Michigan took the floor on Saturday afternoon like a team that had just been embarrassed on the road.
“By the time the plane landed from North Carolina I had 97 cuts from the game,” John Beilein remarked after today’s 69-55 win.
That loss at North Carolina only featured 140 possessions combined and wasn’t competitive for the final 10 to 15 minutes. There were plenty of teaching moments and you can be sure that Michigan’s players saw all of them.
The Wolverines answered the challenge on Saturday afternoon as they handled Indiana with relative easy. Michigan didn’t allow a made field goal for the first 7 and a half minutes of the game, days after they allowed North Carolina to score a perfect 2 points per possession until the first media timeout.
Michigan never looked back and led wire-to-wire in the 14-point victory that was sparked by true freshman guard Jordan Poole’s 19 points off the bench.
We’ve talked about a three-point gap in the past and I recently wrote about a transition gap that Michigan has been creating. Both were in effect today and Michigan won this game because it attempted higher value shots.
The Wolverines made 8-of-31 3-pointers and the Hoosiers made just 2-of-7. Michigan attempted 16 shots that weren’t defined as threes, layups or dunks by the scorekeeper. Indiana attempted 43 and didn’t score a single fastbreak point on the night.
Indiana’s shot selection under Tom Crean was routinely some of the best in the country, but this young Indiana team with a new head coach is still trying to figure out good shots from bad. The Hoosiers took a number of early shot clock mid-range jumpers and seemed to waste countless possessions where Juwan Morgan — 24 points on 9-of-14 shooting — didn’t even touch the ball on the block.
Give Michigan’s defense some credit as it held Indiana to 42% shooting from inside the arc and forced 11 turnovers. The Wolverine defense looked significantly more connected than it did mid-week in Chapel Hill and its ability to force first half turnovers helped set the tone of the game. Indiana was ranked in the top-100 nationally in offensive rebounding rate before Saturday, but Michigan blanketed the glass and rebounded 81% of the Hoosier misses.
Offensively, Michigan was three or four made 3-pointers away from turning this into a blowout. The Wolverines only scored 1.05 points per possession in the win and made just 11-of-31 triples. Despite the below average perimeter shooting, Michigan’s offense was carving up Indiana. The ball was moving, the threes were open and the easy twos were available as well. The Wolverines shot 63% inside the arc and 16 of 26 made field goals were assisted.
This was a bounce back game that Michigan needed and was arguably its best performance of the season. Now the Wolverines need to turn things around and prepare for a trip to Columbus on a short prep. Tip-off at Ohio State is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Monday as Michigan aims for a 2-0 league start.
- Jordan Poole: Nothing about Jordan Poole’s game is boring. When he’s on the floor, he’s looking to make plays. He makes (more than) his fair share of plays that you’d like to have back whether it is a gamble on defense or a turnover, but he also hunts shots and has the confidence to hit from anywhere on the floor. That’s a fine line to tight rope, but he managed it successfully today. He finished with 19 points on 7-of-12 (5-10 3pt) shooting on the night and cemented himself as the first wing off the bench. Michigan needs to figure out a way to teach Poole to hit singles not swing for home runs on every play, something Beilen reiterated after the game, but he provides a scoring punch off the bench that UM needs.
- Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman: At first glance, it the box score shows another quiet performance by Michigan’s senior guard, who finished with just 8 points on 2-of-5 shooting, but that would be selling him short. Abdur-Rahkman made critical plays early on (two assists and a triple) to set the tone and also hit a huge 3-pointer heading into the half that helped keep the Hoosiers at bay. He also had 11 defensive rebounds in a game where Michigan needed to improve on the glass after being dominated by North Carolina. For good measure, he spent the afternoon chasing around IU’s leading scorer Robert Johnson and held him to 6 points on 4 shots.
- Moritz Wagner: We’ve discussed Wagner’s issues defending in the post and those were evident against Juwan Morgan and exaggerated when he was whistled for an early foul. Those aren’t going away any time soon, but Wagner continues to improve rebounding (7), passing (3 assists) and even recorded 3 blocked shots after failing to block a shot in the first 8 games of the year. His offense? It is all there even on a night when his 3-point shot (0-of-2) wasn’t falling. There aren’t many guys approach 7-foot tall who can dribble through their legs in traffic while driving the rim.
- Jon Teske: Teske is great change of pace from Wagner because he provides legitimate rim protection and defensive spark. He also scored 6 points on 2-of-3 shooting and hit both free throws. More than anyone on the roster, he’s outperforming expectations and that should be critical for resting Wagner and defending the post against bigger opponents.
- Charles Matthews: Matthews only played 19 minutes as he battled foul trouble, but had a solid 8 points, 3 rebounds and 1 assist. He made a few nice reads out of the ball screen game and also had a pair of timely offensive rebounds.
- Duncan Robinson: Robinson has only made 3 of his last 14 three-pointers and really struggled with his shot today. He had more open looks from three than he might have had all season, but just couldn’t seem to find a rhythm. He did hit a huge pick-and-pop three in the second half after Indiana had made a run, but Michigan is going to need him to heat up. I actually thought he played an improved defensive game, but he picked up several silly fouls in the second half that led to him sitting on the bench. One way or another, Michigan needs him to be a 40% 3-point shooter and will be hoping for some regression toward the mean in coming games.
- Eli Brooks: “His fundamentals aren’t there, but his mind is there.” That’s Beilein’s assessment of Brooks from after today’s game. He had 6 assists and 0 turnovers in his first Big Ten game and also had active hands to lead to a couple of steals. I loved how he pushes the tempo and gets Michigan quickly into his offense and he knocked in 1 out of 2 three-point attempts. It was interesting that Simpson closed the game, but that nightmare down the stretch against LSU might be hard for Beilein to get out of his mind in late game situations.
- Zavier Simpson: Beilein rode Simpson down the stretch for his defense and he played a solid 18 minutes. Overall, he’s limited offensively (0-of-2 and 1 assist in 18 minutes) but having a defensive stopper off the bench is a luxury.
- Isaiah Livers: The game still seems to be moving a bit too fast for Livers, but he continues to flash some potential. He had a great give-and-go with Wagner on the block and another nice finish. He also turned the ball over twice, missed two threes and gave up an and-one down low in 10 minutes. The spot is there at the backup four and Livers is going to have every opportunity to grab it, but he has a critical month ahead to try to get ready for the grind of conference play.
- Jaaron Simmons: My bold prediction that Jaaron Simmons would be the starting point guard by December might be one of my worst. Not only is Simmons not starting, he didn’t see the floor today.
- Ibi Watson: Jordan Poole has been gradually taking Watson’s minutes and today should accelerate that process. Watson played 3 first half minutes and dropped a pass at the top of the key. He didn’t see the floor in the 2nd half despite Duncan Robinson battling foul trouble.