The Eastern Michigan Huron Eagles Process Embracers entered the Crisler Arena Center Building earlier tonight with the goal of dislodging the Wolverines from their lofty perch as kings of Washtenaw County.
The challengers from the east came to Ann Arbor after letting the sting of a 26-point lost at UIC percolate a bit; having beaten Purdue early this season, the Eagles showed they could come away with a victory against a major conference team, even if the Boilermakers are not exactly measuring up to the form of the recent past. That noise you hear is the desperate attempt to extract some sort of interest out of a game such as this.
Facetious snark aside, EMU jumped out to a 6-2 lead early after Trey Burke opened up the scoring with a steal and layup at the other end. Michigan gave up an offensive rebound, allowing EMU a second attempt at a three, which Jalen Ross buried.
Michigan had to face the 2-3 zone in this one, a potentially tricky changeup for the Wolverines. Michigan's first two possessions against the zone lead to an airballed Stauskas three from the corner and a missed Burke three. However, Michigan started to figure out that simply bombing away from outside was not the answer. Jordan Morgan made a nice move on the block, moving to his left and lofting a little hook over the reach of the 7-footer DaShonte Riley. Glenn Robinson III then found an open pocket in the middle of the zone on the next trip down, hitting a free throw line jumper to tie things up.
Burke used a high pick from Morgan and penetrated down the heart of the lane, making a nice finish off the glass while absorbing some contact to put Michigan up 8-6. The Wolverines kept the lead for the rest of the contest.
After hitting a pair of early threes, EMU was less than careful with the ball; they racked up 4 turnovers in about five minutes of play. For a team looking to shrink the game and put it in its pocket, they couldn't afford to do this sort of thing (and now I sound like EMU's mother, telling them to clean their room).
In any case, Michigan circumvented its ephemeral early struggle to crack the zone from the outside by initiating the "transition" game. Transition basketball is when teams get the rebound and try to get to the other end really fast, ostensibly that so the opponent cannot set its defense. You are allowed to do this, apparently, and Michigan was able to use this rule to its advantage.
Stauskas hit a wide open three from the left wing in transition at the 13:30 mark, which sort of opened the floodgates. From that point on, Michigan was able to make the key passes and get to the right spots to slice and dice the zone.
After going down 6-2 early, Michigan rattled off an 18-0 run. EMU did not score again until the 10:29 mark, also marking its first 2-point basket of the game. Turnovers, an inability to score from 2-point land and Michigan being Michigan doomed the Eagles fairly quickly. Despite the possessions per game rankings of each team leading you to believe that this would mirror the measured, deliberate pace of a Ken Burns documentary, the game was actually kind of up and down. As you can imagine, this was not a good thing for EMU.
Michigan missed out on some easy points on account of DaShonte Riley's swatting ability, but the Wolverines entered the half up 40-24 nonetheless.
Michigan PPP (points per possession):1.25
- Burke: 5-10, 11 pts, 4 assists
- Stauskas: 3-4 from 3, 9 pts
- Hardaway Jr.: 3-9, 7 pts, 4 assists, 2 steals
Eastern Michigan PPP: 0.71
- Jalen Ross: 4-5, 9 pts
- Glenn Bryant: 1-7, 4 pts
- Derek Thompson: 2-8, 5 pts
With Michigan only up 16, the Wolverines had some work to do in order to cover the lofty spread (U-M was -24.0 the last time I looked). Michigan would need to play with a fervor befitting a post-apocalyptic wasteland, an intensity suited to a world in which every rebound, every transition bucket, every t-shirt cannon session...could be your last. Get it, you see, because topical stuff.
Anyway, EMU was careless early in the second half as well, committing three turnovers in the first three minutes of the second frame, partially allowing Michigan to jump out to a 21-point lead. After a pair of Morgan buckets early, the second half was mostly a demonstration of the serious talent of this freshman class. With the score sitting at 44-24, McGary, Stauskas and Robinson III contributed the Wolverines' next 15 points, giving Michigan its largest lead of the game thus far.
The last ten minutes consisted of Michigan occasionally conceding an EMU bucket or two before storming back with a flurry of transition bucket with a cataclysmic fury that would make Cormac McCarthy cower in fear. "The Road" leads through the Crisler Center, Cormac. It always* has.
As I mentioned earlier, with this win comes the honor of unofficial dominion over all of Washtenaw County, as well as a replica Big Boy trophy to occupy a most prominent spot in Michigan's trophy case. Michigan has completed two legs in the Nonconference Michigan Domination Tour; the West and the East have tried and failed, and only a meeting with the team from the mountain that is pleasant remains on the 2012 docket.
*Always, i.e. this year.