Michigan Basketball: 5 Takeaways from Wolverines' Win over Ohio State
Once again, the Michigan basketball team sits atop the Big Ten Conference standings. The Wolverines picked up their third road victory against a nationally ranked opponent on Tuesday night at Ohio State to move to 10-2 in league play.
Nik Stauskas got things rolling again, Derrick Walton Jr. played well beyond his years and a pair of reserves had arguably the biggest impact on the game. The enigma that is Glenn Robinson III continues to be an unknown in big games, but his defense makes him too valuable to sit for long periods of time.
What else did we learn about the Wolverines? There are five things everyone should have taken away from last night's win in Columbus.
Nik Stauskas Found a Way to Beat the Blueprint
It seemed as though the Big Ten coaches found a way to shut down Nik Stauskas. Michigan's past four opponents all opted to guard the Canadian product with someone smaller and quicker to simply keep him from creating in the lane. After Tuesday night's win over Ohio State, teams may continue to use the same strategy, but Michigan has found ways to beat it.
Setting high ball screens and running Stauskas along the baseline led to some clean looks. The 6'6", 205-pounder also looked more confident, as displayed by his willingness to simply shoot over Ohio State's Aaron Craft.
On the surface, scoring 15 points on 4-of-9 shooting may not seem like a very big deal. However, Michigan needed Stauskas to be a factor, which he definitely was. Against a gritty defender like Craft, those numbers are actually quite impressive and exactly what the Wolverines needed.
Big Ten coaches may need to find another blueprint for taking away Stauskas.
Zak Irvin Is on Fire
Over the past three games, Zak Irvin has scored 45 points and converted 15-of-26 field-goal attempts, which has given Michigan a much-needed boost. The freshman shooting guard has become a very valuable piece in the Wolverines' rotation and is becoming one of the best sixth men in the Big Ten.
Against Ohio State, Irvin only took three shots, but he made two of them. Both were three-pointers. He added four free throws to round out his 10-point game.
At a time when Glenn Robinson III is struggling with just about every facet of his game, Irvin has been a bright spot in his place. Defensively, Robinson is still far and away the better player. However, unless he can start scoring the basketball, Irvin is going to gobble up more of his minutes.
Be sure to keep an eye on this talented freshman, because he certainly has picked the best possible time to catch fire.
Derrick Walton Jr. Doesn't Look Like a Freshman Anymore
Derrick Walton Jr. now has managed to outplay Keith Appling and Aaron Craft, two of the Big Ten's best point guards, in their own buildings. Tuesday night, Craft only could watch as his freshman counterpart dished out a game-high six assists, grabbed a career-high 10 rebounds and scored 13 points.
Was it pretty? Not exactly. Walton was just 3-of-10 from the field (including one three-pointer), but once again, he got to the free-throw line in critical moments and took advantage of those opportunities. He went 6-of-6 at the charity stripe.
Walton has reached double figures in four of Michigan's past six games. This has given the Wolverines the offensive scoring option they needed to overcome Glenn Robinson III's disappearing act in big games. Keep in mind, this is a freshman point guard who had to fill the shoes of Trey Burke.
It is still unfair to compare the two, but Walton did the little things Michigan needed to come away with another big victory on the road.
Jon Horford Is Playing the Best Basketball of His Career
Jon Horford is not going to be among Michigan's top scorers, but with all the weapons on this team, he is not expected to. Getting eight points on 4-of-5 shooting in 20 minutes of action is all the Wolverines need out of their redshirt junior power forward. The four rebounds he collected were of great importance as well.
There is no question the often-injured Horford is playing the best basketball of his career right now. He is shooting the ball with confidence near the paint, and he is doing a great job of catching passes in traffic and finishing plays at the rim. This is all Michigan can ask of the Grand Ledge, Mich., native.
Defensively, Horford does a great job of being in the right position and forcing big men to shoot over him. There is something to be said for not giving up easy baskets.
Horford will more than likely always be Michigan's fifth-best player when he is on the floor. As long as he makes the occasional basket and grabs rebounds, though, there is nothing wrong with that.
Michigan's Toughness Is No Longer a Question Mark
Down by 10 points with 3:21 left in the first half, Michigan had every opportunity to just roll over and tap out of another tough road game. Unlike in the games at Iowa and Indiana, however, the Wolverines responded to the early punch in the mouth, rather than let it defeat them.
Ohio State's defense clearly frustrated Michigan. At times, Nik Stauskas looked flustered. Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford were unhappy on several occasions. Glenn Robinson III and Caris LeVert combined to go 6-of-21 from the field, which is not going to make anyone smile.
Still, through it all, the Wolverines came away with an important victory in Columbus.
Michigan is now halfway through the most grueling leg of its 2013-14 campaign. Upcoming games against Wisconsin and Michigan State have the ability to spoil the Wolverines' Big Ten title hopes, but they certainly will not go down without a fight. The grit and toughness the Maize and Blue put on display at Ohio State is just what they need to bring another conference championship back to Ann Arbor.