The Michigan Wolverines have some of the best perimeter talent in the country, and because of that, most expect them to be a perimeter team. That isn't necessarily the case though. The maize and blue lost a lot in terms of dribble penetration with the departure of Bernard Robinson Jr. This season much more emphasis will be placed on getting post touches and triggering the offense from down low. Courtney Sims put up 16 shots, and while he made only five, Amaker's plan to establish things down low was one of the real keys to success.
"We certainly want to have good balance," Amaker said. "We want to be able to have it inside and see if we can score. We think we have some weapons that can do that because we can't just rely on just the three-point shot and the perimeter. You can see the stats. We don't take a ton of threes. We're a team right now that's looking to get the higher percentage shot. Sometimes the three is the higher percentage shot for us IF we start inside and work our way out. I think that was the nature of how we played this evening."
Sims was definitely more assertive on offense in last night's contest. Despite the banging and the constant double teams, he was intent on taking the ball up strong. "It was physical out there both ways," Sims said. "They weren't calling a lot of fouls so you just have to take it to the body, take it up strong and hope you get fouled. I think both teams blocked a lot of shots. I just wanted to be more physical. I wasn't much of a presence in the last game so I wanted to concentrate on rebounding and blocking shots. I'm kind of struggling offensively right now so I just wanted to help the team in other ways."
The team has obviously spent a lot of time on post entry, as they've been impressive passing over fronting defenders so far this season. Even Michigan's big men have done a good job of feeding the ball down low from the high post. One of the improvements now must be passing the ball back out. Teams are already paying a lot of attention to the Wolverines' post players, namely Sims. Once he begins to pass out of the double team more effectively, a number of easier opportunities will be created.
One game at a time
With the win over Colorado, Michigan advances to the NIT semifinals and will look to become the only team to win the post-season NIT one season, and then come back to win the preseason NIT in the next. The excitement over heading to the big apple is understandable. However, Coach Amaker (as well as the players) made it clear that their focus at this point is on Friday's game against Sacramento State. "We mentioned to our players that regardless of what the outcome was going to be tonight, Friday was going to be a huge game for us," Amaker said. "Now everyone wants to talk about next week. We have a game Friday. So it's important that we channel our focus in the right direction. We talked about this being a mini tournament where we can win the two games at home. Now we feel like we've won the mini tournament. Now the NIT is put on hold and we'll deal with that after Friday. So we have to get ourselves focused for Friday night's ball game."
Going into last night's contest, Dion Harris' three game totals (including
two exhibitions) were 13/34 (38.2%) from the field, 4/16 (25%) from three-point
range, and 12.6 PPG.
His 24-point performance may have signaled his emergence from that early season slump. "I thought Dion Harris' play was just tremendous," Amaker said. "I thought his overall floor game for us was as good as it has been since he has been here and it could have come at a better time for us as we advance to New York for the final four."
If Harris's scoring output thus far is any indication of what is to come this season, he'll end up being the team's leading scorer. Last year it was Lester Abram that earned that distinction. Thus far this, though, season he hasn't been able to get on track offensively. That's evidence by his two game totals of 5/22 (22.7%) from the field and 0/8 from three-point land. Abram has been the most consistent performer over the past few seasons, and that continued to be the case this summer. Because of that, the likelihood of his slump lasting very long isn't very good. Expect him to have a Harris-like performance very soon.
Thinking on his feet
Brent Petway's dunk to end an 11-0 Colorado run with 2:23 left was one of the biggest plays of the game. The Georgia native took advantage of the Buff's aggression on defense to generate an easy opportunity. "I went to set the back screen for Dion and he couldn't get open," Petway said. "I went to flash to the ball and my man came up and denied. I knew he was the last line of defense so I made a hard cut (to the basket) and Les made a great play. He made a great pass to me and I was able to get open for the dunk."
Hustle pays off
Courtney Sims' tip slam to push the lead back to nine with 45 seconds to go caught the attention of his coach. It was a play that would not have been made had Sims not hustled down the court. "Daniel made the steal (on the possession in question), but I think the big part of that was Courtney not standing back and watching one his teammates go in for what he thinks is going to be a made lay up," Amaker said. "He followed up and he was the only one on the floor that did it. That happens a lot…someone will miss a basket or something happens, but he was there to tip dunk it. I thought that was a big play by Courtney and he showed a lot of hustle there."
Coach Amaker mentioned after last night's game the Graham Brown might have
suffered a concussion after taking a blow below the eye while battling down
low in the second half. Preliminary word is that he will be out for Friday's
game with Sacramento State. That said, he should be back for the NIT semifinal
game in NYC.