The Michigan basketball team struggled mightily with Eastern Michigan’s 2-3 zone in a 45-42 loss Tuesday, the Wolverines’ second in a row. Check out how it happened in Five Key Plays.
1) Wolverines begin second half on mini-run
After a putrid first half shooting (28.9 eFG%) resulted in just a two-point halftime lead, Michigan seemed to have worked out its kinks at the break when Caris LeVert led the Wolverines on a quick 8-0 run.
The spurt began with LeVert getting penetration past Karrington Ward for a tough layup — one of few times any Michigan player beat his man one-on-one.
The Wolverines relied heavily on three-point shooting over the Eagles’ zone and went just 4-of-21 on the night, but two of the makes came in quick succession. First, LeVert had separation to drill a catch-and-shoot look thanks to Derrick Walton’s pump-fake to the baseline. And then LeVert got dribble penetration to the free throw line, collapsing the zone, and the junior found Zak Irvin for a trey of his own.
2) Eagles take the lead with quick 7-0 run
In a game of few points, even small scoring outbursts were significant. Eastern Michigan had one of its own in a two-minute span midway through the second half.
It began with a nice move by Mike Talley to get to the free throw line and then dishing to Jodan Price at the top of the key. Talley’s penetration set a natural pick that prevented Irvin from properly contesting Price’s three-point shot.
Then the Eagles fed Anali Okoloji for two quick buckets. The first came when Mark Donnal left the 6-foot-8 forward to try and take a charge; there was no call, and Ray Lee dished to Okoloji for a layup. Following a turnover, Talley pushed the pace, breezing by LeVert and Walton and making a nice pass to the big man for another easy finish.
3) Mix-up defensively leads to EMU’s final bucket
Down by one with two minutes to play, the Wolverines could’ve used a big defensive stop. Instead, a defensive lapse stretched Eastern Michigan’s lead to three — and it was the game’s final points.
LeVert was guarding Price near the right corner, and the Eagles guard made a cut by the baseline to the other side of the court. But LeVert got caught in a screen set by Brandon Nazione before switching to cover Karrington Ward.
Meanwhile, Walton read the switch late, following Ward toward the right side of the court as Price moved unguarded to the left. By the time Walton realized the miscommunication, it was too late. Talley found Price, and he knocked down a long two-pointer that gave Eastern Michigan the lead it needed.
Michigan played a strong defensive game overall, but these are the sort of communication errors that end up losing games and are frustrating to see from two of Michigan’s veterans.
4) Albrecht misses late, commits costly turnover
Against Syracuse, Spike Albrecht hit all the clutch shots. That wasn’t the case Tuesday. He was off target on a long three that would’ve tied the game with 1:30 to play. And after Eastern Michigan committed a turnover, Albrecht gave the ball right back.
Part of Albrecht’s success against the Orange came through his ability to collapse the zone. With 45 seconds to play against the Eagles, the guard did make it inside the three-point line, but Ward didn’t leave his mark on Walton in the corner. Double-teamed, Albrecht got caught in the air and fired an off-balance jump pass into Walton’s vicinity, but it went harmlessly out of bounds.
Albrecht has been a terrific asset for Michigan this season, but he just wasn’t himself on Tuesday night.
5) Sloppy final sequence dooms Michigan
It seemed as if Michigan had gotten the break it needed when LeVert knocked the ball off of Talley and out of bounds on an Eagles inbounds play. But on the ensuing possession, LeVert’s (open) stepback three didn’t fall.
It seemed as if Michigan had gotten the break it needed when Brandon Nazione missed the front end of a one-and-one. But Walton took his eyes off a pass from Irvin and bobbled the ball, which rolled into the backcourt as precious seconds ticked off the clock. Had he caught the ball cleanly, Walton might have found LeVert open for a corner for a three or along the baseline to cut the deficit.
Instead, the Wolverines had 2.4 seconds to score from an inbounds play near midcourt, and Irvin’s desperation heave clattered off the mark.
Michigan’s offensive execution was simply not good enough to win down the stretch, but it wasn’t like it didn’t have chances.