On Thursday evening, Michigan tipped off for its non-conference finale in an intriguing matchup with a Furman team looking to pull off the upset. Furman entered the game having won four of its last five and was looking to extend that to five of six.
Michigan got off to a slow start and found itself battling with Furman for much of the first half. However, as the first 20 minutes moved to a close, Michigan was able to convert some key possessions and pull away by six at the break. Michigan was able to take care of business in the second half and won by a 68-62 final score.
Let's see what we learned from the game.
What We Learned
1. Michigan Opts For Derrick Walton In Closing Seconds.
Over the last two seasons, perhaps the most reoccuring image for Wolverine fans in close games has been a hoisted up jump shot in the closing seconds by Zak Irvin. Sometimes it’s worked, but more often than not, it’s failed. Though Irvin is a nice player, he just hasn’t been all that consistent at making this shot.
But on Thursday night, a different face was attempting that key shot.
With less than a minute remaining and Michigan up just one possession, Derrick Walton was asked to take the key look. He got the ball on the perimeter, stepped into his shot, and knocked down the three that effectively ended the game.
Nobody can be sure at this point whether Walton will continue to be asked to make the key shot in crunch time, but if Thursday is any indicator, Beilein and his staff might want to start leaning on Walton more heavily in these situations.
2. Moritz Wagner Remains On An Offensive Tear.
While Michigan has been pretty inconsistent as a team this season, one of the bright spots for the Wolverines has been sophomore big man Moritz Wagner. He saw significant minutes during last season, but his playing time and role in the offense has expanded tremendously this season.
One of the areas where this growth as been incredibly apparent is on the offensive side of the floor. Wagner’s skillset makes him a unique weapon for John Beilein and his scoring output has improved significantly over the last few weeks.
Wagner still has a lot of room to grow (particularly on defense), but his progression over the last few weeks has to be encouraging for Wolverine fans. If he can keep this production up, it should mean big things for Michigan down the line.
3. Michigan Got The Job Done In Non-Conference Play.
There’s no doubt that Michigan could have done more in non-conference play this season (such as winning the three games it lost), but it’s hard to be too negative on Michigan’s 10-3 performance so far. It got the wins it needed to get and avoided any crushing upsets. Those are often things that get overlooked.
Michigan will now have to turn the page toward Big Ten play, where things are set to get far more difficult. The good news is that with a decent resume already build, Michigan should be in the NCAA Tournament hunt for the foreseeable future.
Furman is far from an elite opponent, but the Paladins came out firing on Thursday night and Michigan was still able to take care of business. The Wolverines can now move ahead to Big Ten play with all eyes focused on another postseason bid.