By: Jamie Samuelsen
Maybe the best prep that Michigan can hope to get in the Big Ten Tournament is to play down to it’s competition for the better part of the game, but still find a way to win. After all, the Wolverines will be a high seed when the NCAA Tournament starts next week, and they’ll have to survive some upset bids if they hope to advance.
That’s exactly what they did today in dispatching pesky Penn State 83-66. Michigan fell behind 12-3 in the opening minutes of the game before roaring back on a 21-6 run to take a 24-18 lead with six minutes left in the first half. It looked like Michigan was going to run away at that point, but Penn State rallied and actually made a game of it well into the second half. Michigan finally decided to start protecting the rim and pulled away down the stretch to win by 17. With the victory, the Wolverines advance to the second round tomorrow where they’ll take on Wisconsin.
That’s the nuts and bolts of the game. Here’s what we learned.
1) Michigan’s interior defense is still a major concern. Penn State’s Ross Travis had a double-double by early in the second half and finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds. John Beilein talked before the game of how he feared Penn State’s pick and roll. Well, that’s exactly what the Nittany Lions did to Michigan early in the game to present the scare. The book on how to attack Michigan is out. Penn State wasn’t good enough to finish the job. That won’t be the case for Indiana, Michigan State or Ohio State.
2) Tim Hardaway Jr. needs to take fewer three-pointers. He was 1-for-7 in the win while finishing with 15 points. Hardaway is going to be one of the best athletes on the floor in any game he plays. When he takes the ball directly at the rim, he can score with anybody. Something happened (maybe his six three pointers against Ohio State) to make him think he’s just a jump shooter. He’s not. He’s better than that. If he settles for jumpers in the NCAAs, Michigan will be in trouble.
3) Mitch McGary arrived a little bit today. He came off the bench to spark Michigan’s first half rally and showed some ferocity (11 boards) and some nice touch (10 points) in putting together a double-double. He’ll be a very good college player as long as he develops better low post moves and works on his conditioning. He still has a hard time staying in games for long stretches.
Michigan didn’t do anything special today. They beat a team that they’re supposed to beat. And they still showed some of the alarming signs that showed themselves as they finished 9-6 down the stretch. They’ll have to play better to advance this weekend and they’ll definitely have to play better to advance next weekend. The good news is that they have at least one more game to work things out.