One of the keys in playing against Michigan is to remain composed and execute your game plan. Getting away from what you do well in attempts to get the Wolverines to play a style other than their own more times than not results in a loss. That was the lesson for the Memphis Tigers, who in spite of their athletic talents have some maturing to do before referring to themselves as sure-fire national title contenders. Tim Hardaway Jr. led Michigan with 21 points, seven rebounds and five assists and freshman guard Trey Burke added 14 points and four assists in the Wolverines' 73-61 victory, and they'll take on Duke in the semifinals of the Maui Invitational.
The problems for the Tigers came on both ends of the floor. Offensively Josh Pastner's team struggled to create good looks for themselves, instead settling for contested shots as they became more perplexed by the Michigan defense. Memphis shot 33% for the game and just 31% in the second half, and their efficiency numbers were a far cry from the marks reached in their season-opening win over Belmont. Memphis also had trouble defensively as Michigan shot 54% from the field, a number bolstered by making 70% of their two-point shots.
That more than made up for the Wolverines shooting 30% from beyond the arc, and for some reason the two teams took the same number of three-pointers (20) despite the fact that Memphis would have better served to attack the basket. Charles Carmouche led the Tigers with 14 points (their lone player in double figures), and he seemed to be the only player with any kind of idea as to what Michigan was trying to do defensively. Will Barton made just three of his twelve shots, and he was a little too wild for his (or the Tigers') good on that end of the floor. Memphis' running game was neutralized, limiting their offense for much of the game.
"I think that was one of the key things we did is communicate really well to stop the ball coming down the fast break," said Hardaway, Jr. "And just pointing out to your man who you [have], and I think communication is the whole key to having a successful defensive team on transition."
Michigan closed the first half on a 10-0 run sparked by their changing defenses, incorporating man-to-man and 2-3 zone looks as they frustrated the Tigers. There was brief "conference" at mid-court as the teams left the floor at the break, but that would change little for Memphis as the Wolverines continued to build on their lead in the second half. As a result Michigan gets a shot at the team that ended their season, and Memphis has the chance to use this tough lesson in a constructive manner.
"They hit some big shots in the second half, and it's just one of those things where we're playing a very good Michigan team, and we're a very good team," said Pastner. "That's why we're playing these type of games to see what adjustments we need to make. It's very early in the year, and this will give us a barometer of things we need to get better at."
Other Notable Happenings
1. J'Covan Brown's an impressive player, but his error in judgment sparked an NC State comeback.
Even with Brown picking up his fourth foul with 8:25 remaining the Longhorns seemed to be in good shape as they held a 65-52 lead in the third place game of the Ticket City Legends Classic. But Brown uttered one of those "magic words", and the resulting technical foul was also his fifth personal foul. From that point forward Mark Gottfried's Wolfpack took full advantage, continuing what would become a 19-1 run on their way to the 77-74 victory.
C.J. Leslie led the way with 17 points and the return of Scott Wood (16 points) also played a role in the comeback from 18 points down, but while this is definitely a boost for the Wolfpack the outcome highlighted how important Brown is to Texas. Myck Kabongo has a way to go before he's truly ready to run the show in crunch time, meaning that Brown has to remain on the floor. Silly mistakes like his technical foul will do the Longhorns no favors if allowed to become a trend.
2. Missouri and California put together impressive performances at the CBE Classic and will meet tomorrow night.
Notre Dame received a boost as Tim Abromaitis returned to the lineup, scoring 22 points and grabbing eight rebounds on the night. But the Irish were no match for Frank Haith's Missouri Tigers, who shot 63% from the field in the first half and scored 53 points on their way to an 87-58 win. The Tigers' guards, led by Marcus Denmon (26 points) and Phil Pressey (17 points), were simply too quick for Notre Dame in a dominant performance. And the team that many were concerned about due to the loss of Laurence Bowers out-rebounded Notre Dame 38-24, and while that disparity was affected by the disparity in shooting percentages (Mizzou 58%, Notre Dame 37%) the Tigers more than held their own.
