Michigan is a very talented team -- and a very young team. Former Wolverine great and TV analyst Tim McCormick pointed out that, "Talent wise, Michigan has better players than Penn State, and if they bring effort they should win. But the Big Ten is traditionally an upperclassmen league. This young Michigan team is a streaky perimeter team, and their youngsters tend to come down and shoot the ball too early, especially the three."
And this game clearly demonstrated both -- Michigan's talent and its tendancy to shoot it too early.
Michigan started the game pressuring PSU, and got points off turnovers early to lead 18-8 with 8:00 to go.
Then they slipped into their bad habit of taking quick 3's, missing three and creating long rebounds and PSU fast breaks -- and over the next 5 minutes PSU closed to 25-18 by the 3:27 mark.
Then the Wolverines took the ball back inside, with soph. guard Daniel Horton and senior swingman Bernard Robinson each hitting layups to go along with a Horton 3-pointer, and at the half Michigan led 32-22. Robinson and frosh guard Dion Harris led Michigan in the first stanza with 8 points each.
The Wolverines continued going inside to start the second half, this time to soph. center Graham Brown who made 2 layups , but Penn State in turn got hot from beyond the 3-point arc -- and at the 15:15 mark the U-M lead had shrunk to 8, 40-32.
Then Michigan's pressure defense again went to work, with a blocked shot and a turnover creating two scores, and two minutes later, at 13:45, Michigan extended its lead to 13, 45-32.
Then Michigan took two quick 3-point shots again, missed both, and at 11:52 the lead was back to 10, 45-35.
And so it went. Michigan's second half lead fluctuated between 8 and 13 points. Finally, when PSU got the lead down to 9 points with 6:04 miniutes to go, Michigan inserted freshman PF Brent Petway in the lineup, and Brent responded with two spectacular jams and a blocked shot and a rebound. At the 2:05 mark it was 61-49, and Michigan coasted in, shooting an impressive 90% in free throws (13 of 14) to take home a 69-59 victory.
Michigan finished with 16 fast break points, and 8 blocked shots, and created 16 PSU turnovers while only committing 9 (and Daniel Horton had none). Horton rebounded to have a generally solid game after being benched at outset (for academic reasons), scoring 13 points with no turnovers. Soph. guard Lester Abram led the Wolverines with 19 points (on 6-8 shooting), and Dion Harris added 15 (on 5-12 shooting).
Now Michigan needs to continue to mature quickly and cut down on the wild-shooting sprees. If they do, this team can still go far. One thing that may help: Dion Harris was been moved to point guard in this game, with Daniel Horton allowed to play the way he is most comfortable -- as a scorer.
Michigan now goes to 11-5 for the season, and to 2-3 in the Big Ten. With 11 regular season games remaining, the Wolverines need to win their 5 remaining home games and get two more wins on the road to get to 18 wins, considered a prerequisite for getting into the NCAA tournament. The Wolverine's next game is Wednesday at home versus Iowa (9-6, 2-2).
Will the Wolverines make it? McCormick points out, "The one thing that can galvanize a team more than anything else is going into someone else's house and getting a win."
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