[J.D. Scott]

Michigan 70, Western Michigan 62 Comment Count

Alex Cook December 15th, 2018 at 4:21 PM

For the second Saturday afternoon in a row, Michigan recorded an underwhelming win over an inferior opponent. Western Michigan is worse than South Carolina, but the Broncos played the Wolverines closer throughout the game — they led for much of the first half and Michigan was unable to pull away. Michael Flowers, a sophomore guard, had a career game and scored 31 points, but Michigan made key plays down the stretch to keep Western at bay. With the Wolverine offense struggling, especially in the first half, Charles Matthews stepped up in a featured role for Michigan: he had 25 points and 10 rebounds, and shot 11-16 on free throws.

The game got off to an ugly start, and it stayed ugly through most of the first half. Western opened with a concerted effort to get the ball to Seth Dugan in the post; he scored the first five points for the Broncos but was defended well throughout the game by Jon Teske, Austin Davis, and even Isaiah Livers. Outside of a few early Jordan Poole buckets, Michigan really struggled to score, missing their first seven threes and failing to finish on drives through traffic. The Wolverines were able to get to the free throw line often, mostly thanks to the aggressiveness of Matthews — and they missed seven of their first ten at the charity stripe.

The two teams were tied at seventeen with just over five minutes remaining in the half, and Western had maintained a consistent lead for most of the early going, when Flowers started to get hot. He posted up Zavier Simpson, got two feet in the paint, and scored; he hit a tough step-back three; he made a mid-range jumper; he scored on a really difficult layup after getting grabbed by Simpson; he drew a foul on a free throw line jumper and made both free throws. Within the span of about two minutes, Flowers scored 11 points and Western opened up an eight point lead.

Michigan responded. After Matthews missed two free throws, Flowers took a deep heat check and missed. That miss led to a transition bucket for Matthews, and then Michigan forced four turnovers on consecutive possessions. Western is one of the more turnover-prone teams in all of college basketball, and Michigan’s defense vaulted the Wolverines back into the game. Matthews hit both free throws after Western gave a transition foul; Davis threw a long outlet to Simpson for a layup; Matthews pickpocketed a guard and threw down a two-handed breakaway dunk; Poole jumped a pass and missed a dunk that would have given Michigan its first lead. A strong defensive possession leveraged Flowers into a miss with the clock ticking down on the half, and Matthews went coast-to-coast for a buzzer-beating finger roll to put Michigan up 30-28.

mgoblog-first select-JD Scott--6.jpgMood [Scott]

Western continued to turn the ball over after the break (they finished with 16 turnovers in the game) and Michigan went on an extended 24-4 run to go from down eight to up twelve. Matthews continued to attack the basket for layups and drawn fouls, Simpson knocked down a couple of open threes, and Poole hit a patient step-back three off a screen. The run coincided with Michigan’s best defensive stretch of the game, and the presence of Teske — who sat for most of the first half due to foul trouble — was key.

Within five minutes of the start of the second half, Michigan looked to be on the verge of a rout. After another Western timeout, the Broncos had a bad offensive possession bailed out by a tough and-one bucket for Flowers over Simpson. Sharpshooter Jared Printy got loose for a three, Dugan made a nice move on Davis for a layup, and the deficit was down to five. From there, the margin oscillated between five to ten points, with Michigan unable to ease out to a more comfortable lead and Western unable to make it a one-possession game.

In key spots late in the game, John Beilein called timeout — only to run a high ball-screen for Poole. Both situations led to positive outcomes for Michigan: on the first, Ignas Brazdeikis hit a tough runner off residual action for his first points of the game; on the second, Simpson wound up finding Matthews open in the corner for a dagger three. Western kept threatening, as Kawanise Wilkins scored on some physical moves, and Flowers hit a deep three and drew a few fouls, but Michigan always seemed to have an answer.

Matthews was the star for Michigan: he attacked the basket relentlessly, and even though he missed a few layups, he scored from the free throw line, had some offensive rebounds, and even knocked down a couple threes. Michigan needed that type of performance. Simpson had an uncharacteristic game — he made threes, but turned it over four times and Flowers gave him problems — but he and Poole chipped in with a combined 29 points. It was tough for everyone else. Iggy was held to just four points and had some ugly misses, Teske scored just one basket, and Livers was off from three. Eli Brooks and Davis were solid but not impactful.

