Transition Assists Pace and Space Michigan Offense
Spike Albrecht

Dec. 7, 2013

By Jenny Herstein, U-M Public & Media Relations

A minute and two seconds were left on the clock as Saturday night's (Dec. 7) 107-53 win over Houston Baptist drew to a close. With the outcome certain, the freshman walk-ons had taken the court and were playing out the contest's final seconds. Brad Anlauf passed the ball to Andrew Dakich on the perimeter, and Dakich scored the Wolverine's 16th three-pointer of the night to tie a program record.

"I was pumped up," Dakich said. "I had my family here today -- my cousin, who I haven't seen in a while. So it was a really special feeling. It was awesome."

Michigan went 16-for-26 (61.5 percent) from behind the arc on the night, led by sophomore Nik Stauskas' six triples.

But Michigan didn't tie the school record for most three-pointers made in a game based on hot shooting alone. One of the keys to Michigan's efficient offensive night began before the Wolverines and the Huskies met on the court. After a disappointing 79-69 loss to Duke, in which Michigan shot just 8-for-26 in the first half, the team took it upon itself to learn from its mistakes.

"I think we all just had a mentality to focus in," said Dakich. "In film, we saw the mistakes we had. We were right in the game with Duke, so we needed to make a few adjustments, and everyone did. We all had a chip on our shoulder and came out, and it was a good first half. And the second half was just as good as well."

Added sophomore Mitch McGary, "We really made a valiant effort yesterday in practice -- just picked up the energy level."

For McGary, that effort to improve began not on the offensive end but on ball-screen defense. "Our bigs were a big difference today, hedging ball screens. I think that was one of the keys to our game."

"Good defense leads to great offense, and that's what happened today," Dakich added. "We always stress keeping teams under 60 points, and everyone was very detail oriented, and everyone was into it."

Houston Baptist scored on its first seven shot attempts. Yet despite the hot start, the Wolverines focused and held the Huskies to 30.7 percent shooting for the rest of the contest.

"(The defense) was outstanding after that, and obviously that propels our run game," head coach John Beilein said.

This defense allowed the Wolverines to get off in transition, where their offense excelled.

"Great ball movement against the zone, attacking the middle of the key was definitely big for us, and then transition," Sauskas said. "Any time we can get on transition we know we're going to have open threes in the corner."

Michigan not only shot the ball well in transition, it distributed an impressive 26 assists on 36 made field goals with just seven turnovers.

"Ball movement is something that has always been key for us, and we were playing against a zone for the majority of the game today," Stauskas said. "Anytime you play against a zone you're not going to really be able to go one on one, so there's going to be a lot of passes. And we did a really good job of that today."

Pushing the ball in transition was also important to Michigan's transition offense. Though a forward, McGary tied sophomore guard Spike Albrecht for a game-high six assists.

"Coach is beginning to get a little bit more trust in me, and when I get a rebound I'm able to push it on the break," McGary said. "He's encouraging that as long as I can take care of the ball and do what he calls making singles -- just making the extra pass and a simple play. And we did just that."

"I saw him in practice and I said, 'Mitch, I'm fine with that -- as long as you're going to take care of the ball," said Beilein. "You just have to make a bunch of good plays. You don't have to make great plays, just good plays."

"We've been trusting him on that a lot more in the full court, and he makes good decisions out there," added Stauskas. "He found me a couple times for three, he found me for a dunk. Any time you have a big man who can handle the ball and see the floor, it's just great."

With the ball moving well, the Wolverines had to space themselves against the zone in order to find open shots.

"Coach called it pace and space," McGary said. "We really talked about it the last couple of days -- just having a great pace with the ball and spacing the floor really well. Nik (Stuaskas) and Zak (Irvin) and Caris (LeVert) and Glenn (Robinson III), they were all able to get wide-open shots because we were spacing the floor very well."

The Wolverines' impressive shooting night, punctuated by Dakich's three, was thus the result of the hard work the team put into practice, allowing several elements -- offensive and defensive -- to come together.

However, Michigan's next match comes Saturday, Dec. 14, against No. 2 Arizona, likely to be named the number one team in the country next week.

"We did what we needed to do today, and we're going to improve on it," said McGary. "It wasn't a perfect game, but we're going to go dissect our film and see what we can improve on from that. It's all for Arizona next week."

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