Captains say Michigan was in ‘coast mode’ against Ohio State

Alejandro Zúñiga

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Given the circumstances, Value City Arena was understandably subdued for the Ohio State’s game against Michigan on Tuesday.

The Buckeye football team had just earned a national championship late the previous night, after all. As a result, swaths of empty seats and halfhearted cheers replaced what is usually a raucous environment for the rivalry matchup.

The circumstances certainly seemed beneficial to the young Wolverines, which would have less adversity to handle as they searched for a statement Big Ten road win. But, following a 71-52 loss, captains Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht claimed the opposite.

Michigan “didn’t come out with the necessary energy to win that game,” according to LeVert.

“We said, ‘We don’t want to dig ourselves a hole on the road,’ ” Albrecht said. “It’s a whole different animal than playing at home. Unfortunately, that’s what we did tonight, and we couldn’t climb ourselves out.”

That deficit didn’t come until midway in the first half, though, as the Wolverines had a 14-13 lead eight minutes into the game behind eight points from Zak Irvin, and buckets from Albrecht and Kameron Chatman.

But then the Buckeyes went on a 26-10 run to close the first half, giving them a 15-point lead at the break.

That early lead may have been also detrimental, according to Albrecht.

“From the very beginning, it was a little different than what I expected,” the guard said. “Usually Ohio State, with the big rivalry, they jump out into us, climb into us, all the rah rah. But they didn’t do that.

“We were kinda coasting along with them for the first four minutes, and I felt like we stayed in that coast mode for the rest of the first half, and they picked up, and we just didn’t match it.”

Michigan coach John Beilein admitted a lack of energy contributed to the disheartening loss, but he pointed to other factors as well. For instance, Derrick Walton committed his second foul of the first half at the 10:04 mark, so the guard sat the ensuing six-and-a-half minutes. In that time, the Wolverines committed three turnovers and scored just six points.

The Wolverines coughed the ball up 13 times total and allowed Ohio State to rebound 44% of its misses in the first half.

“I think you have to add to [the lack of energy] the fact that Derrick Walton wasn’t out there,” Beilein said. “That was a big part of it, because all of a sudden, you have a couple freshman in there trying to figure things out, and they’re a very good defensive team. They turned us over in full court, they got offensive rebounds.

“You can blame it on energy, you can blame it on whatever. They’ve got really talented players. We have to be in the right spots and have the right things.”

And halftime didn’t do much to change the course of the game. Ohio State coach Thad Matta said he reminded his players how Michigan had trailed by double-digits in wins against Minnesota and Illinois, and his Buckeyes proceeded to hold the Wolverines scoreless for the first 6:32 after the break.

When Max Bielfeldt finally got his team on the board with a putback, Michigan was being doubled, 52-26.

But by then, Value City Arena was plenty loud, as the 15,548 in attendance cheered Ohio State to its resounding victory.

“I’m definitely surprised, and even disappointed,” Albrecht said. “It was just, as Coach B said, a weird, weird atmosphere out there. Guys like Caris and myself, we’re the veterans. If we see that and we feel like the energy level is low on this team, we have to step up and say something.

“We didn’t do that tonight.”

  • mike

    First, love that you have Disqus….Ill be coming back.

    Second, this team does just seem off. No true leader, Walton can be that man, but the inconsistent play coupled with the untimely injury has prevented him from really stepping up on the court. Irvin’s shot really hasn’t progressed the way most thought given last season small sample size. Seems like he hit many more “clutch” three’s last year than this.

    All in all though most of these guys are just coming into their own. This will happen when you lose 2/5 and then 4/5 (plus horford) starters the past two years. I call it growing pains, and expected it this year. As Doyle and Donnal progress in the offseason as ill this team. Good news is I really cant see anyone leaving for the NBA, and next season will feature 3 starting upperclassmen and #6,7 off the bench in Albrecht and the addition of Robinson.

    We’ll See

  • AADave

    This team just doesn’t have nearly as much talent or experience as recent teams. They lost their entire front court except for an undersized bench player in Bielfeldt. They’re replacing these losses with two players with potential but without any experience or elite talent. They also lost an elite athletic NBA caliber wing in GR3 and replaced him with a talented but raw freshman who is having trouble adjusting to the college game. And most importantly, they lost a lottery pick shooting guard without any real replacement.

    And their starting point guard has been gimpy.

    So unless Beilein has more magic, this team is just not tournament caliber. It’s hard to win when you are destroyed inside game after game.

    And next year is likely to be the same unless Doyle and Donnal make great strides and/or they pick up Jaylen Brown or a surprise late addition. We need an uptick in recruiting to get back to an elite level.

    • Indiana_Matt

      Recruiting more talent would be great. But I think it will make a big difference when these kids we have now simply mature. We are just so young.

      • AADave

        Good point. But I think it’s a combination of inexperience and lesser talent. I do think these players will be much better with time under Beilein but it’s unlikely we will reach another Final Four without an improvement in recruiting. That being said, i still anticipate some fine basketball under Beilein even without elite talent.

  • TimgColo

    Dylan, understand why you may not want to count the Penn St game as a ‘road win’ we were searching for our first ‘real’ road win. Deflating game, but feel the team is going to improve. It will not be in time to develop impressive resume to combat the bad losses unfortunately. Future is there, just have to keep getting better each day.

    • bobohle

      I was just going to mention Penn State win also. At this point we need all we can muster.

    • Good catch — I should have caught that editing it. Sorry about that guys.

  • bobohle

    I hope Caris was including himself as not having energy. Those inbounds giveaways ugh! They seemed to lose the momentum when the first subs came in and couldn’t handle the press. I still think Doyle sits too long when he comes out the first time.