On the whole, it was the Wolverines’ worst performance of the season. The early ice cold shooting eventually regressed to the mean, which helped stave off the upset, but Flowers had a fantastic performance and Western looked like a capable opponent and not a team that was ranked outside the Top 200 (per Kenpom, Torvik, and Sagarin). In the end, the Broncos gave away too many possessions to have a chance at the win. Michigan’s first win in this three-game stretch against poor opponents was an uncomfortable one, but they’ll get a chance to get back on track next weekend against Air Force.

[Box score after the JUMP]

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December 15th, 2018 at 6:03 PM ^

Lost in Flowers' incredible game was how Michigan early on made their offense purely about his ability to create his own shot. He finished with 2 assists, and the team only had 4. That's some lethal defense. It was 4 guys standing around watching Flowers. Now he took a ton of terrible shots and many of them went in. C'est la vie!

More concerning is that we only had 8 assists.


December 15th, 2018 at 6:45 PM ^

Yeah, Michigan had 32 points on 35 first-half possessions, followed by 38 points on 32 second half possessions.  The offense never really flowed great, but the first 15 minutes were an absolute slog. If they scored with the same efficiency in the first half as the second, they'd have been up 42-30 at the half and finished with a comfortable 18 point win, 80-62.  And still missed the KenPom number. :/

Indy Pete - Go Blue

December 15th, 2018 at 6:18 PM ^

Austin Davis was solid today.  There was no let down on D.  WMU made several ridiculous threes and heavily contested twos.  Matthews willed the team to victory - not unlike the Nevada game last year.  Winning ugly is a beautiful thing.  We did it many times last year en route to a 30+ win season.  I love winning ugly.  It sure beats losing pretty.  


December 15th, 2018 at 6:34 PM ^

It was an ugly, low-ish possession game.  The weird thing is, this is how Michigan usually looks like December.  But usually they have a couple of losses and are still figuring themselves out.

The offense had a ton of open looks but didn't connect.  But that should even out and, I don't know, the defense will get better.  But you look around college basketball and nobody is killing it, so I'd rather be Michigan than not.

Hopefully AF allows more breathing room.


December 15th, 2018 at 6:42 PM ^

The defense gave up 0.93 ppp and actually dropped in efficiency -- they're now #2 DRtg on KenPom behind Texas Tech.  And that doesn't even account for the difficulty level of some of those makes -- in a world where WMU's garbage shots don't fall quite as frequently, this is a 70-52 win instead of a 70-62 win.

That said, I stand by the same point I made in the game thread -- Michigan is going to see a lot more garbage shots go in against them than they're going to make themselves, and that's because Michigan's defense is forcing a lot more garbage shots than their opponents are.


December 16th, 2018 at 11:17 PM ^

Last year the team did look shaky at this point because it was sorting out the rotation, looking for a PG and PF and adjusting to a lot of new pieces and a new DC.

Yesterday, I thought the team actually played pretty well* (twice as many OREBS, half as many TOs, got a lot of good looks), they just missed a bunch of layups and threes and WMU hit some tough shots.  That's not something to be concerned with.

Iggy had what will almost certainly **knock on wood** be his worst game of the year (two airballs?!).  Teske missed a few easy point blank layups. Matthews missed some easy ones. Poole missed a dunk fergodsakes.  Those aren't things you even need to "fix". Shrug and move on.

*Z looked uncharacteristically sluggish in the first half in getting beat to the hole a couple time by Flowers, Iggy forced a couple bad shots, Teske made a terrible foul on the guy shooting a three but other than those, I didn't see many bad plays or mistakes.

Hotel Putingrad

December 15th, 2018 at 6:44 PM ^

Playing once a week in December is a recipe for underwhelming performance. Their level of play will pick back up again when they resume conference play.

In the interim, survive and advance.

I Bleed Maize N Blue

December 15th, 2018 at 6:50 PM ^

Hail to the Victors.

