Michigan wasn’t messing around last night. The Wolverines wasted no time on the road in taking care of Minnesota and remaining in a first-place tie with Michigan State.
The Wolverines were already up 17-6 with 11:58 to play in the first half. Minnesota wouldn’t get closer than seven points the rest of the game. The Wolverines defense was smothering and overwhelming, especially on the perimeter. Minnesota’s guards combined for 8-30 shooting from the field.
Michigan’s leading scorer was Jordan Poole with 22 points, and Minnesota had Jordan Murphy continue his beastly play with 18 points and 15 rebounds.
Let’s take a closer look at what happened in the game last night.
What We Learned:
1. Hey Everybody! Michigan’s Suffocating Defense Is Back!
The defensive train was momentarily derailed in Michigan’s 75-69 loss to Penn State when the Wolverines gave up 48 percent shooting from the floor, 40 percent shooting from three and 1.14 points per possession. Questions started to creep up, especially with a difficult final stretch before Big Ten Tournament play.
Everything appears to be back on track.
Michigan went out last weekend and put Maryland in a headlock - giving up 52 points, 27 percent shooting from three on 22 attempts, forced sixteen turnovers, and held Maryland to a season-low 0.81 points per possession. It was a classic, “let’s regroup and get the gang back together” type game, but heading back on the road to Minnesota, would those defensive issues appear again?
The answer was a demonstrative “no”.
Minnesota shot 1-10 from three, scored 18 points in the first half, and ended at 0.90 points per possession. Minnesota already had a five-minute scoring drought less than nine minutes into the game.
It appears Michigan has its issues figured out with a monster home game coming up against Michigan State on Sunday. That might be unfortunate for the Spartans.
2. Minnesota’s Shooting Might Be Its Fatal Flaw
Are the Gophers an NCAA Tournament team?
Ask this and you might get varying answers. According to Bracketmatrix, which is an aggregate of 115 brackets, Minnesota currently appears on 111 of those brackets as a 10-seed. So they appear in for now, but it is tenuous.
If the Gophers don’t make the NCAA Tournament, a chief reason will be its lack of shooting. Minnesota is 297th in the country from three-point range at 31.6 percent. In last night’s game, Minnesota only shot 10 percent from long distance. That lack of shooting even extends to the foul line. The Gophers are the best team in the Big Ten at getting to the foul line, but shoot it 11th best at 67.5 percent.
Peaking at Minnesota’s upcoming schedule should give Gopher fans some worry. Minnesota plays three out of its final four games on the road. According to KenPom, their best chance at a victory is a 50/50 toss-up on the road at Rutgers. The Gophers are now 1-5 over their last six games. It could easily get to 1-9 if some shots don’t start falling.
There are some awesome individual offensive players on the Gophers this season, but it doesn’t take Jay Bilas to tell you that in 2019 you have to be able to shoot three’s to win basketball games. Minnesota just doesn’t have the roster to be able to do it, and it might just cost them the NCAA Tournament.
3. Jon Teske Making Three’s Is Terrifying For Opposing Defenses
This was probably an aberration, but Teske making three’s is fun!
Michigan clearly wants the 7-foot-1 center to shoot the open three it when teams hedge Zavier Simpson hard on high ball screens. After only shooting two career three-pointers before this season, Teske has attempted 55 this season. He’s only made 30 percent, but flashes of that potential have been on display. Last night was one of those displays.
Teske went 3-6 from three, tying a career-high in three-pointers made in one game. These weren’t garbage time three-pointers either. Teske hit two three-pointers to stem a Minnesota run in the second half.
It is a shot that makes Michigan all the tougher to defend. Teams love to cheat off Teske to muddy up Simpson and his passing or driving. If Simpson can whip the ball back to Teske and have a reliable shot from distance, then Michigan will be able to recreate some of the Simpson-Moe Wagner offensive interactions from last season. This game gave us a taste of that. All of Teske’s field goals in the second half were on Simpson assists. This two-man game gives Michigan yet another wrinkle for Beilein and Simpson to play into for tournament play.