Wednesday night, Michigan had their first big test of the season. They defeated a tough Pittsburgh team at Madison Square Garden, 67-62, to advance to the NIT Season Tipoff title game against Kansas State on Friday.
Michigan did not play particularly well for much of the game. This was in large part due to the performance of All-American guard Trey Burke. Although he scored 17 points, he was inefficient on offense. He shot just 5-16 from the field, and 0-4 from three point distance.
Even worse than his bad shooting, was Burke’s bad poitn guar play. He dribbled too much, often breaking up any rhythm the offense was trying to get. In the second half, when Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glenn Robinson III were heating up, Burke beat the ball into the floor for much of the shot clock. He tried to force things that were not there, ending possessions in bad shots. Robinson and Hardaway are the types of players that excel with the ball consistently int heir hands. By, not distributing the ball well Burke failed as a point guard. Instead he looked like an out of control scoring guard playing the point guard position. Burke made some other mistakes on defense, including ill-advised fouls late in the game.
A big key to this win for Michigan was the dominant rebounding. Michigan won the rebounding battle 32-19 over Pitt. Michigan’s rebounding was very well balanced, with everyone who played, minus Jon Horford, getting multiple boards. The two big men, Mitch McGary and Jordan Morgan, were extremely active downlow, causing havoc for Pitt. Michigan, under John Beilein, has not been a good rebounding team in general. The fact that they have two big men who they can interchange int he lineup without losing anything is huge. McGary played with such energy that it led to some bad playes. But, at the nedof the night, he was a big piece in Michigan winning.
There were a lot of good things that Michigan showed in beating Pitt. There were also some concerning signs, particularly Burke’s erratic play. The Wolverines take on a familar foe on Friday in Bruce Weber, and his Kansas State team, in the championship game.