Northwestern Preview

January 21, 2009

beilein61Michigan (13-6, 3-4) is going to have their hands full on Saturday night when they host Northwestern (10-6, 2-4). On Wednesday night the Wildcats went to East Lansing and knocked off the Spartans. Maybe they will have a let down coming off such an emotional win. Then again maybe they will be clicking on all cylinders after such a big win.

Northwestern is led by the duo of Kevin Coble (14.6 ppg) and Craig Moore (14.1 ppg). They are a smart team that shoots the ball well and executes their offense and defense sharply.

We all know Michigan is on a 3 game losing streak and desperately needs a win. Less then two weeks ago the Wolverines were ranked in both polls and sitting at 3-1 in the conference. Since then they have lost to Illinois, Ohio State, and Penn State. They have not shot the ball well and according to many observers they look tired. In fact one of Penn State’s coaches told Coach Beilein that his team looked tired on Tuesday night.

This is a young team and perhaps they have hit the wall. Sharp shooters Zack Novak, Laval Lucas-Perry, and Stu Douglass are all playing for the first time. Maybe they are tired.

This is the same team that knocked off UCLA, Duke, and a very good Illinois team. They also nearly lost to Savannah State and Indiana, having to comeback from 20 point deficits in both of those games to secure wins. Coach Beilein said this season would be a roller coaster and he is proving to be exactly right.

I know this feels all too familiar to all of us longsuffering Michigan fans. We have seen this script before; a promising start crumbles as the team gets into the grind of the Big Ten schedule. The one big difference this time is John Beilein. He is a tremendous coach and he is capable of guiding this team through the storm. He knows what he is doing and how he can guide this talented but young team through the growing pains that come with laying a foundation.

I still believe in this team. I believe they can get this going in the right direction again. Will they beat Northwestern? I don’t know. I sure hope so, but as we are seeing the Big Ten is fairly stacked this year, not surprising considering the caliber of coaches this conference has.

So I urge all Michigan Basketball fans to step back from the ledge and get behind this team when they need you the most.




Michigan defeats Illinois 74-64

January 4, 2009

2009-0104-ad-umbball237For the second game in a row Coach Beilein tweaked the starting line up. Against Wisconsin Zack Novak was added to the lineup in place of Jevohn Shepherd. Against Illinois Laval Lucas-Perry made his first career start in place of Stu Douglass.

This was a critical game for Michigan since they were coming off a home loss to Wisconsin and Illinois was coming in riding a 7 game winning streak and fresh off a road win at Purdue.

DeShawn Sims got things started for Michigan with a 3 pointer and that kicked off a barrage of Michigan 3 pointers in the first half. Michigan was up 16-9 early and had already nailed 4 triples (Sims twice, Lucas-Perry, and Novak).

Illinois responded by going on a 13-2 run and taking a 22-18 lead. Kelvin Grady ended the Illini run by draining a 3 pointer and moments later he found Zack Gibson for a lay up.

Illinois stretched the lead out to 29-23 and 31-26 and they were making just about every shot they threw up.

Zack Novak ended the first half with an 8 point flurry including two 3 pointers.

The hot shooting Illini led 39-38 at the half thanks to shooting 59% from the field. Michigan kept it close by drilling 8 of 18 on 3 pointers.

Michigan came out in the second half with some fire and Manny Harris stoked the flames when he blocked a Mike Davis dunk attempt.

Michigan finally took the lead back at 48-46 courtesy of a Laval Lucas-Perry triple. The two teams slugged it out for the next several minutes with the lead changing hands numerous times.

gibsonill1Zack Gibson entered the game when Zack Novak was bloodied after he banged heads with Alex Legion (the cut required 6 stitches). Gibson sparked a game closing run for Michigan when he drilled a 3 pointer and followed it up with a block on the other end. Laval Lucas-Perry made a key lay up for Michigan with the shot clock expiring that gave Michigan a 64-62 lead they would not relinquish. In fact Michigan closed out the game with a 12-2 run and some clutch free throw shooting. Michigan won the game 74-64 and had 5 players score in double digits lead by Manny Harris who scored 16 to go along with 6 boards, 5 assists, and 3 steals. Sims added 13 points and 9 rebounds. Lucas-Perry scored 13 and dished out 5 assists. Zack Novak scored 11 and Zack Gibson 10.