They'll likley encounter a tougher challenge on Tuesday night as they take on the Cal Golden Bears, who snapped out of a slow start to beat Georgia 70-46. Cal gained their separation with a 14-0 run to end the first half and things only got worse after the break. Cal head coach Mike Montgomery credited the fact that the Bulldogs run a lot of sets that are similar to his own (Georgia head coach Mark Fox was an assistant of Trent Johnson's at Nevada, and Johnson was an assitant of Montgomery's at Stanford), and adding the Bears' experience to that made it nearly impossible for the Bulldogs to prevent things from getting out of hand. Harper Kamp led three Cal players in double figures with 16 points and defensively the Golden Bears limited Georgia to 32.8% shooting from the field. Tuesday's title game should be entertaining, but at the very least it will be a challenge for both.
3. Brad Tinsley's shot in the final seconds gives Vanderbilt the Legends Classic title.
Kevin Stallings' Commodores were locked in a tough battle with Oregon State at the Izod Center, never leading by more than nine points (45-36) and going back and forth with the Beavers in crunch time. It took a jumper from the right elbow from senior guard Brad Tinsley with 4.5 seconds remaining to give Vanderbilt the 64-62 win in a game that both teams can take positives from. One key for Vandy was the defense of Jeffery Taylor, who drew the assignment of guarding Jared Cunningham. Cunningham scored just nine points on the night, but OSU was able to hang around thanks to Devon Collier (19 points) and Ahmad Starks (16 points).
Another key contributor for Oregon State was Eric Moreland, who chipped in eight points and eight rebounds in 25 minutes off the bench. While it's still extremely early in the season Craig Robinson's group does not feel like previous Oregon State teams, ones that seemed to be locks to plummet to the bottom of the (then) Pac-10. As for Vanderbilt, these are the kinds of games that people have had questions about in March: are they tough enough to make the plays needed to win tight games? John Jenkins scored 14 points with Cunningham working hard to make his night difficult, and Lance Goulbourne made some key plays to supplement the efforts of Jenkins and Taylor. The game wasn't pretty, as Vandy turned the ball over 22 times, but winning an ugly game at this stage could pay dividends down the road.
1. While many will choose to focus on the 18 points scored by freshman Austin Rivers, the 17 points scored by Ryan Kelly in their 77-67 win over Tennessee could prove to be a more important development for Duke down the line. The Plumlee brothers struggled offensively, but if Kelly can build on this performance the front line becomes that much more formidable.
2. The stunning aspect of UMass' 82-46 win over Boston College wasn't the fact that the Minutemen won so much as the margin. For the Eagles to lose at home by 36 points underlines just how far Steve Donahue's team has to go, and their youth won't help matters in the ACC either.
3. Just one week after losing to Marquette by 30 points in Milwaukee, Norfolk State fought until the end and had a shot to win the title game of the Paradise Jam. But while the Golden Eagles survived 59-57, look for the Spartans to contend for the MEAC title. One thing that the Spartans can call on is their matchup zone, which pestered Marquette throughout.
4. Reeves Nelson sat out the first half of UCLA's win over Chaminade after missing the team flight out to Maui. The second half was more about the entire team finally bringing the level of effort needed to be a successful team than the return of Nelson, and it will be interesting to see if the Bruins can bring it against Kansas.
5. The three-point shooting struggles of last season are a thing of the past for Florida, who made ten threes in their 78-65 win over Wright State. Billy Donovan's team has made ten or more three-pointers in each of their games this season, and Bradley Beal and Kenny Boynton both scored 22 points on Monday night.
6. Another surprising margin of victory: George Washington beating Detroit 86-73, and the Colonials led by as many as 26 points in the second half. Tony Taylor led the way with 22 points and six assists and Lasan Kromah added 17 in the most impressive win of first-year head coach Mike Lonergan's short tenure.
7. This win won't make headlines nationwide, but Manhattan's 85-83 win over Fresno State is a good result for first-year head coach Steve Masiello. Donovan Kates and Mike Alvarado scored 14 points apiece to lead five Jaspers in double figures as they moved to 3-1 on the season.
Three Notable Performances
1. F Jared Sullinger (Ohio State)
27 points, 13 rebounds and three steals in the Buckeyes' 85-50 win over North Florida.
2. G/F Jason Guerrier (Albany)
28 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks in 28 minutes off the bench in the Great Danes' 85-49 win over Monmouth.
3. F Thomas Robinson (Kansas)
20 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks in the Jayhawks' 67-63 win over Georgetown.