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After nearly a week of preparation, the Wolverines came out big against South Dakota State and came away with a 71-56 win over the Jackrabbits. Michigan was able to control SDSU's athletic point guard Nate Wolters and really took over the game with about 10 minutes remaining. This moves Michigan into the round of 32 with a shot to go to the Sweet Sixteen against either VCU or Akron. This was a big win for Michigan as many feared another "one and done" performance like the Wolverines had last year against Ohio in the 1st round.
Arguably the biggest story of the game was the poor performance of Trey Burke. He finished the night in the single digits and struggled mightily in the 1st half. He missed open shots, failed to get to the lane, couldn't make passes, and made uncharacteristic turnovers. Of course, the biggest shock was when Burke went down hard in the 2nd half. There were worries of a possible concussion. However, Burke passed all the tests and came back and finished the game. What's even more significant was that he realized he was not having an "on" game and was able to adjust. Instead of driving and just shooting the ball, he began throwing it to the outside. Luckily, Michigan's wing players were able to convert and a big part of this was Hardaway and GR3 hitting some big 3 point baskets. Burke showed he can impact the game in more than one way and it certainly was encouraging to see the team win without relying so much on Burke's production.
Outside of Burke, the big storyline was Mitch McGary. He started the game over Jordan Morgan and made some huge plays. He was energetic all night, hit some big baskets, and really played some tough and aggressive defense. Hitting that jumpshot from the free throw line was also pretty cool. The big bonus was that he was not being overly aggressive on defense in this game and making stupid mistakes. He would try to stop ball movement when he could, but wasn't overpursuing as he has sometimes this season. Finishing at the basket was also a huge help. If McGary can play like this on Saturday, Michigan should be in good shape.
Hardaway and GR3 shot lights out. Both played pretty good defense, but dang. A combined 8-10 shooting night from outside the arch is pretty impressive for just two players. They probably won't continue at this level, but both were taking their good looks and frankly, were just playing well. An interesting development in the game was when SDSU started overpursing Hardaway on the outside. This was certainly due to his hot shooting and it opened up several drives to the lane where he converted. If Hardaway can hit some of his outside shots, he becomes very difficult to defend and when GR3 plays aggressively offensively, he can convert inside and outside and push Michigan to that next level.
Stauskas made a few bad choices offensively, but he had a few nice drives including one where he turned to finish at the basket and another where he fell to hit the layup. If he can be active this way, he's a great offensive weapon. He still will get beat badly a few times off the dribble, but he's improving in that area. LeVert played decent defense. He wasn't very aggressive on the offensive side and hesitated on some open looks. Spike was pretty quiet despite playing a little more than usual.
It was pretty surprising to see Morgan only play 1 minute in the game. He didn't look that bad on the court, but he has certainly been on a downward trend. Hopefully the Wolverines can get him back playing at his full potential, especially if McGary or Horford get into foul trouble. Horford made some big mistakes defensively including leaving some guys wide open and getting beat with his low post defense, but he had a solid basket that he won't make most of the time. He's energetic on the defensive end and that's why he's getting out there, but it would be encouraging to see more offensive production, especially against a team like the Jackrabbits who don't have much inside.
Just a few final thoughts. What a great career for SDSU's Nate Wolters. He really was an outstanding player and it's always sad to see a player of his caliber end their career. For Michigan, they are going to have a very difficult game on Saturday. It will likely be against VCU and the Wolverines are going to have to make sure they do not make careless mistakes against one of the fiercest press defenses in the country. Either way, a good win for the Wolverines.
Basketball Analyst For BTPowerhouse & Wolverine 247 - Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/tbeindit
Great performance all around for the Wolverines. I will even give Burke a pass because it was just his shooting that was off which happens sometimes.
Also, have to give credit to SDSU. I thought they played fairly well tonight. Just ran into a better team in Michigan.
I was at the game and after a slightly nerve wracking first half, it was nice to put em away at the end.
Stauskas is horrible on D. He gets lost in traffic, as well as getting picked off too easily.
I am really curious why Morgan played so little. I thought he did well on D when he was in there.
Trey's fall was at the other end of the arena but you could hear it loud and clear at my end.
GR3 hit those back to back 3s and you could feel his confidence soar.
Horford had a good game too. He played with some passion when rebounding.
We're in for a battle against VCU.
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