Inside the numbers: Michigan had 18 assists on 26 made field goals and only 8 turnovers. Michigan had 6 steals and 3 blocks in the game. Michigan shot 11-27 on three pointers. Illinois edged Michigan on the boards 33-30.

Road to 21 wins:  This was a game I had marked as a win. Michigan has yet to lose one of the games I projected them to win and they have won 2 games that I did not project them to win.

Notes: Laval Lucas-Perry has scored double digits in all 5 of his games. 
Zack Novak did return to the game after getting stitched up. He was wearing the #11 jersey because his #0 jersey was blood stained. 

Quotes: John Beilein: “I mentioned to the team, one of the biggest plays might have happened at halftime as DeShawn Sims really showed some great leadership. He wanted to win that ball game and his passion was terrific.”

Zack Novak:  “My job is to hit the threes and my teammates are finding me open. They’re driving the ball and I just move to the open spot. They find me and I knock them down.”

Bruce Weber: “They’ve got a good group and he’s got his system in,” He’s spreading you, playing small ball, and he puts you in a bind. He’s done a nice job here.”

Sims goes for 20 and 20 in win

December 22, 2008

simsfgcuMichigan did not play their finest half of the season in the opening stanza. However, against a wild and sloppy Florida Gulf Coast team it was good enough to take a 39-18 lead at the break.

DeShawn Sims led the first half charge scoring 9 points and grabbing a career high 13 rebounds. Laval Lucas-Perry chipped in 7 points and 3 rebounds.

Michigan shot a miserable 6-22 on three point attempts in the first half. In the first half 7 Michigan players scored. Manny Harris and Kelvin Grady each shot 2-6 on three pointers in the opening half. Michigan shot 7-8 on first half free throws to build upon their Big Ten leading free throw shooting percentage. The Wolverines also out rebounded the Eagles 28-16 in the first half including 11-1 on the offensive glass.

gradyfgcuFlorida Gulf Coast scored the first 5 points of the second half. Michigan finally got on the board on 2 CJ Lee free throws. Soon thereafter DeShawn Sims and Stu Douglass hit back to back three pointers and Michigan had opened the lead back up to 49-25. Michigan continued to kind of coast along in front of a lackluster holiday crowd. The Wolverines were holding the Eagles at bay but not really playing that well. Then all of sudden Florida Gulf Coast bangs a couple of threes and goes on a little run to cut the lead all the way down to 8 points. DeShawn Sims, who was the player of the game with 20 points and 20 rebounds, hit a three ball and then scored on a dunk to keep Michigan up by 10.
douglassdunkThen finally some three balls started dropping for
Michigan as they closed out the game with 3 point daggers courtesy of Laval Lucas-Perry and two from Kelvin Grady. Grady scored 8 points in the closing minutes and Stu Douglass sealed it with a dunk to score Michigan’s final points. Michigan won 76-59 and that is the important thing. However they did not play that well and certainly there will be some teaching points for the coaching staff on the film.

Kelvin Grady scored 14 points, Stu Douglass scored 12 and Laval Lucas-Perry chipped in 10 points. Manny Harris scored 6 points to go along with 6 rebounds, 5 assists, a steal, and 4 turnovers. 

Inside the numbers: Michigan was 12-42 on three pointers for 28.6%. After the back to back games of exceptional assist to turnover ratios the Wolverines only picked up 15 assists and turned the ball over 15 times. Florida Gulf Coast turned the ball over 26 times. 

Notes: Michigan will be off until next Monday when they play North Carolina Central and follow that up with the Big Ten opener at home against Wisconsin on New Years Eve.

DeShawn Sims is the first Wolverine to post a 20-point, 20-rebound performance in 31 years. The last Wolverine to accomplish the feat was Phil Hubbard, who had 22 points and 26 rebounds vs. Detroit (March 17, 1977).

With his 20 rebounds, DeShawn Sims posted the most rebounds by a Big Ten Conference player this season. The previous best for U-M and in the conference was by teammate Manny Harris, who had 15 against Norfolk State (Nov. 25).

Michigan played 10 players with the lowest minutes going to Zack Gibson and Jevohn Shepherd who both played 13 minutes. I would expect that Coach Beilein is going to want to trim down the rotation a bit as they head into Big Ten play. He has said in the past he likes to use 7 or 8 guys in his rotation. 

