Michigan's Zone Defense Plays Huge In Win

Michigan's zone defense gave Nebraska trouble in the 58-44 U-M win over the Cornhuskers.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Heading into Tuesday’s matchup with Nebraska , John Beilein knew the Cornhuskers on paper didn’t have the shooters to beat the Wolverines from the outside.

After utilizing a 2-3 zone defense for most of the first half, and parts of the second-half it turned out Beilein was right. As the Wolverines held the Cornhuskers to 4 of 19 from beyond the arc, defeating Nebraska 58-44.

“If you look at their stats, they don’t have a lot of guys who can shoot from three,” Beilein said afterwards.

But it was the combination of Michigan’s zone’s and good man-to-man defense that paced U-M in the win.

“When you look at their stats, there are certain things that you look for that means, ‘This is better for a [2-3 zone], this better for a [1-3-1 zone], better for both,’” Beilein said. “Obviously man-to-man uses more energy wise and guarding [Terran] Petteway is a challenge. So we decided to use all three today.”

In first half, Nebraska shot 2-of-9 from three-point range, as the Wolverines continued to give Cornhusker shooters open looks. But when the Cornhuskers had a 6-0 run against Michigan’s 2-3 zone in the second half, U-M adjusted.

“I think you have to credit Beilein to start with,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said. “Soon as we got a rhythm against anything, for instance in the second half made a little run against their 2-3 zone and never saw it again. And then he went to 1-3-1 and we got discombobulated. And those guys just played to their strengths, and played to their roles. “

On the night, Michigan held Nebraska to 36.4 percent shooting, and held Nebraska’s leading scorer, Petteway, to seven points.

“We had some success with the zone,” senior Max Bielfedlt said. “I think when it’s working we are going to kind of stick to it. If aint broke, don’t fix it. We were limiting Petteway on some of his shots there. We were kind of focusing on him with our team defense. And it was just successful for us.”

In the end, Miles alluded that Beilein was right and Nebraska didn’t have the players to make the shots from outside.

“When you really don’t have corner shooters it really makes it tough, you know?” Miles said. “But we didn’t align right either.

“I think that tells you we weren’t mentally sharp. That’s on us. That’s not to discredit anything. Michigan beat us. They out executed us -- they outcompeted us – bottom line.”

Michigan next plays at Michigan State this Sunday.

The Michigan Insider Top Stories