Game 17: Michigan at Ohio State Recap

Dylan Burkhardt

After winning three of its first four Big Ten games, Tuesday’s trip to Columbus was supposed to be an opportunity for Michigan to prove how much it has improved since December. Instead, it was a harsh reminder of just how far the Wolverines have to go.

Michigan came out firing and took a 14-13 lead eight minutes into the game, then — as has happened to varying degrees in almost every game this season – the wheels fell off. The Wolverines turned the ball over eight times in the first half and after making five of their first seven shots, only connected on five of their final 20 attempts in the first half.

This wasn’t about a raucous crowd or a great atmosphere – Michigan players discussed the eerie silence of Value City Arena, not the intimidating crowd – it was about a team that didn’t have the discipline, talent or cohesiveness to challenge the Buckeyes on their home floor.

Ohio State is no slouch, and will be a contender in the Big ten, but this was yet another dreadful offensive performance by a Michigan team that’s starting to make a habit of dreadful offensive performances.


Michigan’s offense managed just .83 points per trip, gave the ball away on a fifth of its possessions and didn’t shoot a free throw until there were four minutes to play in the second half.

John Beilein discussed how Michigan coaches and players would look for small victories to take from Tuesday’s blowout loss, but overall there was very little positive to take from this offensive performance. The Wolverines fired around lazy passes and were unable to generate anything at the rim (42%) on twos, while only making six of the 26 threes they fired up.

Defensively, Michigan was ran out of the gym. The Buckeyes finished with a scoring output of 1.13 points per trip — Michigan’s third worst defensive performance of the season — but it easily could have been much worse. The most disappointing element of Michigan’s defensive effort was its inability to stop Ohio State’s transition offense. I wrote in the preview that the Buckeyes pushed the ball harder than anyone in the league, and Michigan learned that the hard way.

Ohio State outscored Michigan 19-2 in transition and many of them were painfully easy whether it was a big man running the floor past the entire Wolverine defense or no one picking up wide open shooters and drivers. Late in the game Michigan gave up some easy offense due excessive trapping to try to get back into the game, but the early easy baskets were the most damning because they were no surprise — everyone knew what was coming.

The Buckeyes also dominated the offensive glass in the first half, rebounding 44% of their misses in the first 20 minutes and outscoring Michigan 10-2 in second chance opportunities. Six different Buckeyes grabbed at least one offensive rebound in the first half as the Wolverines simply couldn’t box out or win 50-50 balls.

Despite the rough first half, the most disappointing stretch was the first seven and a half minutes of the second half. Michigan was awful in the first half, but had a chance to respond with anything positive immediately out of the halftime break. Instead, the Wolverines missed 11 straight shots and turned the ball over three times as Ohio State stretched its lead to 28 points.

John Beilein’s only option was to yank his leading scorers, Caris LeVert and Zak Irvin, to send a message. The message was finally received as Michigan went on an 8-0 run, but the embarrassment was complete. The biggest question after tonight is where is this team’s leadership and backbone. Beilein has discussed the importance of ‘energy givers’ on a roster — players that provide positive energy during tough times or after bad plays — and right it’s tough to find any on this roster. No one stepped up when the team “lacked energy” in the first half, and no one stepped up to start the second half.

This is a major punch in the gut for a Michigan team trying to build momentum, but so was an 18 point second half at Purdue. The Wolverines need to bounce back and have winnable games against Northwestern and Rutgers next on the schedule.

