Well, happy birthday Coach Beilein indeed.
Three days following a deflating loss where their sharpshooters could not buy a three pointer, the Michigan Basketball team exploded out of the gate to a deadly start from beyond the arc, undoubtedly eager to move forward following the offensive debacle in Indiana last Sunday. Throughout the hot start, the Wolverines shared the ball effectively, with each of the usual suspects contributing a three-ball before ten minutes had passed.
But the story of the first half was, without question, Zak Irvin. The freshman forward, who has struggled throughout the season, stole the show early on, pouring in a downright ridiculous 16 first half points to the tune of 6-of-9 from the field and 4-of-7 from outside.
Michigan, understandably irritated after Sunday’s defeat, made it very clear from the start that they were taking no prisoners. The team’s motto for Wednesday’s game was “Play Angry”, to which the team obviously adhered, as the incendiary offensive start propelled the Wolverines to a 28-point halftime lead, despite firing four less shots than the Cornhuskers.
Evidently unfazed by Nebraska coach Tim Miles’s traditional halftime tweet, the Wolverines capitalized on their first half momentum with another blazing start to the second period. An old-fashioned three-point play from Caris LeVert, followed by back-to-back three pointers from Glenn Robinson III pushed the gap past 30, allowing the Wolverines to kick back in cruise control, which, of course, they did not do. Michigan continued to exploit the Huskers defense in transition and from beyond the arc, finishing with 13 total three-pointers, effectively solidifying the convincing victory 79-50.
Glenn Robinson III: With all the Irvin hype following his impressive first half, GR3 quietly led all scorers and showed off his lethal shooting potential, contributing 23 points on 8-of-14 shooting, including 3-of-7 from downtown. The swingman tacked on 5 rebounds and 2 steals in the defensive-minded trouncing, and showcased his athleticism on multiple fast break attempts, capping off breaks with an array of flashy flushes.
Zak Irvin: Forgive the repetition, but the freshman swingman, who has struggled mightily to find his groove offensively, debunked every rumor surrounding his offensive incapacity by pouring in 16 points (all in the first half). Irvin was seen sparingly in the 2nd half, only playing enough to add two three-point attempts to finish 6-of-11 from the field and 4-of-9 from downtown. This is the offensive output that Michigan needs from the five-star recruit who is about as streaky as a shooter can be.
Nik Stauskas: No player received more criticism following the Indiana loss than the fabled Beast of the Great White North. Michigan’s top-scorer and co-Big Ten scoring leader, Stauskas, who averages around 18 points per game, tacked on a measly 6 in Bloomington, and was berated accordingly. Wednesday showed us a different Nik Stauskas. Call it tentative, call it generous, but Stauskas, who noticeably passed up on a number of seemingly open shots, finished 1-of-3 from the field (a three-pointer), 9 total points thanks to the charity stripe, and an uncharacteristic 8 assists. There was certainly no scarcity of offense for the Wolverines, which is perhaps what allowed Stauskas to relax a bit. Only time will tell if we see a return to the sharpshooting Stauskas we all know so well, but until then, John Beilein will surely welcome the increased ball movement.
The Wolverines travel to Iowa to face the 17th ranked Hawkeyes Saturday afternoon. After the convincing win Wednesday night, in which Michigan, who scored 49 points in the first half alone, held Nebraska to 50 points through both halves, the Wolverines will look to maintain their momentum on both ends of the floor and do what no Big Ten team has seemingly been able to do: avoid a costly losing streak.