Everything went wrong from the opening tip off for Michigan in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Classic Championship. The Wolverines had a horrific shooting performance, struggled on defense and were forced to play without Glenn Robinson III (back injury) and with a limited Nik Stauskas (ankle injury).
After starting out on the wrong foot, things never quite got better for Michigan. The Wolverines made some plays down the stretch but Charlotte always had the answer. Whether it was a defensive breakdown, blown box out or bricked three-pointer, Michigan could just never string together enough plays or stops to go home from Puerto Rico undefeated.
Seconds after a beautifully executed baseline out of bounds play led to a wide open layup for Mitch McGary, the 49ers drove the length of the floor for a layup attempt and followed it up for the game winning tip in off the glass. Charlotte was the tougher team and the team that made one more play down the stretch.
It was Michigan’s worst shooting performance since March 10th, 2012 in a 22 point loss at Ohio State. The Wolverines mustered just .86 points per possession and shot 37% on twos and 22% on threes. Although the dreadful three-point shooting made it seem as if Michigan’s offense was decidedly perimeter oriented, the Wolverines attempted just 37% of their shots from outside the arc, had a free throw rate of 39% and rebounded just short of a third of their misses. Michigan’s threes were pretty good shots, they just didn’t go in.
At 71 possessions, the game might have been a little too fast for the Wolverines. Michigan might need to take a step back and slow things down to find some offensive chemistry. Charlotte is a team that wants to play fast, it’s tough to say what Michigan is or isn’t at this point – and that’s part of the problem.
Michigan crumbled on the defensive glass in the second half. The Wolverines were dominant on the glass in the first half and horrendous in the second. Charlotte scored 11 of its 28 second half points on second chances, including the game winning basket.
There are reasons for the poor rebounding. The Wolverines were forced to play for long stretches with Zak Irvin as the primary four man, for one. However, one of the biggest pitfalls of the Wolverine defense was the inability to stop dribble penetration on the high ball screen. Charlotte consistently got into the middle of the paint and Michigan’s help defense would slide in too late. The help would take the big man away from the basket and leaving the backside wide open. Willie Clayton grabbed eight offensive rebounds in the second half and Michigan had no answer.
Michigan went to the two-big lineup quite a bit out of necessity – both because of Robinson’s injury and the fact that Charlotte dominated the offensive glass in the second half. The Wolverine defense was solid with two bigs but the offense suffered as a result. Players that played the four or five spots on the night were a combined 7-of-48. Irvin’s struggles were obvious, McGary played an inefficient offensive game, Morgan struggled and Robinson was hurt. Michigan is going to need production from the frontcourt and just didn’t get it today.
Overall, Michigan’s defensive performance wasn’t that bad. The Wolverines only gave up .89 points per possession and defended first-chance field goals pretty well. (Charlotte shot 38% on twos but 46% on a few timely threes. ) This game was lost because Michigan couldn’t score. And that hasn’t been a problem for Michigan for a long time. Is the offense doomed? Not at all. There are pieces there but they just aren’t on the same page quite yet.
There’s no sugar coating this loss for Michigan. Two November losses with Arizona, Duke and Stanford still on the schedule is dangerous. This is a young team that will get better, but these early losses still count. Michigan has a lot to fix and while there’s still time to make fixes, the clock is ticking.
- Nik Stauskas: Stauskas made a number of big plays in the early going but the ankle injury, and Charlotte’s defense, bothered him in the second half as he only scored four points. It’s clear that Michigan needs Stauskas to even run, he played 38 minutes on the night, and just ran out of gas down the stretch. Stauskas was clearly in a lot of pain on the court and judging by a picture of the sprain, it looked pretty rough. His health (and Robinson’s) will be something to monitor heading toward the Duke game.
- Mitch McGary: McGary had a rough night. He finished with 6 points (2-5 shooting), 9 rebounds (1 off.), three turnovers and four steals. He looked out of control offensively and really forced things a bit too much. For all the trust he gained offensively against Florida State, he probably gave some back tonight. Defensively, he’s struggling rotating to help on penetration and against ball screens. He continues to get caught in no man’s land where he steps up to help but doesn’t affect the shot, leaving his man open for the offensive rebound on the backside. Michigan’s defensive woes extend beyond that but it was a killer down to the last play.
- Caris LeVert: In hindsight, the two early fouls on LeVert might have been Michigan’s biggest problem. Should Caris have checked back in during the first half? Probably, especially with Robinson’s injury and Irvin’s struggles. LeVert is committing just 2 fouls per 40 minutes and hasn’t been much of a risk in that department. He had a great close to the game and scored 11 points and handed out an assist in 20 minutes in the second half. He missed some threes, but offensively he gave Michigan a lot of production other than a sloppy turnover on the first possession.
- Jordan Morgan: Morgan gave Michigan some huge plays but some of his demons are still haunting him. First with the good. He drew a charge, forced a jumpball on Albrecht’s missed free throw which gave Michigan a chance, and grabbed nine rebounds in 13 minutes. The bad side? He was 1-of-5 from the field and missed a number of chippies right around the basket.
- Glenn Robinson III: Robinson only played nine minutes until he was sidelined with a back injury after taking a hard foul on a fast break layup. He was 0-of-3 from the floor with a steal and missed some box outs early in the second half which led to his removal from game. Beilein said after the game that it was clear that he wasn’t 100% at that point. Not many details were given on Robinson’s injury other than that it was his back.
- Zak Irvin: There’s not a lot to say about Irvin’s poor shooting. He finished 3-of-14 (2-7 3pt) while playing a career high 26 minutes. Irvin blew some assignments on defense, blew some box outs and had a rough game overall. His late three had redemption potential but it was pretty clear he wasn’t ready to play 25+ minutes at this level – especially at the four spot. Beilein specifically praised Irvin for continuing to shoot after the loss and his ability to get his shot is as advertised but his confidence is in a rut.
- Derrick Walton: Walton played his worst game as a Wolverine. He attempted just one shot, turned the ball over three times and didn’t have a single assist. Walton also struggled defensively as he got caught in Charlotte screens quite a bit.
- Spike Albrecht: Michigan needed Albrecht on the court because Walton was struggling to run the offense. He finished with 6 points on 2-of-7 shooting, four assists and two turnovers. He wasn’t the answer defensively either as Charlotte’s guards out-quicked and out-powered him quite a few times.
- Jon Horford: Horford attempted two jumpers from the short corner and missed both. He played 13 minutes and finished with 2 points, an assist and two blocks. Horford is probably Michigan’s best shot blocker and could be part of an answer to defending the rim better.