There’s probably a keratin deficiency on Michigan’s bench these days based on the number of nail-biters the Wolverines have been in this season. The upside of facing all of those high pressure scenarios is the comfort they have when those moments arise again.
“A lot of us from last year’s team have experience, especially in clutch times… Stauskas, Caris, J-Mo, Glenn… and then Derrick and Zak, they’re not normal freshman anymore,” Spike Albrecht said. “They’ve played a lot of minutes. We have a lot of guys with a lot of game time experience so that helps a lot especially in the tournament.”
“We have been in so many close games this year that it feels like every game is a close game for us, especially now,” Caris LeVert added. (In the final seconds against Tennessee) it was just stay calm, stay composed, (and) take care of the ball as much as we can. Then get as many stops as we can, most of all keep them off the offensive glass.”
The Maize & Blue may be the model of calm when they take the floor in tight situations, but the bench interaction leading up to it is another story. The intensity of the moment combined with the need to convey a great deal of information apparently puts Michigan headman John Beilein in a bit of a state.
“(Coach Beilein) is kind of frantic,” Derrick Walton said laughingly. “But us as players, we try do a good job to calm him down by going out there to make the right plays. (He was freaking out) a little bit (versus Tennessee), but we kind of expect him to do that (after) giving up the lead like that. Us as players try to do a good job to calm him down.”
“It’s kind of Spike (who calms him down). Kind of Jon Horford. Other than that he doesn’t really listen… he just kind of yells at us. (Laughter).”
One of the ways to limit those frantic moments is to put two good offensive halves together. The last time the Wolverines shot a better percentage in the second half than they did in the first was the last game of the regular season versus Indiana.
|Opponent||1st half shooting %||1st half 3-point %||2nd half shooting %||2nd half 3-point %|
|Indiana||46.90%||3/11 (27.3%)||50%||1/4 (25%)|
|Illinois||52%||6/13 (46.2%)||36.40%||4/13 (33.3%)|
|Ohio State||64%||8/13 (61.5%)||40.90%||4/10 (40%)|
|Wofford||63.60%||3/6 (50%)||33.30%||4/11 (36.4%)|
|Texas||53.60%||8/15 (53.3%)||34.60%||6/13 (46.2%)|
|Tennessee||61.50%||7/9 (77.8%)||47.80%||4/11 (36.4%)|
Some of the second half decline can certainly be attributed to exceedingly first half high shooting percentages that would be tough for any team to sustain. That said, some of the second half dips have been precipitous. And while defensive adjustments certainly deserve part of the credit for that, the Wolverines know that some of the blame falls on them.
“We gotta attack it for a full 40 minutes,” LeVert said. “We got kind of stagnant offensively for the last ten minutes of the game (versus Tennessee) and I think it costs us.”
“Throughout the tournament we have been shooting the ball really well,” Walton added. “I kind of say the downfall of the second half probably goes to relying on the jump shot… getting really complacent and settling for long jumpers. I think a point of emphasis going into the second half from now on is staying aggressive and doing the things that got you here.”
If they follow through with that plan they might preserve a few more hairs on their coach’s head.
Said Walton with a grin, “we love him as a coach and we need to look out for him and make sure he doesn’t have a panic attack on the sideline.”