Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Because Michigan won or this would have been "1000 ways to slam your head in the door".
Let's start with the one you already heard...
Michigan was 0/12 from three. This was a pretty commonly discussed part of the game, even as it was happening. Twitter was a veritable running count of misses and "if only those shots were falling" comments.
Of course, Michigan would have benefited greatly from a better day outside the arc. The Wolverines to date score 30 percent of their points from three (100th nationally) and as a team Michigan has the 33rd best three-point percentage in the country (37.7 percent). Of course this ignores a couple facts. First, Michigan played all but the first four minutes without its best three-point shooter, Nik Stauskas. As soon as Stauskas went down, Michigan lost out on its best shooter. Second, the Wolverines' next best gunner from deep -- Tim Hardaway Jr., by a nose at .387% -- is in a bit of a slump himself, posting just one ORtg above 100 in the last five games while shooting 4/25 from deep during that span. Meanwhile, Michigan's third best three point shooter -- Burke at .385 -- didn't need to work much from deep because...
Michigan scored 44 points in the paint. This doesn't really happen to Michigan State, After the first game, it was simply assumed by many -- your humble blogger included -- that the Spartans would be able to once again hold the advantage in the paint. However, Michigan routinely got shots at the rim as Trey Burke led the way with a dizzying array of layups and passes to fellow Wolverines. Michigan was great all game at working the ball inside, and it paid off in the form of the highest points in the paint figure that the Spartans have allowed all year.
Coming into the game this was one of the biggest questions that Michigan had to answer. In previous games against teams in the top of the conference, Michigan has show signs of weakness when it comes to getting shots at the rim, instead settling into passing the ball around the outside and shooting long jumpers.
This is all comforting going forward, you know, if you overlook the fact that...
Michigan still got owned on the boards. The Wolverines managed to rebound just around the season average on the offensive side, pulling down 28 percent of available offensive rebounds. However, Michigan was badly outclassed on the defensive boards, getting the same number of defensive rebounds (19) as Michigan State got offensive rebounds. This is Michigan's worst performance on the boards this year, including the last game against the Spartans.
In the non-conference season Michigan posted a defensive rebounding percentage of 70 percent or more in nine of 13 games. In the 16 Big Ten games since? Just five games have seen Michigan's defensive rebounding rate above 70 percent. While Michigan has been better this year on the glass, the Big Ten season has seen a regression from a soild start to the season. In this one it didn't matter because Michigan made up ground in another area.
Michigan forced turnovers. Like, the best it has all season. Better than games against EMU, WMU, and Binghamton. Michigan's defense was on fire for most of the game, forcing turnovers at the right times and turning those turnovers into points.
Michigan was able to force turnovers on 29 percent of Michigan State's possessions (which also qualifies as the MSU offense's third worst performance in that category all year) while turning the ball over on just 11 percent of its own possessions. Michigan's offense has been great all year at holding onto the ball, currently leading the Big Ten in the stat. However, Michigan's has struggled to create those opportunities at times this season. Against Michigan State, the Wolverine defense got its hands on the ball which opened up transition opportunities -- yet another thing that had to go right for Michigan to win in spite of not making one three point shot all game. Things finished up with Michigan doubling MSU up on points off turnovers (18 to 9). No doubt the most important of those 18 points were the last two. Which leads us to...
Trey Burke. He is a statistical anomaly. Burke had an incredible game against Michigan State. He was 57 percent from two (8/14) while missing his three shots from outside and hitting five of six free throws. Those eight baskets were a series of ever more impressive drives to the basket and transition opportunities that kept Crisler on its feet despite a poorly timed spring break. Burke finished with 21 points for the game.
Past that, he was everywhere. He added eight assists, four rebounds, five steals, and a block whiile only turning the ball over twice. It was a magnificent game on paper, but even more magical to watch. Burke tauntingly slapped the floor to fire up the crowd and stick in the craw of Michigan State players that had started doing the same thing earlier. His defense was ferocious, holding Keith Appling to nine points on nine shots. And when the game was on the line and Michigan State had two consecutive opportunities in the last minute to take a lead with a basket, Burke came up with two steals and two points -- ultimately the difference in the game.
Consider this another in a long series of weekly warnings: TREY BURKE IS ONLY GOING TO BE PLAYING BASKETBALL IN A MICHIGAN UNIFORM FOR A SHORT WHILE LONGER. DON"T MISS A SECOND OF IT.