Michigan rolls past Iowa

January 11, 2009

gradyiowa1Kelvin Grady got things going for Michigan by draining a three ball on their first possession and he gave Michigan a lead they would never surrender the rest of the game. In the first 7 minutes of the game Michigan took a 12-4 lead. Laval Lucas-Perry scored 5 points in that run.

Michigan was executing their offense with precision in the opening half. Stu Douglass found Zack Gibson cutting to the basket for a lay up. Moments later Zack Novak found Douglass cutting to the hoop for an easy basket. After that play Iowa coach Todd Lickliter burned his 3rd time out of the half and there were still over 8 minutes left to play in the half. All of the timeouts didn’t help slow down the Wolverine stampede.

DeShawn Sims was pulling down one handed rebounds with Hawkeyes draped all over him. Manny Harris was knocking down threes and swiping the ball away from Iowa. Zack Novak did not score in the first half but he was making plays on both ends of the court and grabbing rebounds. Michigan’s defense stifled Iowa in the first half to the tune of 27% shooting and 8 turnovers. Michigan had a hefty 32-16 lead at the half. The 16 points was the lowest for Iowa in a first half this year.

Things didn’t start much better for Iowa in the second half. The Hawkeyes turned the ball over on their first possession. Michigan continued to execute on both ends of the court to open the second half. Iowa was so out of synch that they had a streak of 10 possessions in which they turned the ball over 7 times. Hawkeyes were dropping passes out of bounds and dribbling the ball off their foot for turnovers.

The final score was 64-49. Michigan’s biggest lead was 28 points in the second half. Michigan played their best game of the season since the Duke game.

Kelvin Grady played a superb game running the offense. He scored 8 points, dished out 4 assists and did not turn the ball over in 28 minutes. Manny Harris did what he does as he scored 18 points, grabbed 8 boards, dished out 5 assists and picked up 4 steals. Zack Novak scored 5 points to go with 5 rebounds and 3 assists. Those numbers don’t tell the story on how well he played. He was 1-6 from the field but was playing tough Big Ten basketball. Laval Lucas-Perry was solid with 8 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals. 

Inside the numbers: Michigan had 16 assists on 24 field goals. Michigan turned the ball over 11 times, Iowa 18 times. Michigan out rebounded Iowa 31-29. Michigan was 7-22 on three pointers. Michigan had a season high 12 steals. 

Notes: CJ Lee entered the game in the second half and provided a nice spark as he was hustling and diving all over the court.
Eric Puls drained a three and is now 2-2 on three point shooting this season. 








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.”

Michigan drops Big Ten Opener to Wisconsin

December 31, 2008


Wisconsin Michigan BasketballMichigan opened the Big Ten season with a 73-61 loss to Wisconsin. The Badgers did what they do and methodically ground Michigan down. They took a 20-9 lead about 7 minutes into the game and never really looked back. Wisconsin shot 59% from the field and they made their 3 point attempts count as they went 6-14 from deep.

Zack Novak started the game and Jevohn Shepherd was back to coming of the bench. Novak responded by playing one heckuva game. He scored a career high 20 points on 7-11 field goals, including 5-8 on three pointers. Novak also corralled 8 rebounds. DeShawn Sims chipped in 14 points but did not secure his first board until there was 4:53 left in the game.

Manny Harris was frustrated by a fundamentally sound Wisconsin defense and some not so favorable no calls from the officials. He ended up with 9 points on 3-13 shooting to go along with 9 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 turnovers.

As a team Michigan shot 39% from the field and was 8-24 on three pointers.

Marcus Landry and Trevon Hughes scored 16 points a piece for the Badgers. 

Inside the numbers: Michigan had 12 assists on 24 field goals and only turned the ball over 7 times. Wisconsin turned it over 8 times and out rebounded Michigan 30-26. 

Notes: Michigan will be back in action on Sunday (Jan. 4) when the Wolverines host Illinois at Crisler Arena. Game time is scheduled for noon and will be broadcast live on the Big Ten Network. 

The road to 21 wins: This was not a game that I had Michigan projected to win. It would have been a good win but it does not derail my projection. With that being said I projected Michigan to win their next 3 games; Illinois, at Indiana, and Iowa. So this will be a critical 3 game stretch coming up.


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.