The Legends Classic final went down to the wire as Michigan fell short to Villanova, 55-60. A late block from the Wildcats’ JayVaughn Pinkston and and four made free throws in the final 10 seconds helped hand the Wolverines their first loss of the season.
A game of runs began as a hard-fought, back-and-forth contest, which lasted for most of the first half. Villanova was able to use a late run to take a 27-20 lead into half time. Then the real runs began. The Wildcats, from the first half to the second half, ran with a 15-0 run and held Michigan scoreless for 10-plus game minutes. That was followed by a 27-8 run from the Wolverines, which saw them back into the game. Villanova countered with an 8-0 run to to tie it back up and set us up for a fantastic finish.
Chris LeVert his Michigan’s final two jumpers to help compete in a back-and-forth battle in the dwindling seconds of the game. Pinkston hit a two-point jumper with 13 second to play, and Villanova was able to maintain that lead.
It wasn’t a particularly great night for any player on either team. LeVert (16), Zak Irvin (11) and Derrick Walton Jr. (10) were all in double digits for the Wolverines, but the production was lacking from most everywhere else, especially the bench; Michigan only produced nine points from its subs against the Wildcats.
On the contrary, Villanova received points from all players except one. This Wildcats team does not have a superstar who is going to go out and put up 20 PPG, but that isn’t what they need. This team—well coached and seasoned—depends heavily on consistency, and that’s what it received tonight. For a time in the second half, it looked as though Michigan’s youth was going to prevail over Villanova’s experience, but the Wildcats were able to bounce back from that.
A major problem Michigan ran into was inbounding the ball. John Beilein is one of the best in the business when it comes to drawing up great inbound plays, but the first step—actually inbounding the ball—was something Michigan did not do very well against the Wildcats. Villanova does feature a strong, aggressive defense, but being able to get the ball to the right guy on the inbound could have meant the game in this case.
Michigan’s bigs still have room to grow this season. Max Biefeldt, Mark Donnal and Ricky Doyle all finished the game with four fouls. Beilein was very limited in what he could do in the rotation late in this game. Ideally, Doyle would have been out on the floor during crunch time, but Beilein wasn’t comfortable making the move. It will be interesting to see if he manages his post men differently moving forward.
Michigan team leaders…
Points: Caris LeVert, 16
Rebounds: Caris LeVert, 6
Assists: Derrick Walton Jr., 4
Villanova team leaders…
Points: Dylan Ennis, 15
Rebounds: JayVaughn Pinkston, 9
Assists: Ryan Arcidiacono, 3
Tyler Fenwick is the managing editor of TheBigHouseReport.com. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.