The storylines leading up to Sunday’s matchup were fascinating. On one side there was a young team with a great crowd. The visitors, a championship contender in a trap game with conference play looming. Once again, the Jayhawks prevail down the stretch.
Despite being in control early and often, Kansas could never put the Wolverines away. Kansas led by double figures for an eight minute and twenty-nine second span during the first half. During that span, the red and blue played stifling defense, but failed to string together enough baskets to pull away.
The resiliency of coach Beilein’s squad was on display as his Wolverines finished each half with poise, closing a 15 point deficit to seven at the end of the first half. Michigan’s 1-3-1 defense held the Jahawks scoreless through the last four minutes of the half.
“We attacked it miserably,” coach Self said. “We attacked it miserably last year too, and we meant to do some different things, and we kind of reverted back and didn’t attack. Of course, it doesn’t help when you don’t make shots, but that’s about as bad as you can play against a zone, I think.”
Despite their struggles offensively, the Jayhawks brought their A-game on the defensive end. Michigan posted the lowest single half score of their season with 18 points in the first period. The Michigan offense also managed only 33.3% shooting from the field while struggling from downtown with a 4-28 effort. To compound their struggles, they failed to really attack the KU defense while shooting only 17 free throws compared to the Jayhawks 31.
Despite the struggles at the end of regulation, the Jayhawks handled business as usual. Marcus Morris showed a national audience why he earned his place on the midseason Wooden award list. Morris posted a game-high 22 points while adding ten rebounds. Markieff Morris did his part with a double-double of his own, 13 points and 11 rebounds. Josh Selby struggled finding his shot with a 1-10 effort, and finished with only five points.
Michigan was led by their backcourt duo of Tim Hardaway Jr. and Darius Morris. Hardaway Jr. shined as he filled up the stat line. The 6’5” freshman scored 19 points while grabbing seven rebounds, an assist, two steals and two blocks. Morris continued his impressive play as he dropped 16 points while dishing out seven assists. Of course, no shot was bigger than the game tying bucket Morris added in the final minute of regulation.
This young Michigan team rose to great heights in a marquee game today. However, don’t expect them to accept the moral victory.
“We can’t let people pat us on the back about this,” Hardaway Jr. said. “We have to keep a chip on our shoulder.”
Travis Releford played limited minutes as he left the game late in the first half with a sprained left ankle. He did not return.
The Jayhawks will take their suffocating defense to the Hilton Coliseum Wednesday as they take on the Cyclones at 8:00 p.m.
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Written by Shaun Albin