A Look Back: Five Low Points of the 2011-12 Season

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Photo: Dustin Johnston

In a season in which Michigan captured its first Big Ten title since 1986, the Wolverines certainly had many incredible, memorable moments. But like every other team, Michigan had its fair share of forgettable moments as well. In the first of two posts reflecting on the highs and lows of this season, we begin with a look back at the low points of the 2011-12 season.

imageJon Horford sidelined for the year with a foot injury

In Michigan’s first game of the season, a 59-33 victory against Ferris State, sophomore Jon Horford was the Wolverines’ starting center. Horford would eventually lose his starting role to fellow big man Jordan Morgan, but expectations for Horford remained high. In an effort to become more of a force in the middle, Horford gained 30 pounds of muscle over the summer and John Beilein was very enthusiastic when discussing his sophomore big man in the offseason. Horford was ready for a break-out season. Instead, he spent more time in the training room than on the court. Horford suffered a stress-fracture in his foot in early December, and after weeks of uncertainty as to whether or not he would return to play later in the season, it was decided in February that a medical redshirt was in the cards. Horford played nine games and averaged just three points and four rebounds per game but it’s tough not to wonder what could have been if Michigan’s frontcourt had another healthy option down low.

Iowa 75, Michigan 59 – Recap

Michigan’s season ended on a bitter sweet note but there’s no doubt that the Wolverines 16 point loss in Iowa City was the worst performance of the season. Michigan was dismantled by an inferior team during a stretch where it was important that it put its best foot forward before the schedule became more difficult down the stretch. As the Wolverines left the court with their heads down, it was impossible to imagine them celebrating two months later as Big Ten Champions. At this point Michigan still hadn’t won a road game and there were a lot more Michigan questions than there were answers.

Michigan lays an egg on Senior Night against Purdue – Recap

Before the game, everything was staged for the perfect send off. Crisler Arena buzzed as fans flooded in to watch a pivotal game that appeared to have significant Big Ten title implications for Michigan. As fans took their seats, seniors Zack Novak, Stu Douglass, Corey Person and Ben Cronin (who served as a student assistant after his career was ended due to injury) were honored. Each player gave flowers to his parents, the fans cheered, everybody was happy. These seniors had gone to work every day for four years to make this program better. This was their night. That is, until Purdue stole it away. The Boilermakers were in desperate need of a quality win to pad their NCAA Tournament resume, and they played like it. After trailing by as many as 11, Michigan took a 42-40 lead off a layup from Jordan Morgan with just over 12 minutes to play. This was supposed to be when the Wolverines hit the gas and won this one for the seniors. Instead, Purdue went on a 20-5 run late and cruised to a 75-61 victory. Not exactly what the seniors or any Michigan fan had in mind.

Wolverines dismantled by Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament – Recap

After squeaking by Minnesota in the second round of the Big Ten tournament, 73-69 in overtime, Michigan was set to take on Ohio State in the semifinals. This is the same team the Wolverines had beaten 56-51 just three weeks prior. Still, few expected Michigan to win this game. Michigan certainly didn’t play well the game before against the Golden Gophers, and the Buckeyes seemed to be hitting their stride and were playing some of their best basketball of the year. But to get blown out? Not many expected that either. The Wolverines could get nothing done offensively and on the other end of the floor, Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas scored however they wanted. The Buckeyes coasted to a 22 point victory and although most shrugged this one off as just a speed bump, in hindsight the result was an ominous sign of things to come in the NCAA tournament.

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Ohio 65, Michigan 60

Michigan, a four seed, versus Ohio, a 13 seed who snuck into the NCAA Tournament by winning the MAC tournament? This seemed like a no-brainer. The Wolverines were fresh off their first Big Ten Championship since 1986 and, despite a lopsided loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals, seemed primed to make a run in the NCAA Tournament. Most figured that seniors Zack Novak and Stu Douglass simply wouldn’t let this team bow out in the round of 64 — their leadership shone through on a nightly basis this season and both were willing to do whatever they could to help earn Michigan a win. Late in the game against the Bobcats, Novak had one last chance to keep his career and Michigan’s season alive. With 1:09 to play and Michigan down three, Trey Burke found Novak open for three in the right corner. Even though he had struggled offensively all night, that didn’t matter — Novak had made several big shots late in games all season and surely on this stage, with so much on the line, this one was going in. But things don’t always play out the way they seem like they’re supposed to. Instead, Novak’s 3-pointer clanged off the rim harmlessly and into the hands of a Bobcat. The Wolverines were 0-for-5 from the field in the final 4:12 of the game and just couldn’t get it done down the stretch. It was a disappointing way to end the season to say to least. Still, Novak, Douglass and fellow senior Corey Person will not soon be forgotten for what they’ve done for this program.

  • Flwolve

    Anthony Fields, PG from Detroit, is transferring from Wake Forest.  Will UM talk to him?

    • http://www.umhoops.com/ Dylan Burkhardt

      Fields is an OK player, but I’m unsure how a transfer PG fits what Michigan needs. With Walton coming in next year, wouldn’t it make more sense to add someone in 12 than 13?

      • Cyoun002

        Dylan have you heard or seen the point guard out of Austin Texas Paul Baxter he would be a great fit. He was an all state selection in Texas .

      • Flwolve

         I was just thinking that if we are thinking about bringing in another PG in 2013 like Monte Morris, then a transfer might be even better because they would be more ready to go in 2013 as opposed to starting a true freshman.  A true freshman PG is kind of like a box of chocolates, you never know if you’re going to get a Darius Morris or a Trey Burke.

        Ideally, we would land a PG in the 2012 class but right now that looks bleak.  We need to hope some coaches get fired with PG recruits who might consider us.

        • http://www.umhoops.com/ Dylan Burkhardt

          Didn’t watch Fields this year but from the few times I saw him in AAU, Monte Morris is a significantly better prospect. Just my two cents. 

  • DMitchell

    Hey Dylan,  Quick question.  What about the PG Trayvon Baker from Detroit Consortium who verballed to Northern Illinois.  If he has grades, he could be a decent option.

  • gobluemd16

    An extra low point (probably the biggest for me besides the NCAA tourney game) is the transfer of Smotrycz, Brundidge, and Christian with the possibility of Burke leaving as well.

  • longhorn_wolverine

    Definitely a terrible way to end the season, when 3 of the low points for the season occurred in the final handful of games for the team.  Not sure what the explanation was: 1) team ran out of steam 2) team became overconfident/complacent 3) team chemistry broke down in the end 4) other reasons.  Just not sure what happened.