Sunday’s victory against Big Ten bottom-feeder Penn State wasn’t exactly filled with many positives for the Michigan men’s basketball team, but a bright spot might have been its ability to create contact and get to the charity stripe during the 79-71 victory.
Struggling to get to the free-throw line during the past few weeks, the seventh-ranked Wolverines took advantage of the foul-prone Nittany Lions to get to the charity stripe a season-high 35 times. Michigan had only been to the foul line eight times in its previous two games, with just two attempts against Wisconsin on Feb. 9.
"We need to do that (better),” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “That’s always been a point of emphasis. But at the same time, guys have to be comfortable with it, so we worked on it really hard.”
Entering the contest, Michigan was averaging 15 free throws a game and had attempted just 19 free throws in its previous three games, but it almost equaled that number in the first half alone on Sunday. Countering a poor shooting first half in which they shot just 36 percent from the field, the Wolverines converted on 12 of 16 shots from the charity stripe.
Michigan drew 25 fouls on Penn State and was in the bonus in both halves.
“We watched film on Michigan State and we shot entirely too many jump shots,” said sophomore guard Trey Burke. “Once we got Penn State in the bonus, we let that be known to everyone that we were in the bonus. We did a good job of getting fouled and we knocked down free throws.”
Burke missed only one of his season-high nine free-throw attempts, while freshman swingman Nik Stauskas (six) tied a career high and freshman forward Glenn Robinson III (11) set a career high in free throws. The trio combined for 23 of Michigan’s 27 makes at the foul line.
Getting to the free-throw line seemed to get both freshmen going on the offensive end. Stauskas’ 18 points were his highest-scoring output in nearly two months and Robinson’s 21 points tied a career high, which was set in the first week of the season.
“It helps the offense and it helps individual players too,” Burke said. “Glenn got to the line a lot and that kind of opened up his offensive game.”
RARE SIGHTING: It had been three months since Matt Vogrich had seen significant minutes for the Wolverines, so it was surprising when the senior guard checked into the game midway through the second half with Michigan holding a nine-point lead.
Vogrich scored two points in five minutes of action. Though he did knock down his only field goal of the night, it was waived off because of a Robinson offensive foul.
“I would have loved it if Glenn wouldn’t have (committed the) charge, and Matt Vogrich would’ve hit that three,” Beilein said.
It’s been a rough season for Vogrich, who started the first six games of the season for Michigan. Figured to give the Wolverines productive minutes entering the season, the senior has mostly spent time on the court during mop-up duty. He’s averaging a career-low 1.1 points in seven minutes per game — the least amount of game action he’s seen since his freshman year. He’s appeared in 18 of Michigan’s 26 games.
“He’s been working hard and he deserved an opportunity,” Beilein said. “He got the two foul shots. When you haven’t shot a foul shot in about three months in a game, it’s hard to go in and go 2-for-2, so I’m proud of Matt.”
TREY FOR TREY: For the third time this season, Burke was awarded the Big Ten Player of the Week award.
The sophomore might have been the only thing separating Michigan from a three-game losing streak this past week, as he poured in a season-best 29 points to go along with five assists, three rebounds and two steals against Penn State.
Burke opened the week with an 18-point, four-assist performance against Michigan State on Tuesday. Over the two games, he averaged 23.5 points, 4.5 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 2.5 steals. He shot nearly 60 percent from the field and connected on six of his nine attempts from beyond the arc.
On the year, Burke is averaging 18.6 points and 6.9 assists, while shooting 49 percent from the field. He is the only player in the Big Ten to score at least 15 points in every conference game.