. Somehow that was the fourth-most notable performance in the Michigan box score. Phil Forte only made 1-of-4 threes on the game and Abdur-Rahkman was also glued to him all game, chasing him off the line. Abdur-Rahkman was very effective early in the game attacking switches (and getting in the lane) and he really carried the Wolverines for stretches of the first half.
  • Moritz Wagner: Wagner was out of the game with fouls before the first TV timeout, but the trust that John Beilein showed to insert him back into the game in the first half paid dividends. It was a gamble given Wagner’s tendency to commit silly fouls, but it worked. Wagner checked into the game with 7:51 to play and Michigan trailing by 7. He promptly scored cutting to the basket and left the court two and a half minutes later with the lead down to 2. Wagner had some brutal stretches defensively guarding ball screen action — he said after the game that he knew what to do, but just wasn’t executing — and that forced Beilein’s hand to go with Wilson late.
  • Mark Donnal: Donnal played 8 minutes in the first half and got fouled on a nice pump fake move to get to the basket, but it’s clear that in crunch time Beilein is going to go with Wilson at the five over Donnal.
  • Duncan Robinson: Robinson hit a couple of critical threes (2-of-4), but he also missed the front-end of one-and-ones twice in the last minute. He’s a 78% free throw shooter on the year, but those misses almost cost the Wolverines late.
  • Xavier Simpson: Simpson only played 2 minutes and it was clear that Evans was one of the first times in a while that the game just looked too fast for him.

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