Photo Credit: Jamie Owens
Going into this game it was Indiana’s defense that was universally accepted as substandard. When the smoke cleared it was Michigan that appeared to have very serious questions to answer about its defense. To put this game into perspective, the 1.31 points per possession that Michigan surrendered was the most its allowed in any game over the past two and a half seasons.
Indiana’s offense was able to get whatever shot it wanted and Michigan had no answer. Indiana scored 1.31 points per possession thanks to an effective field goal percentage of 74%. Indiana actually had fewer missed shots (14) than turnovers (16) in the game. When the Hoosiers did miss they were usually able to recover the miss, as they managed eight offensive rebounds for the game. Indiana was nearly flawless and deserves plenty of credit for its performance but Michigan deserves plenty of blame for a complete lack of defensive intensity and execution.
When you allow a team to shoot 79% on two point field goal attempts you aren’t playing good defense. Indiana scored on numerous shots and layups around the paint, some of which weren’t even contested. Michigan’s help side defense was late or nonexistent time and again. As the Hoosiers became more comfortable they slowly transitioned their offensive game to the perimeter. After missing all five three point attempts in the first half, Indiana buried 6 of 9 long range attempts in the second. Michigan was able to stay close because Indiana turned the ball over again and again.
Michigan’s offense was stifled in the first half but actually played very well in the second. Michigan has rarely been able to put together 40 minutes of consistent offensive play and tonight was no different. Making just five shots and scoring .60 points per possession in the first half, the Wolverines were lucky to be down just 30-15 at the break. Michigan’s offense was almost able to match Indiana in the second half for the most part, scoring 1.2 points per trip. On the day, both shooting (43% eFG) and offensive rebounding (20% OR%) were subpar. However, Michigan managed to value the basketball (9.4% TO Rate) which at least helped pull the game to ten points or so at times during the second half. Michigan was unable to get to the free throw line and attempted just 20 free throws (26% FTR) most of which came when the game was out of hand. The free throws were the killer because scoring at the charity stripe is the key for any team to beat Indiana.
Michigan played great defense in non-conference play, even against top 10 teams like Syracuse and Kansas, but the Wolverine defense has been shredded by Big Ten opponents. Shredded might be too nice, as that could imply at least some small form of resistance. Big Ten opponents are scoring well over 1.2 points per possession against Michigan, a mark that Michigan opponents never topped in non-conference play. Before this season, Michigan had only allowed two other Big Ten teams to top 1.2 points per possession under John Beilein. This was the fourth time it happened in just five Big Ten games.
With these defensive struggles, it might be time to panic for Michigan fans. The Wolverines are losing ground on a slippery slope and could see their record continue to plummet as the games don’t get much easier. Up next is a Tuesday game at Northwestern followed by games versus Minnesota and at Michigan State. Considering that Michigan will likely be an underdog in the next three games, a 1-7 Big Ten start is within the realm of possibility.
- Darius Morris: Morris posted solid final numbers: 22 points of 7 of 16 shooting, seven assists, three rebounds, and two turnovers. However, he played an awful first half and most of his production came when the game was out of hand. There are times when it feels like Morris is killing the team, but sometimes I’m not sure whether the onus falls on him or his teammates for their lack of getting open. He was visibly frustrated and rattled in the first half and he let it negatively effect his play.
- Tim Hardaway Jr.: This was probably the first game all season where I thought Hardaway needed to shoot more. The freshman was clearly feeling it and finished with 10 points on 3 of 6 (3-5 3pt) shooting in 23 minutes. Hardaway struggled with fouls in the first half and struggled to get anything going toward the basket but his three point shot was working.
- Jordan Morgan: Morgan had a solid day offensive with 10 points on 5 of 7 shooting and 5 rebounds. However, it’s the defensive end where Morgan looked lost. There were several instances where he was late providing help or never provided any help that resulted in easy Indiana layups. Morgan doesn’t really have the athleticism to change shots and it killed Michigan today.
- Zack Novak: It’s a bit surprising that Christian Watford might have exposed Novak’s lack of size at the four position better than anyone else all season. Watford abused Novak early and was able to get off whatever shot he wanted, finishing with a double double. To Michigan’s credit, Watford had just two second half points. Novak hit his first three but went cold after that, finishing with 10 points (2-6 fg), three rebounds, and an assist.
- Matt Vogrich: Because of his defensive weaknesses, which have improved some, Vogrich needs to be almost automatic (40%+) from three point range. Right now he’s not quite there and went 1 of 2 from deep today.
- Stu Douglass: Another awful shooting game, 1 of 7 (1-4 3pt) for three points in 28 minutes. Michigan needs Stu to get it together because they need scoring out of the two guard slot.
- Evan Smotrycz: Evan is lacking in foot speed and it’s forcing him to pick up cheap fouls. He had three in the first half and managed to pick up his second and third on the same possession. It’s that extra half speed that he’s lacking right now where he can’t take the ball all the way to the rim and he can’t stay in front of someone for that extra half step.
- Jon Horford: Horford needs to play more than two minutes but it’s becoming clear that Beilein seems to play Smotrycz at the five a little more. This almost has to be for offensive purposes but Michigan might need Horford on the defensive end in games like this.
- Colton Christian: Colton seemed to provide solid defense when forced into duty during the first half but he provides absolutely nothing on offense.
- Blake McLimans: Blake picked up a good chunk of minutes in the first half but didn’t do much to impress. I was a bit confounded by the fact that Michigan ran a play to get Blake a three pointer on its last possession of the first half. As expected, a miss.