Post Duke Thoughts

December 7, 2008

simsduke21I was widely ridiculed for projecting Michigan to get to 21 wins. One person even said the prediction put my credibility in doubt. I cited as one of my reasons why I thought they could get to 21 wins was because of what a tremendous coach John Beilein is. The guy is a proven winner and teacher. His players actually improve each year and they develop as players both mentally and physically. 

Take DeShawn Sims for example. He has developed his game by leaps and bounds since John Beilein took over at Michigan. Coach Beilein has described Sims as a warrior and commented on how hard he has worked. Sims took over the game in the win against Duke and scored 28 points and hauled down 12 boards. He helped lead Michigan to its biggest win in at least the last 10 years.

Listen to what Sims has to say about his coach, who by the way many said when Beilein was hired that Sims would not “fit his system”, “Coach Beilein believed in me. He’s building a foundation and I’m glad I’m a part of it. He puts the c, the o, the a, the c and the h in coach. And he coaches you on an interpersonal level. It’s amazing. I’m a better player than I’ve ever been and I know more than I’ve ever known.” 

I remember earlier this season John Beilein said, “You can win against anybody if you just believe in what you do”. I have said it before and will say it again, this team believes. They believe in what they are doing, they believe in their coach and they believe in each other. 

So here we are 8 games into the season. Michigan is 6-2 and they have defeated the #4 ranked team in the country twice (UCLA and Duke). The loses were to Duke at a neutral site and one at Maryland. Sure this is the same team that was down 20 at the half, at home, against Savannah State. But they came back to win that game in overtime. Michigan has displayed some real mental toughness in the early part of the season. The players have played with desire and have been executing the offense and defense. 

We know all about Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims. These guys are playing so well that people are wondering aloud if they will jump to the NBA after the season. I have heard Hubert Davis and Jay Bilas mention that on the air. 

novakdukedThe emergence of Zack Novak has been really impressive. Besides Michigan his only other major offer was from Valparaiso. Some even wondered if he was athletic enough to play in the Big Ten. But there he was playing against Duke knocking down 4 clutch triples, including back to back bombs midway through the second half to tie the game and give Michigan a lead they would never surrender. This is the same guy who made a game saving steal with 3 seconds left against Savannah State and almost converted it into a game winning dunk at the buzzer. He has played with toughness and determination. 

How about the development of Kelvin Grady? He has made great strides in his game and is becoming a real floor General. His speed was a definite factor in the Duke game. Against the aggressive and long Duke defense Grady played 28 minutes and scored 9 points, dished out 4 assists, and turned the ball over zero times. 

shepherddukeDid anybody notice that Jevohn Shepherd not only started the Duke game but he was on the court for the final minutes of the game? Shepherd even dribbled out the clock after Duke decided to stop fouling. This is the same Jevohn Shepherd who struggled to find his role on the team, who in seasons past seemed to be a turnover waiting to happen. Now as the lone senior on this team he is making valuable contributions that are helping this team win. Is there anybody out there who still wants to question what John Beilein is doing? 

Maryland edges Michigan 75-70

December 3, 2008

Michigan Maryland BasketballMichigan had a tough assignment in their first road game of the season playing Maryland. Coming into the game Maryland was 56-4 in non conference games at the Comcast Center.

John Beilein made his first change to the starting line up this year by inserting DeShawn Sims into the starting five and moving Zack Gibson to the bench. Michigan was able to avoid another slow start in this game. The Wolverines took a 5-4 lead at the 17:07 mark and did not trail again until the second half. DeShawn Peedi Sims was a force in the first half scoring 10 points, including 2-2 on 3 pointers, and grabbing 4 rebounds.

In addition to the two 3 pointers that Sims hit in the first half, Michigan also got three pointers from Kelvin Grady (2), Zack Novak, and Stu Douglass. Jevohn Shepherd chipped in with 7 first half points. Michigan took a 35-29 lead into the half. The numbers were looking good with Michigan shooting 48%, including 6-14 on three point shots. Michigan was out rebounding Maryland 20-12 and Michigan’s bench outscored Maryland’s bench 16-5.

Maryland looked pretty flat in the first half but came out with some energy in the second half. Greivis Vasquez got things going early with a 3 pointer. Thanks to a 16-3 run Maryland took a 45-38 lead.