Player Bullets

  • Derrick Walton: Beilein blamed Walton’s second foul for throwing Michigan’s offense and defense off in the first half, but Walton also struggled from the floor and finished 1 of 7 from the floor. All of Michigan’s guards struggled to find the roll man in the ball screen game before Ohio State’s big men could recover.
  • Caris LeVert: LeVert finished with a team high 14 points, but he was 4 of 10 from the floor and had just one assist to three turnovers. LeVert is always going to be able to get his, but he struggled to deal with Sam Thompson’s on-ball defense overall. The Buckeyes generally forced LeVert where they wanted to in the ball screen game and like Walton, he was unable to pass out of the pick-and-roll without turning it over.
  • Spike Albrecht: Albrecht had 0 assists to 1 turnover, one of the first marking the first time he hadn’t record an assist since Michigan’s loss to Kentucky last March. This is a tough matchup for Albrecht given Ohio State’s perimeter quickness, but the Wolverines need him to produce.
  • Zak Irvin: Irvin scored eight points on three shots in the first six minutes of the game, but the other 24 minutes that he was on the floor were incredibly disappointing. From there on out he was 1 of 7 from the floor and with four turnovers. Irvin’s passing was painful to watch (4 turnovers) and the rest of his game slipped quickly once the shots stopped falling.
  • Ricky Doyle: Doyle had a tough time keeping up with Ohio State in transition and finally had a subpar game finishing around the basket (1 of 4 from the floor). Beilein praised Amir Williams’ ability to protect the rim (3 blocks) and he definitely seemed to impact Doyle in that regard.
  • Mark Donnal: Donnal showed a few flashes today, but also had plenty of mistakes. It was nice to see him rebound in the second half with a couple of nice finishes. He continues to shoot the long jumper, but he’s not having much luck with it.
  • Kameron Chatman: Chatman was 0 of 4 from the floor, but did grab three rebounds and hand out two assists in 14 minutes. He’s now playing about the same number of minutes as Aubrey Dawkins and Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman and frankly hasn’t done much to prove that he deserves more.
  • Aubrey Dawkins: Dawkins shot looked very flat (and long) today, but he did come up with a putback in the first half and knocked down a nice midrange jumper in the second. Defensively, he seemed to get lost a few times in the zone boxing out which led to a couple of Ohio State’s second chances.
  • Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman: Abdur-Rahkman was 1 of 6 from the floor (1-5 3pt) and was only credited with one turnover, but he was really thrown into a tough spot in the first half. He’s not ready to face the sort of pressure that Ohio State can apply to a guard – to put it into perspective, Trey Burke was barely ready to face that pressure as a freshman – and he struggled with Walton on the bench with two fouls.
  • MLaw

    Tough game to be sure. This team always faced an uphill battle going to Columbus today. Sometimes a 20 point loss is more valuable than a 5 point loss because it still counts as just 1 L and it sends a message that this isn’t going to cut it on the road in the big ten.

    Lots of work to be done, but I’m still positive about this staff and even these players. They have the potential to make this work, but they will just need to buckle up and push the rest of the season.

    • Chris De Sana

      I agree sometimes a blow out loss sets a tone for the future of how much work needs to be done. I also think that there are times that you have to take a chance, and I have said it before and will again why not try the 2 big line up when getting crushed on the boards? OSU played man to man for the most part maybe playing a 2 big line up also creates mis-matches on the offensive side of the ball by taking Loving down on the block after pulling Williams away from the rim.
      In the end the biggest disappointment is the inconsistent play of Irvin; as I mentioned in the preview he is the key to this team’s success or failures.

  • Wayman Britt

    Coaches aren’t going to find much of anything positive out of this game. Even the new guys who are getting additional playing time aren’t taking advantage of the situation.

  • Chezaroo

    “There’s no reason for me to rebound, hustle, play hard, put forth effort, buckle down on D, or make crisp passes. My shot isn’t falling.”

    • Chris De Sana

      As I mentioned in the preview Irvin is the key to success or failure for this team, even more so with 2 small guards starting because he has to guard the 4 spot and shoot over or pass around the 4 on the other side of the court.

  • Skinzkid

    The way things are going Levert isn’t helping himself for the draft, hopefully he’ll be back next season.

  • Chris De Sana

    It just drives me nuts to watch this teams struggle on the boards, I would love to see how we compare against our competition in regards to 2nd chance points.

  • A2MIKE

    If memory serves me, Ohio State has 3 seniors starting (Scott, Thompson and Williams) with another two coming off the bench (Lee and McDonald), whereas we have no seniors, 2 juniors, 2 sophmores and a bunch of freshman. It is going to be tough this year. The goal should be to make the tournament and nothing else. If we make the tournament this will be one of Beilein’s best coaching jobs in his tenure at Michigan. Beilein knew what he had last year when he took Dawkins and MAAR late. He knew that this year was going to be tough but that it would provide an opportunity for all of the freshman to get experience and be ready next year and going forward to be contributors as role players (think Douglass and Novak). We didn’t really take off as a program until their (Douglass and Novak) senior year because for the first 3 years we were asking them to do too much. If we can land an impact player or 2 for next year and Robinson turns out to be the dead eye everyone thinks he can be, next year will be a good year and the following years could be great. Stay the course.

