Michigan scratched and clawed its way to an eight point half time lead in West Lafayette on Saturday afternoon and looked like it had a chance to escape Mackey Arena with a critical road win. Buoyed by three critical Spike Albrecht threes before halftime, the Wolverines played one of their better halves over the last month.
But in the second half, the offensive nightmares of mid-December returned as Michigan sputtered its way to a dreadful 18 points in 33 second half possessions.
The Wolverines made their first shot of the second half and then missed their next 13 attempts from the floor. By the time Caris LeVert finally found the bottom of the net with 6:37 to play the Boilermakers had turned an eight point halftime deficit into a six point lead they would never relinquish.
It was the sort of drought that was unheard of by Michigan over the past two seasons, but has suddenly become common place in 2014-15. The Wolverines just aren’t consistent on the offensive side of the ball and after featuring the nation’s best offense for two consecutive years, find themselves ranked 144th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency.
The full game four factors graph doesn’t quite tell the whole story as this game shifted so dramatically in the second half. Splitting the performance into both halves shows just how quickly everything fell apart for Beilein’s team. The 56 to 23 percent eFG% drop was the most damning, as was Purdue’s domination of the glass and free throw line in the final 20 minutes.
Michigan’s offensive struggles all boil down to its inability to make two-point shots. The Wolverines shot 36% on twos in the first half and just 16% on twos in the second – that’s 26% two-point shooting for the game. Purdue has a good interior defense, but it’s almost impossible to score points consistently when you can’t make a layup, score only two fast break points and are outscored 32-6 in the paint.
In the first half, the Wolverines hit enough threes to stay afloat, but those triples dried up in the second, as did Michigan’s offense to the tune of just .55 points per trip.
Purdue played great defense – Raphael Davis was in Caris LeVert’s face all game – but Michigan’s biggest opponent right now is itself. The Wolverines simply just can’t make shots – or even layups – and it’s clear that the recent struggles have rattled their confidence across the board and on both sides of the floor.
Defensively, Michigan played pretty well in the first half and held Purdue to just .83 points per trip. But the dam finally broke open in the second half as the Boilers scored 1.19 points per trip. Purdue overwhelmed Michigan on the glass in the second half (rebounding 42% of its misses) and grabbed 38% of its misses on the game. Purdue also 55% on twos for the game and AJ Hammons finally wore down Michigan’s interior (15 points on 6-11 shooting) defense, but he had to work for what he got. Together Haas and Hammons had six made field goals and seven turnovers. The Boilermakers only made 3-of-13 three-point attempts, but Kendall Stephens’ two second half threes were both critical.
Despite the horrific second half, Michigan was still in a position to have a chance at winning this game. With 6:37 to play, LeVert made a jumper to cut Purdue’s lead to just 4 points. It was really execution and hustle that cost the Wolverines down the stretch as they just couldn’t string together multiple positive possessions and weren’t sure where to look for leadership in crunch time.
It hurts to waste a solid first half on the road like Michigan did, but it seems the Wolverines are only really capable of playing solid basketball for 15 or 20 minutes at a time. Next up is another road test against a 12-2 Penn State team led by one of the Big Ten’s best guards in DJ Newbill.
- Spike Albrecht: Albrecht was the only positive in the backcourt (Michigan’s starting guards and wings were 6-of-29) and his performance came out of nowhere as he had made just 1 of his last 12 triples entering Saturday’s game. Michigan needs that scoring punch from Albrecht, even if he’s a bit of a liability defensively. He spent most of time chasing Stephens around on the perimeter defensively and he did well overall.
- Max Bielfeldt: Max wasn’t afraid to battle down low and did a great job of using his lower body to put pressure on Purdue’s much bigger players. His physicality against Isaac Haas really set the tone in the first half (and drew a technical on Matt Painter) and he knocked down two triples as a bonus.
- Ricky Doyle: Doyle showed that he can knock down the 15-foot jumper (making both of his attempts) and he’s clearly ahead of Mark Donnal at this point. However the free throws (0-2) are still frustrating and it was clear that he wore down at times against AJ Hammons on the low block. LeVert found him twice on the pick-and-roll, but Purdue did a good job of eliminating that action that really opened up the game against Illinois.
- Caris LeVert: Michigan needs Caris LeVert to carry it and while the 6-foot-7 junior has shown that ability in spurts, he also hasn’t been able to find any consistency. Michigan needs more than 8 points on 2-of-8 shooting from LeVert if it’s going to win games this season, especially on the road.
- Derrick Walton: Walton is struggling to finish at the hole and is clearly bother by his turf toe injury. Unlike the last game, he was still able to knock in a few shots early including a corner three and a nice mid-range jumper, but usefulness deteriorated as the game wore on and it’s clear he’s not 100%. Shutting him down to rest doesn’t really seem like a great option considering the Wolverines don’t have much depth at the point.
- Zak Irvin: Irvin’s jumper has been erratic (1-of-4 3pt), but his 1-of-8 shooting inside the arc is what killed Michigan today. He missed at least three layups and looked out of control on a number of his shot attempts. He’s not ready to be an isolation player that can lead Michigan, but he needs to start taking shots that are within his comfort zone and regain his confidence to finish around the rim.
- Aubrey Dawkins: Dawkins played 18 minutes, but didn’t make a big impact. He had a great three-point look on a stagger screen from the top of the key which rimmed out and he forced a pull-up jumpshot on the next possession after the miss.
- Kameron Chatman: Chatman really struggled to stay in front of anyone defensively and was whistled for four fouls in 7 minutes of playing time, which essentially prevented him from making an impact.
- Mark Donnal: Donnal missed both of his jump shot attempts and both of his free throws. He only played five minutes and was pushed around quite a bit by AJ Hammons and Isaac Haas on the low block.