Ray Floriani on Michigan/UCLA

_Soaking up the action in New York last night was Ray Floriani, a writer for several sites focused on college hoops. _

By Ray Floriani, Basketball Times, Hoopville, College Chalk Talk

NEW YORK CITY – Maize and blue or amazing blue? Michigan is in the finals of Coaches vs. Cancer thanks to their thrilling 55-52 victory over UCLA at Madison Square Garden.

Coaches tell us the first four minutes of each half are crucial. I decided to chart possessions during that time frame and here are the results:

Team

Possessions

Points

Efficiency

First Half

UCLA

6

9

150

Michigan

5

1

20

Second Half

UCLA

4

4

100

Michigan

5

10

200

Michigan trailed 9-1 after the first four minutes of the game. Many thought a rout was on. The Wolverines regrouped and slowly, pace-wise and figuratively, got back and kept it a two possession contest.

At the half John Beilein’s club trailed 29-23. Those first four minutes following intermission saw the score tied at 33. That slow beginning by Michigan was forgotten as everyone at MSG, especially UCLA, knew we had a game on our hands.

At halftime it was a 30 possession contest. UCLA led efficiency wise 97-77 but did struggle against the Wolverine 1-3-1 as a 37% turnover rate attested. Michigan took care of the ball (2 TO for a 7% rate). For the game Michigan had 57.9 possessions and a 95 efficiency while UCLA was at 61.2 possessions and 85 efficiency. The second half was huge for the Wolverines as they had a 117-74 efficiency margin over those final twenty minutes.

Final observations from press row…

Michigan assistant Jerry Dunn scouted Southern Illinois-Duke, and I had a chance to speak with him during timeouts. Dunn said the main attribute of Manny Harris is he’s a natural scorer. Some players can shoot but Manny has the knack to score. “He has a scorer’s instinct,” per Dunn.

Harris was defended well and ‘held’ to 15 points on 5 of 13 shooting. Liked the fact that he didn’t force things. He stayed within the offense and let the game come to him.

Stu Douglass finished with 10 points and provided that spark that opened the second half. Impressed with the play of DeShawn Sims. The game’s leading scorer with 18 points, Sims ran the floor well (during the few times Michigan pushed the ball) hit the perimeter shot and mixed it up in the paint.

Always fascinated with Beilein’s offense. Dunn said it’s called the ‘two guard offense’. “It took a good year to install,” Dunn said. “It takes time to learn but this year we have some better players and that helps in picking it up.”

Michigan was concerned with Bruin guard Darren Collison. The Wolverine defense did a decent job on Collison. He finished with 13 points but had 4 turnovers. Though the 1-3-1 showed flexibility to get out on the perimeter shooters and rotate and cut off lane penetration.

Finals tip off is 7:30 tonight.