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Posted on Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 12:41 a.m.

Michigan forward Jordan Morgan turns in best game of the season vs. Western Illinois

By Nick Baumgardner


Jordan Morgan made his case for securing a spot in the starting lineup against Western Illinois, hitting all five of his shots and pulling down four rebounds.

Jeff Sainlar |

Michigan basketball coach John Beilein had a question to answer entering this season with regard to who was going to start at the five-spot.

After Thursday, he might not need to think on things any longer.

Sophomore forward Jordan Morgan turned in arguably the best performance by a Michigan big man this season during a 59-55 win over Western Illinois on Thursday, scoring 11 points on 5-for-5 shooting while grabbing four rebounds, collecting two steals and blocking a shot.

After starting every game a season ago, Morgan came off the bench during Michigan's exhibition game and season-opening win over Ferris State. He's since made two starts and appears to be firmly grasping his spot back.

But that's something he says he was never really worried about in the first place.

"Whether you're starting or coming off the bench, all that stuff kind of gets blown out of proportion," Morgan said. "That's not really that important."

After splitting time evenly with classmate Jon Horford during the exhibition and two regular season games, Morgan got the full share of starter's minutes Thursday.


Game story: Michigan continues offensive woes in 59-55 win

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Morgan played 29 minutes, while Horford did not make a field goal, nor grab a rebound, in just six minutes of action.

The 29 minutes weren't spent just running sprints, either, as Morgan's early second-half surge ultimately gave Michigan the breathing room it needed to seal the victory.

In a 25-second span, Morgan put home an easy bucket, blocked a dunk attempt at the opposite end of the floor and dropped in another layup. The sequence sparked his teammates, brought life to the crowd and seemed to officially solidify his spot in the starting lineup for the time being.

"That was a big step for him," Beilein said of Morgan's performance. "Over the last 10 days we've seen glimpses of what we saw last year (from him) at times.

"He's just got to keep working. If he got off to a good start (Thursday), we were going to give him a few more minutes. I thought he responded well."

Beilein said earlier in the week that he'll continue to try and find minutes for both Morgan and Horford, and again cautioned Thursday that both players still have a long way to go in their development moving forward.


Evan Smotrycz (23) went 1-for-8 from the floor on Thursday night.

Jeff Sainlar |

Smotrycz a non-factor

After averaging 13.5 points in Michigan's first two games of the season, Evan Smotrycz fell back to Earth a bit against Western Illinois.

The 6-foot-9 sophomore went 1-for-8 from the floor with three points, and didn't make a field goal until there was less than a minute to play.

Smotrycz missed all three 3-point field goals he attempted and grabbed just two rebounds in 21 minutes of action.

Free throw struggles continue

Michigan continued to leave points on the floor Thursday thanks to missed foul shots.

After a 14-for-22 performance against Western Illinois, the Wolverines are now shooting 58 percent as a team this season.

Beilein didn't seem overly worried about the charity stripe struggles, but did say it'll be an emphasis for improvement moving forward.

"I don't have any doubt that Tim Hardaway will clean some of that up, I have no doubt that Evan Smotrycz will (also)," Beilein said. "It's not the level we usually shoot. ... We'll be better than that."


Western Illinois guard Ceola Clark (22) impressed Michigan coach John Beilein.

Jeff Sainlar |

Props for Clark

Beilein heaped heavy praise on Western Illinois senior guard Ceola Clark III, who finished with a game-high 21 points.

Clark, a former Summit League Defensive Player of the Year, made his season debut against the Wolverines. He missed all but six games a year ago, and sat out WIU's season-opening loss at Dayton.

"He was an all-conference pick after sitting a year out," Beilein said. "Clark just controlled the pace of that game. We played hard, but we didn't make shots."

Odds and ends
In two starts, Michigan freshman point guard Trey Burke is averaging 13.5 points and 3.5 assists. "He's just learning Division I basketball," Beilein said. "He's playing against a 22-year-old and he can't go out there and just do anything, he has to think about what he's doing. But I like his progress. ... Michigan junior guard Matt Vogrich connected on his first 3-pointer of the season. He started the year 0-for-5. ... Through three contests, Michigan is allowing just 45 points per game.

Nick Baumgardner covers Michigan basketball for He can be reached at 734-623-2514, by email at and followed on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.



Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 12:30 p.m.

The offense needs to run thru Timmy Hardaway. Timmy was allowed to disappear in the first half because he was not the focal point of the offense. He is the best player on the team and needs to be the number one option.