Michigan’s 92-91 victory over Oklahoma State featured plenty of big shots, but here’s a look at some of the most important plays from Friday’s win.
1. Moritz Wagner plays with 2 fouls, starts run
Everyone knows the rule by now, but John Beilein has actually broken trend a few times this year. That being said, this was a high-leverage, high-stakes moment with Michigan’s season on the line and Beilein went back to Moritz Wagner, the most foul prone player on the roster.
“That meant a lot to me, first of all, because he’s never done that before,” Wagner said. “He has that rule, and he trusted me in that moment. I think he trusted my maturity level a little bit, and I’m very happy that he did that and that I ended up not fouling again.”
The gamble paid off and Wagner immediately scored a basket cutting to the hoop. From there, Derrick Walton took control. He found DJ Wilson on a backdoor cut and then drove to find Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman for a three. Wagner’s job was and he checked out of the game, still with two fouls, before Zak Irvin hit a three early in the shot clock to give Michigan the lead.
2. Derrick Walton rights the ship
John Beilein was livid with his senior point guard early in the second half. After playing Walton for the entire first half, Beilein quickly made the shift to Xavier Simpson as Derrick Walton limped off the floor with some sort of knee burn or ankle injury.
As Beilein looked at his point guard inquisitively while asking what he was doing, Oklahoma State mounted a run and took and early second half lead. Beilein called timeout, Walton was good to go and checked back into the game. From there, Walton took over.
“Just playing with a lot of emotion. That’s all it really was,” Walton said of Michigan’s adjustment. “And Coach B said it perfectly, they pressured us and took us out of sets. We haven’t played a team that got up into it in a minute.”
Whatever emotion Walton is playing with, it is working. He continues to dominate games and this was no different. Walton checked back into the game and made a great feed to Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and then knocked in a wide open three off of a flare screen.
3. Michigan heats up
Back in the game after a couple of big shots from Walton, Michigan got hot and never looked back. The Wolverines hit three-pointer after three-pointer and Oklahoma State just couldn’t keep up.
First Walton finds Duncan Robinson in transition, then he starts showing off. A three-pointer from the logo and a jab step corner three over Jawun Evans pushed Michigan’s lead to 8 points with just under 7 minutes to play.
“In the Big Ten tournament, Derrick Walton took 51 shots that were not break-away steal layups. 45 of them were jump shots,” Brad Underwood explained after the game. “And so switching was going to — you know, they were the third percentile in the country in post-ups. So we weren’t overly concerned with that. It was a matter of trying to stop them from shooting in the paint and step-in 3s.
“We wanted to force them to dribble if they wanted to go up Mitch, so be it, and/or Leyton. To their credit, they made some shots.”
You can’t fault Underwood’s gameplan, but at the end of the day Michigan made those shots.
4. Zak Irvin connects
Zak Irvin has been locked in and he played another great game on Friday. He’s now made 30 of his last 44 twos and 13 of his last 30 threes over Michigan’s last seven games.
John Beilein stuck with Irvin through his slump and never questioned his decision. That loyalty is starting to pay off as Irvin plays well down the stretch.
“He was unflappable through it all,” Beilein said of Irvin’s ups and downs. “All of a sudden now, if you check his stats, he’s shooting about 50 percent overall and from 3 during these last five games when it really counted. I had several questions about this. When do you turn to somebody else? I said I’m not turning to anybody else. We’ve got a team. Zak Irvin is in there and will take shots because he makes shots. We have a lot of confidence in him. I wouldn’t do that if he hadn’t shown extreme selfless leadership during the entire four years here.”
5. Derrick Walton ices the game
There’s no secret what Michigan is going to do late in a game with a lead: run the clock and give Derrick Walton the ball and let him make a play. Over the last two or three weeks, Walton seems to have made all of the big shots that he ends up with.
Walton went behind the back, put his shoulder into Jawun Evans’ chest and then pivoted through before flowing up a contested one-handed floater in the lane. For a player who used to struggle to make almost any shot inside the arc, this was another example of just how far he’s improved.