Michigan went on a pair of second half runs one was an 8-0 run the other 13-4. Zack Novak helped spark those runs by hitting some deep 3 pointers, I am talking way beyond NBA range deep. Novak also converted a 4 point play when he was fouled on a made three pointer. Michigan battled back to within 1 point at 60-59. However, the Terrapins promptly answered by going on an 8-2 run to put the game out of reach. A couple of Anthony Wright three pointers drew Michigan within 73-70 but the Wolverines ran out of time and fell just short of winning a big road game.

Maryland did a good job of stopping Manny Harris from establishing any rhythm in this game. Manny finished with 15 points on 5-15 shooting. After scoring 10 first half points DeShawn Sims only scored two points in the second half. Zack Novak finished with 12 points and was 3-5 on three point shots.


Inside the numbers: Maryland shoot 20 free throws going 18-20 and Michigan only made 6 trips to the free throw line going 6-6. That is the difference in the game. Maryland out rebounded Michigan 35-24, including a 23-4 margin in the second half. Michigan had 14 assists and 10 turnovers.

Michigan did shoot 41% on three point shots going 12-29. In the last two games Zack Novak has gone 6-12 on three pointers.


The road to 21 wins: This was a game I had counted as a loss. It would have been nice to get this win but it should not derail the 21 win plan.




Michigan survives Savannah State

November 29, 2008

simsssWhat a great game this turned out to be. Michigan went up 7-4 early in the game and that was the last lead they would have until the 2:23 mark of the second half when DeShawn Sims hit a free throw to put Michigan up 52-51.

After the game Coach John Beilein said, “Some nights you can have all kinds of things go wrong.” In the first half of the game Michigan did have all kinds of things go wrong.

Savannah State came out playing full court pressure defense and hitting just about every shot they threw up. In fact they made the first 9 shots they took and during that span Michigan turned the ball over 9 times. Savannah State went on a 20-0 run in the 1st half and lead by 20 at halftime. For the half Savannah State shot an outrageous 71% from the field. Perhaps the best example of the crazy shots the Tigers were hitting is this, Michigan had played a really good defensive sequence and as the shot clock was winding down Savannah State’s Raye Bailey launched a wild three pointer that banked in off the glass and just beat the shot clock.

As coach Beilein said after the game, the players were rattled. His message to the team at half time was, “I don’t know if Michigan’s ever had a team come back from 20 down buts lets be the first to do it”.

DeShawn Sims, who played a phenomenal game, opened the second half by hitting a 3 pointer and Michigan begin chipping away at that 20 point lead. Savannah State did not score the first 7 minutes of the half and Michigan had cut the lead down to 5.

From then on it was a dogfight with both teams making some big shots. DeShawn Sims hit a couple of big ones; one was a nice jump hook off the glass, another on an alley oop from Manny Harris. Jevohn Shepherd hit a big shot as well during the final stretch of the second half.

Manny Harris had 4 points at halftime but came out in the second half playing hard, creating turnovers on defense, grabbing some big rebounds and going a perfect 12-12 from the free throw line in the second half (he was 14-14 overall).

With score tied at 56 and less then 4 seconds to play Savannah State was working for the last shot when Zack Novak came up with a huge steal and took it all the way to the rim for a potential game winning dunk at the buzzer. The only bad part was that the dunk rattled out. That fact should not overshadow the monumental steal that Novak had to thwart Savannah State’s attempt to win the game.

The overtime period was much like the final 10 minutes of regulation with both teams battling hard; Savannah State trying not to let their huge upset slip away and Michigan trying to finish off the huge comeback.

In the overtime Zack Novak nailed a critical three pointer that put Michigan up 61-60. Savannah State’s Arnold Louis came right back and hit a big shot of his own to put the Tigers up 62-61. On the other end Manny Harris drove the baseline and hit a tough shot and was fouled. He finished off the 3 point play and Michigan was up 64-62. With 5 seconds to play Jovonni Shuler tied the game. Manny Harris took the inbounds pass and made a tough pass to DeShawn Sims who then brought savannahstatethe house down with a long two point field goal at the buzzer.

I asked Zack Novak after the game what Coach Beilein thought about the missed dunk he said Coach told him that’s what he would have wanted him to do (dunk instead of a lay up). I did follow up by asking him if hitting that 3 point shot in overtime felt pretty good and he said it did. Novak played a great game down the stretch and made some big shots including 3 clutch three pointers. He also played hard on the defensive end and came up with a game saving steal at the end of regulation.

