Jan 2, 2014, 9:37 PM EDT
Minnesota had chance after chance after chance, but it just wasn’t their night.
Michigan was playing without Mitch McGary. Glenn Robinson III sat out the final 17 minutes after injuring his lower left leg. But the Gophers missed to many layups and open threes to capitalize, losing to Michigan 63-60 on a night where their starting back court of Andre Hollins, Austin Hollins and Dre Mathieu combined to shoot 7-for-29 from the floor and 1-for-13 from three.
I’m not sure if Minnesota has a chance to be an NCAA tournament team, but they certainly won’t be if they don’t win home games in league play.
What’s more interesting, however, was the play of Nik Stauskas. He was the best player on the floor for the Wolverines despite the fact that he shot just 3-for-7 from the floor. He finished with 12 points, seven assists and two steals while committing just two turnovers in a game where Michigan ran the majority of their offense through him down the stretch.
It’s not a secret that Stauskas is so much more than “just a shooter”. Anyone that tries to tell you otherwise simply isn’t paying attention. He’s a big-time athlete around the rim, he’s a better ball-handler than he gets credit for and he’s a high-level passer when he breaks down a defense.
My question is how long it takes for John Beilein to start taking better advantage of this. Stauskas isn’t Trey Burke, but neither is Derrick Walton or Spike Albrecht. Michigan’s best option offensively may be to run everything through Stauskas. If he’s making decisions the way he did in the final five minutes on Thursday night, Michigan is going to be fine.
It’s also worth noting that with Robinson and McGary out, Zak Irvin and Jon Horford played really well. Horford had 14 points and nine boards, and while he gave up his fair share of points and rebounds to Minnesota’s big men, the fact that Horford was able to hold his own is a promising sign. The same can be said about Irvin, who may be the streakiest shooter in the country. He’s good enough to shoot Michigan into any game — he hit five big threes against Minnesota — while also being enough of a gunner to shoot them out of any game.
If Robinson’s injury is serious, I’m not sure just how sustainable this kind of production from those two will be. Beilein offered this up to reporters after the game was that “he did something to that ankle.”
“We’ve got a lot of work to do to get [Glenn Robinson III] rehabbed and get him ready for Sunday.”
But the fact that they are capable of combining for 29 points is a good sign going forward.
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