    • Mattski

      I don’t think we make the tourney. Beilein’s challenge will be to keep things positive despite the losing. That’s going to be the challenge for fans, too, because while maligning 18 and 19-year-olds is what fans do, it helps nothing, and Caris and Zak and Derrick are the same kids we saw all kinds of potential and inspired play from the last few years, but without the cohesion and dynamism and cushion that a tidy pile of future NBA players provided. Got to beat N’western and play Rutgers tough.

      • robpollard

        Fair points, but doesn’t mean the sophomores/juniors are above criticism, or we can’t lament our ‘5-star’ freshman has basically done nothing. Doesn’t mean they are bad people, but these are young men at a big-time program: reasonable scrutiny (i.e., not just saying “They’re great!” or “They suck!”) is part of the deal.

        Irvin has been a huge disappointment this year. Walton has been injured, but it’s still disappointing how he’s played. We heard a lot about Donnal being a practice superstar this year and he’s unfortunately not made a positive impact. And Chatman….wooo, boy.

        I hope they play better, as they still (unbelievably, with how limited we are on offense and at rebounding) have a chance to make the tourney b/c of how down the B1G is. But that chance is slim. I’m looking for improvement at this point, more than anything.

        • Chezaroo

          The absolute pedestrian offensive development of this team so far is what disappoints me. Often times we’re reduced to launching a contested three at the end of the shot clock out of pure desperation. No inside out action at all. I don’t dislike Zak, but he is all about the first open look he sees, nothing else. Our “scheme” is predicated on hitting jump shots, and we’re not very good at it. Until we can get some more flow to the offense we are extremely easy to defend, and will only have offensive success when we’re on. It’s so frustrating to watch continued passing around the perimeter with no real good shot attempt as the end result. This team doesn’t have the individual talent to create against solid defensive teams, and unfortunately the roster returns intact for 15-16, minus Caris. Ouch.

        • Mattski

          Agree. The kind of criticism that I find most annoying assumes that a player “sucks,” is “lazy,” etc. As if these guys weren’t players in development and very much dependent on the people around them to shine, find a place, etc. Irvin has arguably been developing parts of his game while misplacing his shot. Doesn’t mean he won’t find it. If you remember the amount of garbage that Tim Hardaway took. . . And while some freshmen excel, let’s face it, most don’t. I might be tempted to think that Donnal will not ever excel underneath–and everybody has their ceiling–but beyond that I don’t write any of these guys off.

          • Mattski

            I see Chezaroo’s comment as the more worrisome one: does the team really look better long-term? I’m sure they play at a higher level next year, but without some new talent we may look very middle-of-the-pack.

          • Chris De Sana

            I am also disappointed in Donnal’s performance to date but not willing to write him off as I still think he has tremendous upside but probably not at the 5 spot. He is far better suited for being the high ball screen guy for pick and pop action but that is not really in our offense at this point. If it ever were and he could knock it down regularly it sure would free up cutter and or Doyle down below.

          • High ball screen action is 75% of what the five man does in this offense… If Donnal hit those shots, it would help open up space for everyone. But right now he’s not hitting them.

          • Chris De Sana

            We agree….. It would help if he hit them, but it sure seems like the offense calls for the 5 to roll to the basket not pick and pop. Most of the shots he has taken have not been from straight away where 90% of the screens take place, would he make more form there who knows.

            The bigger question is if not him who? Because Kam sure has not shown he can do it. I look at the form similarly to our previous conversations. The ball looks better coming off of Donnal’s hand than Kam’s, same as Dawkins compared to Kam.

          • At this point most people switch one through four (otherwise Michigan would be dialing up pick and pop for Zak constantly) and I just don’t really see what matchup advantage Donnal would have over any four man.

            He’s not quicker than a stereotypical big four, he couldn’t guard a guard on the perimeter.

            FWIW, here’s Mark’s shot chart this year… The shots on the left side are when he pops off of off ball action while the ones closer to the top of the key are generally pick and pop shots.

          • Wayman Britt

            100% agree with you, if Donnal only did what he was suppose to do, make the 3, it would open things up. Teams are begging him to shoot the three by laying 3 feet off of him and clogging the lane.

    • Chris De Sana

      Different time and place in the programs history; if I saw kids playing with the same heart and determination as Douglass and Novak did I would feel differently but I don’t. This current batch of kids as far more talent than those ever had and yet they are showing less. I have said it before and will say again…… Michigan is a premier school with back to back superb seasons, reloading should not be so tough.