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Michigan Pounds Penn State 77-57 at Crisler

Michigan Dominates Glass, PSU Zone to Improve to 15-4 (3-1)

Following a Michigan baskteball game on Gametracker and listening to it on the radio  isn't easy. But that's what I had to do last night. I made the mistake of calling Comcast to fix a problem with my bill, so naturally my HDTV gets shut off along with anything above basic cable. So instead of Michigan Penn State I got to watch a once proud Minnesota program get smacked around by a very average Illinois team.  

Despite only being up by a point around the 11 minute mark of the first half and more than doubling Penn State's fouls, Michigan hung tough and took it straight at the Nittany Lions. Michigan took a 13 point lead into half time and half way thru the second half lead by as many as 24 points. The Wolverines clamped down defensively too, holding PSU to only 24 rebounds, swiping 7 balls, and forcing 14 turnovers. More importantly, Penn State was held under 40% shooting on the night including shooting only 25% (4-16) from past the arc. Defensively it was a step in the right direction as Michigan has hovered at or near the bottom of in conference 3-point defense all season.

Amaker mentioned in his postgame presser that the coaching staff spent the last few days pounding the offense with zone defense drills. Michigan was totally ineffective against Purdue's zone last Saturday. Wednesday night showed Amaker's efforts paid off. Michigan, instead of forcing bad shots, found the soft spots in the PSU zone and made the extra pass to find the open man. The extra passes did from time to time end up in the wrong hands (15 Turnovers [ick...]), but they more often than not turned into buckets (19 assists). Michigan didn't just sit up top dribbling either. The guards drove the lanes and found the kick out pass. They got fouled and went to the line. They did the things you have to do to beat a 2-3 zone, something Michigan has always had a problem with.  Further, after getting crushed on the boards by Purdue, Michigan's big Men played angry (expect Sims, who didn't play much). Udoh and Petway pulled down 11 boards between them and made life miserable for PSU's big men. Ron Colemand and Lester Abram kicked in an 10 boards. Overall Michigan out-rebounded PSU 35-24, and did so against two of the conference's top rebounders in Clazton and Cornley. All in all a solid night for the Wolerines as a team.

One of the surprising "stars" of the game was Ron Coleman. ("Stars" gets quotations because no one person carried the team yesterday, but certain efforts are definitely worthy of praise). Coleman has been an enigma all season. He'll bury an early game three or two, them totally disappear.  While he didn't show up after the break in terms of scoring Coleman was Michigan's early heavy hitter. Coleman scored all 13 of his points before the break including a trio of treys spread out over the period. While it's somewhat frustrating he couldn't carry his hot hand over the break, he still should get a pat on the back for playing and shooting as well as he did.

Another surprise was the competent play of Jerret Smith.  Smith totalled 9 points (all in the last 6 minutes of the game), five assists, and only 2 turnovers. Though his points came late, his minutes did not. Smith played more than half the game and managed to perform adequately. He only attempted a single shot in the first half, but dished 3 assists to 1 turnover. Not bad for Smith, but if he's going to play major minutes I'd still like to see him show a little more scoring rythm throughout the game. I will say that he responded well late when he committed a turnover that brought PSU to within 11. Smith regrouped and buried a three on his next touch. Whether this is what we'll see from Jerret the rest of the year is open to debate, but it was nice to see him play well.

On the whole, Michigan played well, as evidenced by their 48% FG shooting and 57% 3pt shooting. Ball movement turned into open shots and open shots turned into points.  Lester Abram and Dion Harris joined Coleman with 13 points a piece. Reed Baker continued his solid play chipping in 8 points and dishing 3 assists in 14 minutes. Udoh went for 7, grabbed 6 boards, dished twice, and picked a pocket in 21 minutes.

The glaring hole in the offense/team is the recent play of Courtney Sims. Sims went 1-6 from the floor/paint and turned the ball over 3 times. His poor play is beginning to be reflected in his minutes. Sims played only 17 minutes. Despite having only 3 fouls Sims sat in favor of Brent Petway and Epke Udoh's defense, despite Petway have 4 fouls and eventually fouling out. Michigan tried to get Sims going on numerous occasions, but the Senior center couldn't do anything with the ball. Until Sims figures out whatever is holding him back, Amaker's making the right call by keeping him on the bench.

Michigan is now 13-1 at home this season. While the win is nice, it should be taken with a grain of salt. Penn State doesn't have half the talent of this Michigan squad. Michigan's 9 man rotation was more than PSU's 3 man punch. While they played well against PSU's zone, now they have to face a Purdue zone that kicked them in the teeth a week ago. This time Michigan gets Purdue at home before traveling to Wisconsin, Indiana, and a week later Ohio State. The Purdue game is another "must win" for a Michigan team still clinging to its NCAA life.

Hopefully they can build off of last night.

You can read about the game at, Ann Arbor News, Detroit News, and Free Press. Nathan Fenno says 7 wins gets Michigan in the Tourney.