Smotrycz successful coming off bench
The Wolverines are moving into their weekend clash in Columbus with rival Ohio State -- a game that will likely decide who stays in first place in the Big Ten -- feeling confident after logging a hard-fought 66-64 road win over Purdue Tuesday. That victory put the Wolverines at 16-5 overall and 6-2 in the Big Ten.
Michigan stepped into this next phase of the Big Ten season with a refreshed lineup, and one that has produced wins in two of the past three games.
The lineup the Buckeyes see won't be the same one the Wolverines had started for 17 straight games this season, and enjoyed a considerable amount of success with.
That lineup included wispy sophomore F Evan Smotrycz essentially taking the place of senior G Stu Douglass, who moved into the sixth man role to start the season.
When the Wolverines reached the end of the 2011 calendar, Smotrycz was on a considerable roll. He had 10 points and 10 rebounds in a win over Penn State and was averaging nearly 12 points and seven rebounds per game.
The Wolverines were thrilled with his offense and the fact his skill at shooting from outside the arc gave the opposition fits. Smotrycz entered 2012 shooting 57 percent from 3-point range. His rebounding numbers were a bonus.
But soon after that, Smotrycz hit the wall. After being a terror from the outside throughout the first two months of the season, he failed to score in a loss at Iowa. Smotrycz missed his six shots from the field as his team went an anemic 8-for-31 from outside the arc. That was part of a six-game swoon where Smotrycz averaged a measly 3.8 points and 4.2 rebounds and made only 3-of-19 shots from outside the arc.
Michigan coach John Beilein, after seeing what he called a "tired" player, moved Smotrycz to the bench and put Douglass in as a starter when the Wolverines faced rival Michigan State in a recent Big Ten showdown.
"I just want to get him in there playing with some energy," Beilein said about making the change with Smotrycz. "I think he's really worn down right now."
The smaller starting lineup, with PG Trey Burke, Douglass and Tim Hardaway Jr. at the other guards, and G/F Zack Novak moving to the four spot, with F/C Jordan Morgan in the middle, worked against the Spartans, so Beilein has stuck with it.
Smotrycz was coming off the bench and Douglass was in the starting lineup when the Wolverines slipped past Purdue. He had 10 points on 3-of-5 shooting and grabbed a pair of rebounds. Michigan won't mess with what is currently a good thing, so expect Smotrycz to come off the bench against the Buckeyes.
TRENDING: Michigan freshman PG Trey Burke had a bit of a tough shooting night in the narrow win over Purdue, hitting just 3-of-10 from the field. But Burke had six assists and three rebounds in the game, and continues to get rave reviews from his coach, John Beilein. "I hope so," Beilein said about Burke having a high dose of mental toughness. "Trey, I think, and many of our other players, have that quality or they will be working toward that."
Tough road stretch continues for Wolverines
Head coach John Beilein took his Wolverines to Arkansas Jan. 21, hoping the arduous journey would toughen his troops for the upcoming Big Ten battles, as they had road trips to Purdue, Ohio State, Michigan State and Nebraska lined up.
While Beilein did not get the desired result in the final score versus Arkansas, he might have watched his team mature and better prepare itself for not only the Big Ten challenges ahead, but also for the conference tournament and the NCAA gathering beyond that.
After watching Arkansas hit its first 11 shots and streak out to a 29-10 lead, the Wolverines started crawling back in it. They still trailed by 16 early in the second half, but cut the lead to just two and had freshman point guard Trey Burke's 3-point try to win it just miss at the end.
The 66-64 loss had plenty of sting to it, but the Wolverines might have demonstrated they are a bit tougher than some thought.
Beilein pursued the difficult matchup with the Razorbacks for the expressed purpose of facing off "against a high-level team." He got just that from Arkansas, and Beilein came away from that venture with a strong picture of what it will take for his team to collect some wins on the
road in the remainder of the Big Ten season.
"If you're going to win on the road, you have got to have so much more talent than the other team, or you've got to play your best game," Beilein said. "That's pretty much what it comes down to."
The Wolverines went on to beat Purdue 66-64 on the road on Tuesday.
--Michigan senior G Stu Douglass drew the starting assignment at Purdue, his third straight game in the starting lineup. Douglass had been very effective coming off the bench this season and giving his team a lift with energized play and strong three-point shooting. But when sophomore F Evan Smotrycz hit a shooting slump, a change was made prior to the recent meeting with Michigan State. Douglass scored the game-winner in that contest, so he was back starting on the road trip to Arkansas that followed. Douglass had 12 points and five rebounds in the win over Purdue.
BY THE NUMBERS: 37.5 -- Percent sophomore G Tim Hardaway Jr. hit from the floor in Big Ten play entering Tuesday's meeting with Purdue. The Wolverines were trying to be patient while they waited for Hardaway to snap out of his prolonged shooting funk. Hardaway rebounded by hitting 53.3 of his shots against Purdue Tuesday.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "You have to have adversity to grow; it's the best way that people get better. You don't want to go through that, but it's essential. That's why you see so few teams go undefeated. It's not about how good they are; it's that you don't grow as much in victory as you do in defeat." -- Michigan coach John Beilein, on his team growing through difficult experiences.
THIS WEEK'S GAMES:
--at Ohio State, Jan. 29
KEY MATCHUPS: Like every team that faces Ohio State, the Wolverines must first figure out how to deal with the load in the middle -- Buckeyes sophomore F Jared Sullinger. Michigan F Jordan Morgan draws that duty, but will need help from F Evan Smotrycz and both G/F Zack Novak and G Tim Hardaway Jr. If Sullinger posts his customary double-double, the Wolverines are in trouble. Out front, the intriguing confrontation between Ohio State's dynamic sophomore PG Aaron Craft and Michigan freshman PG Trey Burke adds some spice to this game. Burke is a Columbus native and former high school teammate of Sullinger.
FUTURES MARKET: The Wolverines have the highest expectations for recruit C Mitch McGary, a 6-foot-10, 245-pounder who is ranked first at his position in the nation. McGary, an Indiana native who is spending this season refining his game at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire, had considered Duke and Florida but ultimately gave his commitment to the Wolverines. Michigan has been forced to go small in its lineup and play 6-foot-8 F Jordan Morgan as its defacto center, but a legit big man like McGary will give the Wolverines the opportunity to do a lot more with their front line personnel.
--Sophomore F Jon Horford's status with the Wolverines continues to be shrouded in uncertainty. Michigan coach John Beilein had said the day before the Wolverines faced Purdue on the road that Horford would travel with the team and could play against the Boilermakers. But when Michigan took the floor in West Lafayette, Horford was not with the team. Horford was back in Ann Arbor, missing a 12th straight game while rehabbing a stress fracture in his right foot. Until the backup 6-10 sophomore plays, he remains a potential candidate for a medical redshirt.
--Michigan sophomore F Jordan Morgan had 12 points and seven rebounds to help his team take a 66-64 Big Ten road win over Purdue. Morgan is very efficient from the field, leading the Wolverines and ranking second in the conference in shooting from the field at nearly 65 percent.
--F Evan Smotrycz was a Michigan starter for the first 18 games this season, but after he dropped into a serious shooting funk, Michigan coach John Beilein made a change, moving Smotrycz to a backup role. Smotrycz came off the bench in recent games with Michigan State, Arkansas and Purdue, and had 10 points against the Boilermakers, four versus the Razorbacks and five against the Spartans.
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