I admit to having some dread when Teske got called for an early foul, got the autobench, and Davis came in and proceeded to flub an offensive rebound. But then he scored 4 pts, when baskets were few and far between. So that's something, even though that was all he scored. Didn't foul, either.

It was good to see Matthews get going. I remember one trip to the FT line where he missed two, but ending up 11-16, 69%, is pretty damn good. Hope he maintains or improves on that.

Kudos to Poole for 4 steals and an efficient game.

Brian Griese

December 15th, 2018 at 7:08 PM ^

I’m admittedly an Austin homer due to the fact I have family that are extremely close to the Davis family, but I thought today provided a glimpse of what Austin could do. Dugan is no slouch and to the best of my recollection the only basket he scored on Austin was the reverse scoop he made. If Austin can build off this game, continue to defend traditional bigs and score the easy baskets, I don’t think the backup center position will be all that dire this year. 

Edit: I read Beilein’s post game remarks and agree 100% with what he said: small ball teams, he may use Johns off the bench, traditional, Austin. Great to build depth and confidence as this should play to both of their strengths. 


December 15th, 2018 at 11:59 PM ^

Just don't think this can be characterized as a stinker for anyone who watched closely. Many good shots, taken within the flow of the o, clanged in the first half, and a lot of hairy-*ss shots fell for them. One or two more shots for us, one or two fewer from them and it just shakes out as another yawner. Anytime you have two or three apparent trouble spots for the team positively addressed in a single game--Davis's prior lack of contribution, Matthew's FTs, Z's 3s--you have to feel like you are tracking. I saw nothing in Beilein's post-game demeanor to indicate he was unhappy. And I see nothing in the performance the last few games that suggests there is some glaring weakness getting exposed. Does anyone else?



December 16th, 2018 at 2:02 PM ^

Iggy hitting a wall is the only worrisome thing about this game — less fundamentally-sound teams might lose or have to get lucky to survive a game like that, unable to stem the opponent’s nothing-to-lose momentum toward an upset. Michigan took it in stride and the game wasn’t really in doubt even though the lead they were protecting wasn’t as large as it might have been.

Go Blue in MN

December 15th, 2018 at 7:11 PM ^

A win, but an ugly win to be sure.  Coming close on the heels of similar ugly wins over Northwestern and South Carolina, it's a little concerning.  To some extent, it's been because the other team has made some tough shots while our offense has struggled (except against SC). 

The fact that we have a staff that helps players get better in-season is reassuring during these rough stretches early in the season.  And we're 11-0.  First World Problems! 


December 15th, 2018 at 10:16 PM ^

I wasn't able to watch today,  and not sure if I would have been able to discern the answer to my question anyway...


Do you think Beilein is using these games (USC, WMU, AF) to add new wrinkles to the offense and that is part of the struggle? It looks like Iggy struggled today so that could he an explanation. We traditionally see the offense improve throughout the season, maybe these are the growing pains we didnt necessarily see early that will ultimately get the offense where we hope it can go?

matty blue

December 17th, 2018 at 9:33 AM ^

brazdeikis absolutely struggled, but i thought he just looked physically sluggish rather than out of the flow of things.  he airballed one midrange jumper, missed a layup.  he wasn't on the glass, either.  i didn't see if beilein commented on him after the game.

i also get the sense that beilein is tinkering with the minutes a bit and trying some new lineups.  he hasn't done a davis / teske pairing (yet), but i think i saw a few possessions with both brooks and simpson on the floor and livers at the 5.  maybe he's done that before and i just hadn't noticed it?


Murder Wolv

December 15th, 2018 at 10:53 PM ^

It seems like many of the players drive into the lane without a plan to kick out to the open man when they get doubled or tripled. Then they get blocked or throw up a prayer.


December 16th, 2018 at 9:25 AM ^

I know these type of games against this type of team isn't what anybody wants to see.  But for perspective, these are some other scores from yesterday:

#3 Tennessee beat Memphis 102-92

#7 Nevada beat South Dakota State 72-68

#8 Auburn beat UAB 75-71