DeShawn Sims was a force in this game. He hauled down 12 rebounds and scored 23 points. After the game Coach Beilein said Sims has become a warrior and that he has worked really, really hard.

Coach also said this when asked about the unexpected tight game they found themselves in, “We are growing”. Certainly there will be some things for the team to work on but they showed great resiliency by fighting back from 20 down to win the game.


Inside the numbers: Michigan was 4-22 on three point field goals and if you take away Zack Novak’s 3-7 the rest of the team was 1-15. They had some good looks at threes and a couple that were down and popped out.

Michigan out rebounded Savannah State 31-19. In addition to Sims 12 boards Manny Harris had 9 rebounds.

Michigan had 19 turnovers against 12 assists. However, in the second half and overtime Michigan had 9 assists against 7 turnovers.


Quotes: After the game I asked Patrick Beilein if they were surprised by the officiating, which was awful. He said it seemed like a road game because they were not getting any calls.

I also asked Laval Lucas-Perry if he was ready to go. He said, without hesitating, “Yep Maryland, Duke, and Eastern, then I can play.” This guy is chomping at the bit to get out there and help his teammates.


Michigan Hammers Norfolk State

November 25, 2008

novaknf11Let me start out by saying I love the chemistry on this team. These guys are really functioning as a unit on the court. They are playing hard and they are playing together. Coach Beilein said you can beat anybody when you believe in what you are doing. These guys believe.

Michigan had to win this game and preferably in convincing fashion and that is exactly what they did with an 81-49 victory over an outmatched Norfolk State team.

Michigan actually started the game 0-10 from the field and did not score until Stuart Douglass hit a three pointer at the 15:21 mark. Zack Novak provided a huge spark in the first half with 10 points.

Manny Harris continued his incredible start to the season by scoring 16 points, hauling down a career high 15 rebounds, dishing out 4 assists, and picking up a steal.

shepherdnfJevohn Shepherd had the best game of his career scoring 11 points to go along with 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 1 block and 0 turnovers.

Anthony Wright started the game 0-5 but finished 4-5 good for 12 points and he had 5 rebounds

Michigan was really pushing the tempo especially when Kelvin Grady was in at the point. Grady was playing very fast and under control. Grady only scored 3 points but had 5 assists against 2 turnovers.

Coach John Beilein said in the post game that Michigan’s offensive transition game was “exceptional tonight”. He said he wants to run on every rebound and every turnover at full speed, just go.

He also mentioned that Manny Harris had 10 defensive rebounds and “that is the greatest face break you can have because everyone has to go at his (Harris’) speed, which is very fast”.

The Wolverines had some very good ball movement as they played very unselfish basketball. They really seem to be coming together as a team and that great chemistry that Coach Beilein said this team has is becoming very apparent.  


Tim McCormick did the color commentary. Being a Clarkston native I have always respected McCormick and I have noticed that he is not afraid to tell it as it is. When things don’t look good he will say that and not try to serve any maize and blue Kool-Aid. On this night McCormick had a lot of good things to say, which I take as a good sign about the team. Here are some of his comments:   

On Laval Lucas-Perry: He said that Lucas-Perry has a unique ability to separate and he said “this guy gets it”. He also said that LLP will be the best point guard Michigan has had since Rumeal Robinson. 

 On Zack Novak: Novak understands the offense at the level of a junior or senior. 

On Manny Harris: Manny reminds him of former Michigan great Mike McGee. He also said Manny is the best scorer in the Big Ten and that he can score in many different ways. 

McCormick also said what I have heard several other basketball people say about Michigan, “they play hard”.  

Inside the numbers: After starting the game 0-10 Michigan shot 32-61 good for 54% from the field. The Wolverines had 21 assists on 32 made field goals. Michigan had 14 turnovers, 7 steals, and 5 blocked shots. Michigan did out rebound the Spartans 49-35 and had 16 offensive rebounds. Michigan was 9-27 on three pointers and had 6 different players make a three pointer.

Notes: Ben Cronin played 8 minutes and scored 6 points to go along with 2 rebounds.
Zack Gibson tweaked his back in the first half and did not return.