Long Beach State watched the film.
Through three games, Dug McDaniel has been the orchestrator of the Michigan men’s basketball team. That has made McDaniel jump off the tape.
But in the Wolverines’ loss to the Beach on Friday, it was clear that the secret’s out. Long Beach State was prepared to curtail Michigan’s starting point guard. And in doing so, the Beach slowed the Wolverines’ offense alongside McDaniel.
Michigan never came to a halt on the offensive end. But after seeing McDaniel drop 26 points with a performance that left St. John’s Rick Pitino in awe earlier this week, fully neutralizing McDaniel was never in the cards for Long Beach State.
With a dominant offensive performance, the Beach didn’t need to be a roadblock, just speed bumps. Exposing McDaniel’s weaknesses and forcing the offense to adjust was all that it needed to do.
And Long Beach State tried to do so early, as it moved into a zone defense just a few minutes into the game.
“I feel like the zone kind of caught us off guard a little bit,” McDaniel said postgame. “Because we went over it, but we didn’t really learn how to break it down and stuff. So I feel like the zone made people (scramble), exposed their games a little bit.”
The zone defense was an unfamiliar game plan against the Wolverines, and one tailored to counteract what has made Michigan so potent thus far. The Wolverines have thrived up tempo, driving the ball in transition and dishing out to their shooters when necessary. At the core of that has been McDaniel. So in turn the Beach appropriately put its focus, and extra defenders, on him.
“They really put a second guy to him in that zone,” associate head coach Phil Martelli said. “I mean, they really paid attention to him in the zone.”
By no means did that make McDaniel a non-factor — he still had 14 points all the while his team led. But it kept the game within reach.
And while the second half saw mixed use of the zone defense, Long Beach State began to not only regulate the Wolverines’ strengths, but expose the flaws in their tendencies. As Michigan continued to push the tempo, the Beach refused to give up clean lanes.
Utilizing his speed to go coast-to-coast or watching defenders leave his teammates wide was the magnum opus of McDaniel’s drubbing of St. John’s. Long Beach State expected this and was unwilling to let those gaps appear in its own defense.
“If you’re going down the floor and you’re seeing 10 eyes on you, it’s really hard, really hard to score because you don’t have a crack,” Martelli said. “We didn’t have many cracks.”
And as the finish neared, those cracks never appeared and Long State Beach only grew more adept at intercepting passing lanes and poking the ball free. And the effort showed itself when needed most, the Beach forced four turnovers in the final four minutes of play.
In relegating Michigan to its lowest scoring period of the season with 36 points, Long Beach State forced 10 turnovers in total in the second half. And of course, that started and ended with hindering McDaniel, who accounted for five of the 10.
Because as far as the Wolverines’ offense goes, it starts and ends with McDaniel. That was the scouting report. And Long Beach State knew it.