5 Things We Learned from Michigan's Win over Texas
Michigan had every reason to be concerned about Texas before the two teams met in their third-round matchup in the NCAA tournament.
The Wolverines were the smaller team, and it seemed like Texas had a big advantage down low with 6'9" Cameron Ridley and 6'8" Jonathan Holmes. If the Wolverines were going to have a problem with the Longhorns' size and strength, it would have likely manifested itself in the second half after heavy minutes started to accumulate and players began to tire.
While the theory was logical, Michigan's Jordan Morgan made mincemeat of it. He handled everything the Longhorns had to throw, and the Wolverines survived and advanced to the Sweet 16 for the second straight year with a 79-65 victory.
Here are five things we learned in that victory.
Fast Start Sets the Tone
Going into the game, it looked like it would be Michigan's speed and shooting skill vs. Texas's size and strength.
The Wolverines came out firing, determined to build a lead and put the Longhorns in catch-up mode. That's just how the game played out. The Wolverines built a 16-10 lead at the 12-minute mark and went on a 14-2 run to take the margin to 30-12 with 7:22 to go in the first half.
Texas coach Rick Barnes was forced to scramble from that point to get his team back in the game. However, Texas had no answers for Nik Stauskas and Co. Stauskas hit three three-pointers in the first half, and he encouraged his teammates to keep shooting even when they missed shots.
"I've told our guys all the time that regardless of how many shots you're missing, you have to keep shooting," Stauskas told The Detroit News. "We're a really good shooting team and when you’re open, you can't not shoot just because you've been missing."
The Wolverines proved their advantage in the shooting department for 40 minutes. They connected on 14-of-28 three-pointers in the game and withstood all Texas challenges.
Balance Pays Dividends
It's been a special season for Stauskas, and the Wolverines' go-to guy has been widely recognized as a big-time shooter who is at his best when the game is on the line.
When a player averages 17.4 points per game, it's not easy to keep him a secret from the rest of the basketball world. Opponents adjust and make it difficult by running a second defender at Stauskas, forcing other players to take those big shots.
John Beilein and the Wolverines were well-prepared for this. The Wolverines have an excellent supporting cast, and Glenn Robinson III and Caris LeVert each came through with 14 points apiece.
Stauskas did his part as well. In addition to his 17 points, he handed out eight assists, as he regularly looked to get his teammates involved in the offense. Many of those passes led to wide-open shots, allowing the Wolverines to build a huge lead that they would not relinquish.
Morgan Wins the Battle
While Michigan appeared to have the athletic edge on Texas at the start of the game, it seemed like the Longhorns could punish the Wolverines with their size and strength.
The Longhorns were going to use Ridley down low to give them significant production and wear down the smaller Jordan Morgan. Somehow, Morgan did not get the message.
While there was no doubt that Ridley had size on his side—he outweighed his Michigan counterpart by 40 pounds—Morgan is in much better shape and played with equal strength. Ridley was huffing and puffing within a few trips up and down the court, and Morgan went into attack mode.
The Wolverines forward scored 15 points and had 10 rebounds. Ridley was held to six points and nine rebounds.
Morgan's ability to win the battle was a key reason why Michigan moved on to the Sweet 16.
Wolverines Protect the Ball
Speed and skill are huge advantages for any basketball team, but they won't necessarily translate into victory if a team is reckless with the ball.
Michigan was the opposite of that. Even though they played at a very fast pace and were able to force the Longhorns into retreat mode for long stretches of the game, the Wolverines did not make mistakes. They turned the ball over just four times in the game and did not give Texas a chance to dictate the pace.
None of the Wolverines had more than one turnover in the game.
On the other hand, the Wolverines forced nine Texas turnovers.
Wolverines Have Coaching Advantage
The win over Texas was a huge achievement for the Michigan coach. Not only did it put the Wolverines back in the Sweet 16, it was the 700th victory of Belein's career.
Beilein is one of the best strategists in the game, and that came to the fore against the Longhorns by the way he deployed his players and his excellent use of timeouts. The Longhorns made a couple of runs at the Wolverines in the second half, and Beilein was able to limit those runs by calling timeouts.
However, Beilein's true value as a coach may be in his teaching ability. Stauskas is Michigan's star, and his level of confidence on the floor is a direct result of the faith Beilein has in his player. LeVert and Morgan are two of the most improved players on the team, and Beilein has helped them grow as basketball players.
Beiliein gives the Wolverines an edge in the coaching department in nearly every game.