Sunday, March 24, 2013
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Quick Recap: The Wolverines, who led by 12 points early, had to overcome a 12-point deficit of their own last night to defeat the Purdue Boilermakers and keep their Big Ten title hopes alive. Tyrone Johnson scored 32 points for Purdue, who fell to the 7-10 in the Big Ten. Michigan, at 12-5, moved to within one game of the Hoosiers for first place in the Big Ten.
Burke to the Rescue Again: After submitting one of his worst 20-minute stretches of play throughout the entire season in the first half, Trey Burke scored 22 points in the 2nd half and propelled Michigan to victory in a tough road environment. Burke was the offensive catalyst for the Wolverines in their 21-8 run during a 7-minute stretch in the second half in which Michigan retook the lead at 61-60 with 4:16 to play. Burke was money from the free throw line down the stretch, going 7-8 in the last minute of the game to ice away the victory. His performance only strengthened an already compelling Big Ten and National player of the year resume.
Mental Lapses on Defense Continue: Ten minutes into the first half, the Wolverines, leading 21-9, looked like they were going to cruise to a blowout victory, while Purdue looked erratic on offense. Suddenly, Michigan seemed to relax their focus on defense, a constant theme on the road as of late, and Purdue responded with 4 three-pointers and a 34-30 lead to close the half. Michigan lost their toughness near the basket, got lazy closing out on jump shooters and struggled to secure defensive rebounds. Even though Michigan eventually made up for it on the offensive end, their weak defensive trends continued into the second half and will continue to plague the Wolverines and limit their ceiling in March if they do not get tougher and more committed to their defensive game-plan.
Stauskas Back Strong: Nik Stauskas showed no ill effects of the elbow he took to the face against Michigan State that sidelined him for most of the game on Sunday. He came out aggressive on offense, notching 17 points, including two 2 three-pointers, along with 8 trips to the free throw, 7 of which he converted. His confidence is essential to opening up Michigan’s offense and will be pivotal for the Wolverines to make a deep run in March.
Big Picture: Despite the erratic rollercoaster of a game, it was nice to see Michigan hold their composure facing adversity on the road. This would have been a crushing and mentally debilitating defeat at this point in the season. The Wolverines played with a little extra chip on their shoulder, looking like a team in desperate search for a championship. They have the opportunity to go out there and seal one on their home court on Sunday against Indiana. There’s really not much more that any Michigan fan could ask for.
Sunday, March 3, 2013
Quick Recap: Michigan survived a wacky end to their contest against Michigan State, defeating the Spartans 58-57. The victory vaults Michigan into a 4-way tie for 2nd place in the Big Ten at 11-5 with Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State. This means that Indiana has clinched at least a share of the Big Ten title. For the Wolverines though, this victory was a huge mental boost to a team that struggled against elite Big Ten competition in the past month.
Big Time Players Make Big Time Plays: Michigan’s only points in the last 2:53 of the game came courtesy of their leader, Trey Burke. With Michigan State in the midst of a 7-0 run to tie the game at 56, Keith Appling brought the ball up the court with 32 seconds left and Michigan State looking to holding for the final shot. As Appling gazed to the bench to attempt to call a timeout, Trey Burke smartly went for a steal, got it, and streaked uncontested up the court to the Michigan basket for a flush. Later, on the game’s final possession, Trey Burke picked off Gary Harris’s attempted pass to Appling with under 2 seconds remaining to play, allowing Michigan to escape with the victory. Burke finished with another player-of-the-year resume building afternoon, posting 21 points, 8 assists, 5 steals, and 4 rebounds.
Two Bigs on the Court? Throughout the season, coach Beilein has received some criticism for under-utilizing Michigan’s post players. With 3 legitimate post-men in Jordan Morgan, Mitch McGary and Jon Horford, Beilein rarely showed any lineups featuring two of them on the court at the same time. However, this afternoon, against a Spartan team that historically uses two post-oriented players on the court 100% of the time, Beilein finally decided to match them. This lineup decision may have been coming with or without the matchup against the Spartans, as Michigan’s defense, particularly their rebounding, has struggled of late. This alignment was used for close to 65% of the game, and it worked perfectly, as Jordan Morgan matched up well at the power-forward position guarding the lengthy Adrian Payne, who was a matchup nightmare for Glenn Robinson III.
Caris Pushing for a Starting Spot: Nik Stauskas suffered an elbow to the face, right above his left eye, early in the game and did not return. Therefore, Caris Levert spent much of the game at shooting guard, making up for Staukas’s lost offense with brilliant man-to-man defense. He may find himself starting soon if Michigan continues to emphasize defense moving forward.
Big Picture: Michigan badly needed this victory to re-legitimize themselves as national title contenders. Furthermore, we saw a Michigan team that looked like they were playing with an extra edge that will be necessary to advance far in March. The Wolverines showed that correcting their defensive woes are a top priority and that their mental toughness can no longer be questioned. The Spartans threw every punch at Michigan and they responded, defending their home court in an almost personal way. The Wolverines put to bed any questions of whether they can compete on an elite level and they turned a corner as a team, right as the calendar flipped to March. Next matchup is Wednesday at Purdue.