With Tim Hardaway Jr. buying in, the Michigan basketball team's less-is-more-approach leads to a win
LINCOLN, Neb. — Tim Hardaway Jr. sat alone on the bench after halftime Wednesday.
With his teammates hoisting warmup shots after one of their more abysmal halves of the season, the Michigan basketball sophomore standout did nothing but watch.
Hardaway had already gone 0-for-7, and the team was 8-for-25. He didn't need to shoot anymore. The time had come for a change.
And enough, was finally enough.
"After that Michigan State game I felt really bad about myself," said Hardaway, who finished 1-for-10 from the floor in a loss to the Spartans on Sunday. "I didn't want to hurt my teammates (more). This is Zack (Novak), Stu (Douglass) and Corey Person's last season.
"I want to just give it all I've got, and make a concerted effort to just do the little things."
After shooting 32 percent during the game's first 20 minutes Wednesday, and 5-for-17 from 3-point range, the Wolverines scrapped the complexities and got down to business.
Following back-to-back buckets from Douglass and Jordan Morgan, Hardaway got Michigan an extra possession by drawing a charge under the basket.
The Wolverines cashed in on the extra possession when freshman point guard Trey Burke worked the ball inside for Morgan again before Hardaway snapped out of his scoreless funk with a driving layup to cap an 8-0 Michigan charge to put the Wolverines up 13 early in the second.
Michigan never looked back.
"We started the game out with three 3's and got a little trigger happy," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "But then we spread the floor out a bit and tried to get into the lane first (in the second half), and I think Tim set the tone with a layup early and then he only took one 3(-pointer) in the second half.
"We've got to be very diverse in our game, take what people give us and be more of an attacking (offense) as far as getting the ball inside."
Often criticized for his penchant to take the easy, rushed 3-pointer, Hardaway seemed comfortable putting the ball on the floor in the second half.
He took just four shots, but made all three of his inside layups. Additionally, he created seven more points off the dribble by handing out three assists during a 15-2 second-half run that allowed Michigan to put the game away.
With a renewed focus of taking the easy shots inside first, Michigan hit 10 of its first 11 two-point attempts in the second half Wednesday.
The choice to go inside-out also helped the long-range game as well, as the Wolverines went 6-for-7 from behind the arc after the break -- finishing the game 24-for-46 overall.
In six road losses this season, Michigan is shooting just 40.9 percent. And, during the Wolverines past two road games (at Ohio State and at Michigan State), Michigan was a combined 37.6 percent from the floor.
On Wednesday, though, things finally seemed to click.
"(Sometimes) you think you have to run some elaborate stuff (because) people have scouted you," Douglass said. "But we got back to our basic stuff, set screens, ran, took quality shots in the second half.
"We just played basketball."
As for Hardaway, Wednesday still wasn't anywhere near the effort he'd like.
He finished with six points on 3-of-11 shooting, and is shooting 31.9 percent on the road this season.
But, the team won. On Wednesday, there weren't any head-hanging moments, no questions of on-court chemistry and no bouts of teeth-grinding frustration.
"We've told Tim there's other ways he can help us without the 3-point shot," Beilein said. "He took the ball to the basket, he found Stu for a wide-open shot and he took a charge.
"I asked him, 'If I had him out on the court with a broken arm, you'd still help us, wouldn't you?' He found other ways to help us."
The Wolverines are far from a finished product offensively, but the second half Wednesday seemed to be a step in the right direction.
And, additionally, the team's best scorer is anything but perfect at this point, but he insists he's doing all he can.
Hardaway sat alone on the bench after halftime Wednesday, but he was surrounded by teammates in a happy locker room afterward.
And, come win, lose or shooting slump the rest of the way, the Wolverines apparently intend to keep it that way.
"We're just trying to get our guy going," Novak said. "We've all got a ton of faith in him and the longer this little slump goes, we just know that at the end of the year, he's going to make up for it."
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