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March 6, 2013Michigan coach John Beilein and his offensive system have gained quite a reputation over the years, both for creativity and a reliance on three-pointers.
But anyone who believes the clich?hat Beilein's squads "live and die by the three" will have to go back and review the tape from the Wolverines' 58-57 win over Michigan State last weekend.
Michigan beat its instate rival - a win which, coincidentally, has helped keep the team's Big Ten title hopes alive, thanks to Indiana's loss to Ohio State Tuesday night - despite an 0-of-12 mark from behind the arc.
In fact, the Wolverines hit just three jumpshots all game, instead relying on fast-break opportunities, penetration and post play for offensive production.
Michigan outscored the Spartans 44-26 in the paint, which is a surprising statistic, especially considering Michigan State's 19 offensive rebounds.
"We have been trying to do a great job of getting in the paint and finding ways to score," junior guard Tim Hardaway, Jr. said. "Not settling for shots, but trying to find open things for ourselves and our teammates. Those outside shots will fall if you penetrate the defense and find wide-open guys for step-up threes. Getting in the paint creates a whole lot for our team."
The Wolverines shot 53.2 percent on two-point attempts, working the ball inside against the physical Michigan State defense.
That was the plan all along.
"If you would have told me before the game that we wouldn't make a three and we'd win, I don't know if I would have believed you, but we are trying to have a mindset of being aggressive all game long," redshirt junior forward Jordan Morgan said. "We have had games where we settled, and we let teams kind of take us out of our rhythm, pushing us away from the basket on drives and things like that. We had a mentality of being more physical, especially with the ball and trying to get to the rim or into the paint."
Morgan believes the Wolverines' physicality was helped by Michigan coach John Beilein's decision to go big against the Spartans.
Morgan and freshman center Mitch McGary were on the floor together for long stretches.
"I think we are able to command more of a presence defensively, when it comes to cleaning up rebounds," Morgan said. "Offensively, getting people open. I think it helps us attack the paint a little more. We have two big screeners out there, two people going after the offensive glass. I think we were able to get some putbacks and extra offensive possessions when we had two bigs out there. That's where the two-big lineup was really beneficial."
Although the Wolverines were pleased with their physicality last game, the Spartans' production on the offensive glass was concerning.
"Some of that was gameplanning, kind of the way we were guarding them gave them a little leverage on the glass," he said. "But I think we did a better job of establishing a presene on the defensive glass. It wasn't perfect, but it was better than before. And their offensive rebounds were negated by our defensive activity - we had 11 steals. Being active defensively takes back those extra possessions that they would have gotten from their offensive rebounds."
Of course, that was not possible in previous weeks, with Morgan nursing a nasty ankle injury.
Although he has lost a bit of the bounce in his step, Morgan says he feels much better.
"I'm just about as healthy as I can be," he said. "I'm above 90 percent. It's not painful or anything anymore, but some of the things I could do, explosively, I'm not back there yet."
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