MILWAUKEE, Wisc. -- After struggling with their jumpers for most of Thursday’s second round win over Wofford, a day off apparently did the Wolverines well as they came out firing in Saturday nights’ win over Texas.
Michigan knocked down 8-of-15 three-point attempts in the first 20 minutes, racing out to an 11-point lead, setting the tone the rest of the way as they punch their ticket to Indianapolis and the Sweet 16.
“At the end of the day Coach Beilein tells us to just be aggressive,” Michigan sophomore Nik Stauskas said afterward. “Sometimes that results in us taking a lot of shots or sometimes we’re just being aggressive to the basket.
“Today I think we did a good job of balancing the aggression of taking shots and kicking when we needed to.”
Texas looked lifeless and slow to react to Michigan’s offensive action against the Longhorns man-to-man defense.
Coach Rick Barnes made the switch to a 2-3 zone for a few possessions late in the first half, coming out of it quickly though as the Wolverines’ Zak Irvin took aim and confidently knocked down two threes.
The big story coming into this one for Michigan defensively was how Jordan Morgan would be able to handle big, 6-foot-9, 285-pound Cameron Ridley -- on Saturday, the redshirt senior had his way with the sophomore.
Ridley was exhausted as Michigan looked to get up and down the floor quickly with Morgan going right at him on both ends. Ridley was held to just four point and four rebounds in the first half.
Morgan pieced together his second double double in a row scoring 15-points and collecting 10 rebounds.
“I heard a guy yesterday about how the Big 12 is the best conference in the country,” Morgan said afterward. “I’d never heard that one.
“But it’s just fun, you see teams like this, you hear all that stuff and you just go out there and show them how we won the Big Ten, what we’ve been doing all year.”
Michigan went into the half with a 13-point lead, up 43-30.
In the second half, Michigan freshman point guard Derrick Walton Jr. was almost dared to shoot by Texas, quickly hitting two three-pointers as the Wolverines’ lead moved to 53-35.
Texas had had enough and Rick Barnes made the switch to an extended, match-up zone looking to lock up the perimeter, leaving Ridley alone under the basket. The Longhorns also went big putting sophomore Connor Lammert in alongside Jonathan Holmes.
The move seemed to work as Texas was able to put together some stops and get to the free throw line, cutting the Michigan lead to just eight points midway through the second half at 58-50.
Michigan made an adjustment of their own to counter the shift in the Longhorns favor.
“It obviously changed the rhythm of the game,” Michigan assistant Jeff Meyer said. “Credit Coach Barnes and his staff, they changed the flow of the game with the zone. We knocked a couple shots down early but it was a rhythm changer.
“Actually, midway through the second half we decided to go back to running man actions because it was a match-up and it gave our kids more of a comfort level and a rhythm to find each other.”
Michigan was able to collect themselves as the Longhorns wore down leading to sloppy defensive rotations and open looks galore from the perimeter.
The Wolverines set a new school record with 14 made three-point attempts, the most of any NCAA tournament game in program history.
Reserve point guard Spike Albrecht gave great minutes down the stretch helping unlock the Texas full court press, burying a wide open three from the wing as well.
Michigan now heads to Indianapolis for a match-up with the winner of Mercer and Tennessee.
“It’ll be a lot of fun,” Stauskas said. “We realize that every game is possibly our last game together so we want to make the most of it and we’re not sure who we’re going to face yet but we’re excited for that match-up, whoever it is.”