The Michigan Basketball team snuck past a scrappy Stanford squad 65-68, in a showdown of big-name clubs at the Barclays Center’s Holiday Classic in Brooklyn. En route to his 680th career win, John Beilein was faced with a tall order of containing a dangerous Cardinal team, fresh off a monumental upset at UConn. On top of it all, frontcourt behemoth Mitch McGary was sidelined with an array of injuries, leaving the responsibility on Jordan Morgan, Jon Horford and Max Bielfeldt.
Saturday’s matchup was a tale of two halves; the first characterized by scoring struggles for both squads, the second featuring an offensive outburst. But the overwhelming theme throughout was one of stifling defense. Stanford sent a number of Michigan shots into the seats, and the Wolverines solidified on the interior in an effort to bolster their weakened troupe of big men.
1. Nik Stauskas– The Beast of the Great White North showed up in a big way yet again, leading the Wolverines in points with 19, including a monstrous two-handed slam in the first half. Stauskas struggled from behind the arc, shooting an uncharacteristic 2-of-7, but compensated for the atypical performance with an overpowering 9-for-9 free throw input, and four impactful assists. And of course, no Michigan basketball game would be complete without a seemingly dumbfounded announcer asserting, “He’s not just a shooter!” after an unexpected smooth dime or emphatic dunk.
2. Glenn Robinson III– Coming off a refreshingly strong performance against Arizona, GR3 poured in 17 points to the tune of 60% field goal percentage, and a team best seven rebounds. This impressive showing in two consecutive games for the Little Dog could indicate a new trend, as he has failed to live up to expectations this season. However, as Saturday marked GR3’s second consecutive outstanding performance, it also marked the second consecutive time in which Michigan had one full week of preparation, as the Wolverines took a full seven days to prepare for Houston-Baptist last Saturday.
3. Caris LeVert– Here’s what you’re probably thinking, “Wait, what? Caris scored 1 point on 0-of-7 shooting!” I know. But he also led the team in assists, steals and blocks, which in a three-point win, is invaluable. Caris LeVert is an unparalleled contributor to every Michigan win. Period.
Equally impactful was freshman Zak Irvin, who perhaps made up for the rough shooting night from Caris LeVert, pouring in 12 points, all of which came from 3-point territory. Arguably the most noteworthy statistic is the difference in 3-point performance; Stanford shooting 4-of-10, Michigan a somewhat different 8-of-27 (no, not a typo). The Wolverines struggled mightily at first from behind the arc, but seemed to pull it together as the game progressed, sinking into their usual habit of 3-point reliance. Next week the Wolverines will face Holy Cross in Ann Arbor after, yes, yet another full week of preparation.