Michigan went into today's game with a chance to clinch a share of the Big Ten title thanks to a Michigan State home loss earlier in the day to Illinois, and this year Michigan snatched that opportunity.
The start looked to be the same slow, fall-down-in-a-quick-hole that Michigan has succumb to the last few outings, but this time Michigan kept clawing back, not allowing the Gopher lead to grow past six. That is when the shots started falling and Michigan swung the game from the beginnings of an early hole into a big halftime lead. Michigan ran off 22 points over the last ten minutes of the first half and limited Minnesota to just five in that stretch.
The Gophers chipped into that lead in the second half, but every run was answered by Michigan, which pushed out a few more points in front until a series of quick fouls allowed Michigan to push the game near double digits. Michigan cruised after that.
The announcers at one point referred to Nik Stauskas's 21 points as "quiet", and that is pretty close. While it was Michigan's role players that had some of the big moments down the stretch — with Spike Albrecht and Jordan Morgan in particular being heavily involved in big momentum plays — Stauskas just went out and poured in five of his eight three point attempts.
Michigan once again used a variety of players to create shots with Caris LeVert leading the team with five assists, followed closely by Stauskas's four. Surprisingly, it is Glenn Robinson III that put up three (Albrecht had two). Once again, Michigan got Good Glenn for the majority of the game. I think the coaches seriously need to institute a rule in which Glenn Robinson III is only allowed below the free throw line on offense. He is a monster on the baseline and this allows Michigan's penetrators to set him up with lanes to the basket.
Michigan once again got an important contribution from Jordan Morgan, who was a monster inside on both ends of the floor, and Spike Albrecht, who helped Michigan move the ball and found himself repeatedly in the right place to make the right pass. With Minnesota pulling just two points away at 54-52, Morgan outfought three Gophers for a rebound that turned into a jump ball that went to Michigan. The inbounds led to a missed jumper, a Spike Albrecht rebound and assist to Morgan. A few plays later these two would shoot back to back free throws after drawing fouls on Minnesota.
Michigan's offense fell into slumps on occasion when it failed to work the ball inside and attack the paint, but the Wolverines hit enough of their outside shots to keep the margin in their favor. Overall it was a controlled, fairly consistent effort against a good team. Michigan's conference title season roles on, this time it is assured of at least a banner.
If Michigan keeps playing like this, they'll soon lock up the only 2014 Big Ten banner for themselves.