Recap: Michigan vs. Minnesota
Michigan’s lead of 19 points slowly faded away as the Gophers cut the lead to as little as 2 late in the fourth quarter. A clutch and-one from Abdur-Rahkman helped secure the victory after a nice dish from Zak Irvin. Although, Irvin struggled; shooting just 1-for-8 from the field. Michigan’s lead looked promising, and it looked as if the game would result in a blowout. The Wolverines first half was dominant, capped off by a beautiful pull up 3-pointer from Walton to beat the buzzer, giving Michigan a 14 point lead going into the half. All of this dominance slowly started to fade away as Minnesota went on a 19-4 run late in the game, sending Michigan into panic mode. And as you know, Michigan does not perform well in panic mode. Despite a couple of late turnovers, Michigan was finally able to make some of its free throws (12-20 on the day) to secure the win.
Player of the game
I think it’s clear that Derrick Walton Jr. has done more than he had to to become the unanimous player of the game. Just his 19 first half points would’ve led the Wolverines for the game. Walton had his best performance of the year, dropping 26 points and shooting 9-15 from the field (5-8 from beyond the arc). Walton also hauled down 8 rebounds and dished out 7 assists. That’s just two rebounds and three assists away from a triple double. If Walton continues to play like this, and if Caris returns, Michigan will be competing to be the best team in the Big Ten.
What they did well
Michigan is known for connecting on the 3-point shot, and that’s just what they did vs. Minnesota. The Wolverines shot an incredible 56% from the three-point line (14 of 25). Walton had five in the first half, and Robinson found his groove again, shooting 4-7 from three. Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman was also a perfect 3-for-3 from beyond the arc.
What needs improvement
One thing Michigan must improve on in order to be among the elite teams in the country is rebounding. Michigan was yet again out rebounded 33-28; but among those were countless missed opportunities, and just pathetic efforts in the paint. The players would have the ball slip right through their hands, and would lose nearly every 50/50 ball. Michigan’s big men need to step up, and start to secure more rebounds in order to make it to March.
Overall, Michigan had Minnesota right where they wanted them. They forced the Gophers to compete in a shooting match early in the game, which is the best part of Michigan’s game. While Minnesota runs more of a drive to the basket type of game. Michigan played their game of shooting 3’s and the Gophers tried to compete with that, and stood no chance. The Gophers shot a horrendous 21% from three (4-19). If Michigan can continue to have a shootout with opposing teams, they will bring home a win nearly every time.