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Sunday, January 1, 2012
High ball screen gives Gophers fits

By Chantel Jennings

The scouting reports are out: If teams want to stick with the No. 16 Michigan basketball team, they need to take away the outside shots and contain players such as sophomores Tim Hardaway Jr. and Evan Smotrycz.

And Minnesota did just that, but it still wasn’t enough as the Wolverines scratched out a 61-56 win.

But for the first half, the Gophers held the Wolverines to one of their worst shooting performances of the season -- 23 points on 28-percent shooting. Only once has Michigan shot worse in the first half, and that was in the season opener against Ferris State a month and a half ago.

"We should’ve probably been up 10 at half," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "And perhaps had an easier time of winning the game than we did. But credit Minnesota for all of that."

Minnesota played a tight man-to-man defense that basically took Smotrycz (two points) and Hardaway Jr. (seven points) out of Michigan’s offensive game.

Because of that, the Wolverines had to rely on freshman point guard Trey Burke making plays off the high ball screen, which, he did.

"We’re running it much more than we’ve ever run it," Beilein said. "It has a lot to do with having one primary point guard that really can handle the ball so well."

The Gophers tried to defend the ball screen by stepping out to guard Burke without completely switching players, but Minnesota junior forward Rodney Williams said he though the Gophers should’ve hedged harder because of how effective Burke was.

The freshman finished with 27 points, three assists and one steal. Burke capitalized on fewer bodies in the paint because of players not helping off Smotrycz and Hardaway. It created openings down low for passes and plays while also helping him take some midrange jump shots.

"We really wanted to get out on their 3s," Williams said. "But we couldn’t stop Burke from the pick and roll. … That was all him getting to the rack and the free throw line."

But it was Hardaway Jr., who went 2-for-14 from the floor and 0-for-4 from range, who hit the biggest shot, which was also off the high ball-screen. With 36 seconds remaining and coming out of a timeout, Minnesota moved into a zone defense.

Redshirt sophomore Jordan Morgan came up and screened Hardaway Jr.’s defender. The sophomore sunk a midrange jumper from the left wing to give Michigan a three-point lead. It was just his second field goal .

"Every game, everyone is not going to have their best game," Burke said. "As long as we do our jobs, we can be a good team."