Michigan Basketball vs. IUPUI: Three Takeaways

Nov 13, 2016; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines head coach John Beilein reacts during the second half against the IUPUI Jaguars at Crisler Center. Michigan won 77-65. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

From the bigs to the guards, a decisive team effort led Michigan basketball to a comfortable win over IUPUI despite defensive miscues.

Michigan basketball moved on to the championship rounds of the 2k Classic with a 77-65 victory over the IUPUI Jaguars Sunday.

Zak Irvin led the way with 15 points in the team effort, though Moritz Wagner and Derrick Walton Jr. were not far behind with 13 apiece. The Wolverines effectively got to the bucket, and their ball movement looked crisper than it has in years.

ESPN reported that John Beilein was very happy with the chemistry of this year’s squad, and the effect on the offense was notable. In addition to the top three scorers, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman chipped in with 12 points, and Duncan Robinson showed off a newfound handle, taking it to the hoop for a hard-fought 7.

The scoring distribution even made its way down to the low block. Supplementing Wagner on the low block were Mark Donnal and DJ Wilson with 8 and 7 points, respectively.

The first half saw Michigan look disconcerted on defense, and IUPUI went up 18-11 early. The Wolverines missed backdoor cuts and allowed shooters to get open. However, Michigan’s offense proved to be too good for IUPUI, closing the first period on a 13-0 run.

The Wolverines outlasted the best efforts of former Eastern Michigan opponent Darrell Combs, as the IUPUI transfer led all scorers with 22 but had little help from his teammates. The second half was all Michigan, as IUPUI never got within 10.

Here are three takeaways from the convincing win over the Jaguars. The Wolverines play next Thursday against Marquette at Madison Square Garden.

Nov 13, 2016; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines forward D.J. Wilson (5) reacts after making a three point basket in the second half against the IUPUI Jaguars at Crisler Center. Michigan won 77-65. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan’s bigs had a statement game

Michigan fans had to be encouraged by D.J. Wilson’s performance against Howard. With 9 points, 8 boards, and a handful of blocks and assists, Wilson seemed to have taken a step in the offseason.

Against IUPUI, Wilson once more took on the role of stat sheet stuffer. Unlike Wagner, his impact did not come from points, though the fact he hit a 3-pointer is another reason to be excited. Instead, the Sacramento native snagged 14 boards and turned away 5 shots as the Jaguars struggled with his length.

Opposite Wilson was the Wolverines’ German import. Mo Wagner has always been a high-motor kid, chasing loose balls and running on the fastbreak. Today, he proved that he has added an element to his game by putting the ball on the ground.

Wagner is a decent shooter, and the threat of him hoisting led the IUPUI bigs to close hard whenever he got the ball on the perimeter. His use of ball fakes freed him up more than once, and he even hit a shot from behind the arc.

While he needs to cut down on his fouls (3), Wagner’s 6 rebounds were a plus for Michigan, with 2 coming on the offensive glass.

Nov 13, 2016; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines guard Zak Irvin (21) dribbles during the second half against the IUPUI Jaguars at Crisler Center. Michigan won 77-65. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Zak Irvin is getting to his spots

Zak Irvin has faced some difficult circumstances in his college career. The former Mr. Basketball of Indiana showed promising shooting percentages in his freshman year, and he was a key cog for an Elite Eight team.

His sophomore year required him to shoulder the scoring load for Michigan after injuries to Walton and Caris LeVert. Irvin was solid last year, including a 16-point performance in Michigan’s lone NCAA Tournament win. However, a preseason injury prevented him from having a true breakout season.

While he had a rough shooting night against Howard, Irvin rebounded in a big way against the Jaguars. His outside shots didn’t fall, but those will come in time. More importantly, Irvin made several jumpers around the elbows. This has long been a sweet spot for Irvin, and he proved it by completing one mid-ranger despite the foul.

Irvin’s statistics were negatively influenced by being the go-to guy at the end of the clock, but the overall offensive flow should make this less of an issue as the year goes on.  

Irvin kept the ball moving and had 3 assists as seven players had 7 points or more. He also helped Michigan gain its 40-31 rebounding advantage, snagging 5 errant shots on the defensive end.

Mar 18, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Michigan Wolverines guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (12) controls the ball against Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Rex Pflueger (0) in the second half in the first round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan might have an all-conference backcourt

You know exactly what you’re going to get with Walton. The senior will give you a bunch of rebounds, hit some 3’s and marshal the offense successfully. Walton remains a good-to-elite outside gunner. This is a huge boon for the Wolverines, as they have placed more emphasis on getting to the hoop this year. With others making forays into the lane, Walton will be available to catch and shoot. 

Despite missing his shots inside the arc, the tangibles provided by Walton are the real story. He co-led the team with 3 assists and was one of the reasons Michigan kept the ball snapping around the perimeter. As always, the Detroit native showed he is one of the nation’s elite rebounding guards, snagging 6 boards while standing just 6’1.

Alongside Walton, Abdur-Rahkman put in 12 and showed off his ability in the lane with a variety of floaters and bank shots. MAAR has always been known as the one Michigan player can go get a bucket. As Brendan Quinn of MLive wrote: “Abdur-Rahkman’s game is simple: Get the ball. Go to the basket. Put the ball in the basket.”

Abdur-Rahkman is starting to move beyond that, and he showed off his playmaking ability against the Jaguars. For his first assist, he got into the lane, pivoting to find a cutting Wilson. His second, a bounce pass, cut through three IUPUI defenders to find Mark Donnal in the lane. If he can take a step forward, he will free up Walton and Robinson on the perimeter.

With Walton finally injury free and MAAR continuing to expand on his promise, the Wolverines could see a backcourt they haven’t had since LeVert and Nik Stauskas.

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