Michigan basketball (9-4, 1-0) shook off a wobbly 1st half to drop the Minnesota Golden Gophers (11-3, 0-1) at The Barn by a final score of 63-60. With Mitch McGary out indefinitely, Michigan will be looking to carve out an identity and what better way than a road win to kick off the Big Ten schedule. Playing without McGary and with Glenn Robinson III injuring an ankle early in the 2nd half, this was a big win for Michigan.
Showing their present lack of a killer instinct, the Wolverines held the upper hand late in the game but missed four key free throws down the stretch to keep the Gophers’ hopes alive. After a Jon Horford free throw with 12.4 seconds left, Michigan fouled Malik Smith on a wild three point attempt. Smith canned all three free throws to pull Richard Pitino’s team within one, 61-60. Nik Stauskas redeemed an earlier miss at the line with 4.5 seconds left to widen the lead to 63-60 before Deandre Mathieu’s buzzer-beating three clanked off the rim to seal the win.
The Wolverines opened the game without rhythm or execution. A difficult game for Caris LeVert forced Nik Stauskas to engage in more of a playmaking role. Stauskas answered the bell with a brilliant 2nd half of distributing the rock. Combine that with five huge threes from Zak Irvin and Michigan stepped up enough without their two stars to steal a win on the road.
Winning on the road in the Big Ten is always a chore. Doing so without emotional leader and chief big man McGary is even more impressive. Add to that the early departure of Robinson after he went up high and blocked his 4th shot of the game but came down awkwardly, and John Beilein must be thrilled with his group’s resiliency. Michigan has work to do but their fight is apparent and they should continue to get better as the season progresses.
Michigan’s 3 stars
- Nik Stauskas – with Caris LeVert having a major off night, leaving a void in the ball-handling department, John Beilein needed to run more offense through Stauskas, and the sophomore handled it beautifully by setting a new career-high with 7 assists. He added 14 points and two steals to his line.
- Jon Horford – in the absence of McGary, Horford will look to develop a more consistent offensive presence and he did that tonight with a career-high 14 points. He showed off his back to the basket game, his mid-range shooting touch, and his power dunking ability with a late stuff over two Gophers. He nearly had a double-double as he reeled in nine boards and added two steals and a block.
- Zak Irvin – seemingly every time Michigan was falling behind and needed a big bucket it was freshman Zak Irvin to the rescue. Irvin was 5-8 from the field, all three-point attempts, on his way to 15 big points.
Michigan hasn’t had this much injury trouble in recent memory. Hopefully Robinson’s injury is minor and he’ll be back soon. Don’t be surprised if he sits out a home game against Northwestern on Sunday though.
Regardless, the rest of the roster continues to play hard. Derrick Walton, Jr. is improving at the point, as evidenced by his seven points, four boards, and four assists tonight. Game-to-game consistency needs work for players such as Stauskas and LeVert but when one struggles another tends to step up.
Michigan will face a daunting Big Ten schedule and their Final Four aspirations have likely taken a hit without McGary in the fold, but this team will battle, will win some big games, and will dance come March. Watching Beilein develop this group will be intriguing.
- Jon Horford’s 14 points mark a new career-high.
- Nik Stauskas set a new personal best with seven assists.
- Andre Hollins and Malik Smith led Minnesota with 12 points while Elliott Eliason added 10 points and 10 rebounds.
- The Wolverines were out-rebounded 38-24.
Michigan’s first home Big Ten game will come on Sunday against Northwestern (7-7, 0-1). Tipoff is scheduled for high noon and the game will be televised on Big Ten Network.
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