There’s another article on this site with the same headline somewhere, but I’m guessing this one will be a little more fun to read. Michigan got its revenge over Louisville on Sunday in large part thanks to Moritz Wagner. Here are Five Key Plays from the win.
1. Moritz Wagner goes off
Moritz Wagner scored 26 points and made 11 baskets of varying importance and difficulty, but they all deserve a spot in Five Key Plays. Wagner picked up a few easy baskets on some of Michigan’s action, but the majority of his makes were isolations on switches.
Watching Wagner dominate this game is a great reminder that you can only take away so much when you face Michigan. Louisville clearly wanted to negate the three-point shot and wasn’t going to let Derrick Walton beat them. The Cardinals accomplished their game plan, but that left them exposed with one-on-one matchups against Wagner.
That was a matchup that Deng Adel had no chance to handle early on, but by the end of the day it didn’t matter who was covering Wagner — he was getting to the rim and scoring.
“We’ve been working a lot on the switching defense, getting the ball in the post, being aggressive down there as well,” Wagner said after the win. “I think I’m just very confident because of our practice because of the work we all put in, and it paid off today.”
2. Louisville closes half on 8-0 run
Michigan spent the whole first half just trying to stay in the game and then managed to tie the score at 28. The Wolverines had the momentum and their crowd was alive.
Then Donovan Mitchell buried a tough three and the energy in the building shifted. Michigan tried to answer with DJ Wilson driving to the basket, but the result was another transition three. In a blink, and a questionable foul call on Moritz Wagner, the Wolverines were down 36-28 heading into the half.
“The end of the first half, I thought was a defining moment for our team in this particular game,” Beilein said. “We could have approached that differently. We were coming back, shot clock’s down, they nail a 3. I think they came back down again, nailed another 3. Then all of a sudden, we got a foul, and they get two more. We’re down eight at half.”
Two months ago, that moment might have sent Michigan into a tailspin. In Indianapolis, the Wolverines kept their poise and focused on battling back.
“A team that isn’t as experienced, that despite have the poise we have, would come back and try to win it all right away,” Beilein said. “We won every four-minute period until we got ahead in the game. And just by playing in those little increments made a big difference.”
3. Zak Irvin wakes up Michigan
Late in the regular season, Michigan was playing great basketball with Zak Irvin struggling. It was hard not to wonder what the Wolverines would look like with a confident and effective version of Irvin on offense. That’s exactly what we’ve seen over the last two weeks.
Michigan doesn’t win all of these games without Irvin and he was the driving force that finally pushed Michigan all the way back into the game on Sunday.
This run was spurted by a terrific steal at the top of the key by Moritz Wagner (big fella can run the break, apparently), but Irvin’s next two makes are vintage-Irvin mid-range pull-ups over tough defense.
How fragile is the game of basketball? Before Irvin’s three-straight makes to get the Wolverines back into the game, Louisville point guard Quintin Snider — who was a 39% three-point shooter before yesterday’s 0-of-7 performance — missed a wide open transition three that would have stretched the lead to 12.
It’s a make or miss game.
4. Derrick Walton hits big shots late
Michigan point guard Derrick Walton was held below 20 points for the first time in 4 games and he struggled with his shot. He had only made one shot from the floor up until this point, but stepped up and made two of the biggest shots of the game down the stretch.
“I felt like every shot I shot today was a great shot, and I know Coach B would yell at me if I start to defer,” Walton said in the postgame press conference. “So I just kept screening to my guys. After they made play after play after play, I just told them I could bring it home and hit the shot. I hit the jump shot, and I hit the layup. He looked at me. Like I said, I feed off those guys to give me so much confidence. I knew if I stopped shooting, they’d be mad at me.”
At this point, the ball just has to go to Walton in these situations. He’s been too good for too long and both of these makes were not only incredibly difficult shots, they were critically important with the Wolverines leading by just a possession.
5. DJ Wilson hits free throws
Free throws make for the least exciting video features, but DJ Wilson stepping to the line and knocking in four free throws deserves mention. Michigan held on to win this game despite a few late game hiccups against the Louisville press and that’s because Wilson was clutch at the line.
“I don’t feel any really,” Wilson said of the pressure, “Everybody is confident in my ability knocking down free throws down the stretch. I’m confident in myself. So that’s really all I need. I think yesterday when we played Oklahoma State, I think that really helped me. So when I went to the line, I just had to have confidence.”
There’s an uneasy feeling seeing a 6-foot-10 combo forward heading to the line for critical free throws, but it might not be deserved. Wilson is shooting 83% at the line (50-of-60) and only Walton has shot better at the stripe.