NEW YORK — Call it the one-man show
versus the team game.

Dan Rosen

That’s what the Michigan vs. Oregon NIT semifinal came
down to at Madison Square Garden last night: Luke Jackson against
the Wolverines. And in a match-up like that, I’ll take the
balanced attack anytime.

Sure, Jackson was the game’s leading scorer, with 17
points on 7-of-11 shooting. But Michigan made him the only Oregon
weapon thanks to some of the best pressure defense it has played
all year. When the Ducks couldn’t get the ball into the hands
of their star player, they looked like a flock without direction
— standing around, hoping someone else would step up and
guide the pack.

And with the way the Wolverines were draped all over Jackson for
most of the night, that seemed to happen a lot.

“Guys have been doing stuff to me all year long; taking me
out, rotating three or four different guys on me,” Jackson
said after the game. “That’s something that I’m
used to.”

I counted five different Wolverines that took a turn camping out
in Jackson’s back pocket. They put everyone from 6-foot-4
Dion Harris to 6-foot-11 Chris Hunter on the Oregon star to keep
his game out of sync.

As much as the Naismith Player of the Year Award finalist says
that he’s used to that type of swarming defense, the Ducks
certainly looked flustered without their star dominating the
game.

Most importantly, Michigan kept Jackson from creating offense
for his teammates. By night’s end, the Wolverines had forced
him to commit six turnovers; many on errant passes to other Ducks.
Jackson had just two assists, less than half of his team-leading
season average of 4.6.

As a result, just one other Oregon player scored in double
figures — Ian Crosswhite, who had 12.

At halftime, just four Ducks had managed to make the
scorer’s sheet, and Jackson had 13 of the team’s 32
points.

“It’s one of the first times this year that we
played hard (on defense) the whole 40 minutes,” forward Brent
Petway said.

On its own offensive end, Michigan was the opposite of the
Ducks. Four players scored in double figures for the Wolverines,
and two others had nine points. The Wolverines baffled Oregon with
their accuracy from the perimeter (47 percent from 3-point land),
and then burned them on the inside when the Ducks swarmed out on
Michigan’s guards.

“Their big men surprised me, with some of the moves that
they did,” Oregon guard Aaron Brooks said. “And with
Horton, Harris, and Abram off the bench, they have a nice core of
guards.”

It doesn’t hurt when you shoot 53 percent from the field.
But a lot of that is a result of how well Michigan moved the ball
to get open looks. Last night, the Wolverines were passing as
crisply and effectively on offense as they have all year —
dishing out 18 assists on 29 made field goals.

Tomorrow’s championship game poses a similar type of
challenge for the Wolverines on defense, since they’re up
against another one-man attack. Rutgers lives and dies by guard
Quincy Douby, who torched Iowa State for 35 points in his
team’s overtime win last night.

If Michigan plays the same type of team game on both ends of the
floor, though, that type of individual output may not make a
difference.

Just ask Luke Jackson.

Dan Rosen can be reached at
“mailto:danielsr@umich.edu”>danielsr@umich.edu.

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