Game 4: Michigan vs. Connecticut Recap

Dylan Burkhardt

Michigan said all of the right things since its loss to Xavier and even jumped out to an early lead on Wednesday night against UConn. The Wolverines were hustling, grabbing four offensive rebounds in the first five minutes of play, but they weren’t shooting.

That was enough to grow a modest lead, but not much more. The hustle plays eventually wore out, but the shots never started falling.

After a Derrick Walton three gave Michigan a 12-5 lead with 14:30 to play, the Wolverines made just 2 of their next 19 shots and found themselves down 41-24 with under 18 minutes to play in the second half.

Caris LeVert played another terrific game, finishing with 21 points on 7 of 12 (2 of 4 3-point) shooting, but he sat on the bench for the final eight minutes of the first half after picking up his second foul — he finished with two fouls in 27 minutes.  When he was on or off the floor, LeVert didn’t have much help. Michigan’s designated shooters — Zak Irvin, Duncan Robinson and Aubrey Dawkins — were a combined 5 of 28 from the floor.

uconn factors

Michigan’s .92 points per trip of offensive production were boosted by a late comeback effort. For the first three-quarters of the game, that number was hovering closer to .8 points per possession.  Michigan doesn’t have a team constructed to win games under a point per possession and is just 3-17 when it fails to reach that mark over the last three seasons. That’s an unenviable distinction that the Wolverines recorded twice as many times last season as the two previous years.

This offense isn’t working. The confidence wasn’t there as shooters seemed to pass up good shots and force bad shots. Duncan Robinson was pump faking and dribbling into charges instead of shooting when he was open and Zak Irvin’s jumper continued to be missing in action as he returns from his back injury. The list goes on.

The Wolverines continued to fire up long jumpers and couldn’t create any offense near the basket against UConn’s length. There are no easy baskets and there’s only one player on the team who can consistently create for himself or anyone else.

shooting splits

UConn hit threes, but most importantly it got to the rim. The Huskies were 17 of 28 at the basket compared to Michigan’s 8 of 16. The Wolverines were just 10 of 27 on two-point attempts for the night and attempted over half of their field goals from three-point range.

Daniel Hamilton and Sam Cassell Jr. were the difference makers for UConn. Hamilton flirted with a triple double, hitting a number of clutch shots in the first and second half, while Cassell buried three triples on four attempts. There was no real secret to the Huskies’ success offensively, they simply got better shots and made more of them.

UConn is a good team, the second team in a row that Michigan has played that looks good enough to compete for its conference title, but people expected this Wolverine team to be a good team also. Good teams have to figure out a way to beat other good teams sooner than later.

Michigan is facing a crisis of confidence with the offense sputtering, the defense lacking and its record sitting at 2-2. The Wolverines won’t have any time to shake it off as they’ll be back on the floor against Charlotte on Thursday night at 9:30 p.m. (AXSTV). On paper, the 49ers look like the perfect opponent for a team that needs to find a confidence boost. They are just 1-3 with losses to Elon, ECU and Syracuse, but Michigan won’t soon forget the loss against Charlotte in Puerto Rico two years ago.

Player Bullets:

  • Caris LeVert: LeVert is a big time shot maker Offensively, LeVert continued to excel. He made his twos (5-8) and his threes (2-4) and hit an array of big shots that kept the game somewhat close in the second half. His defense wasn’t great as he struggled to keep Rodney Purvis out of the lane, but he’s the only player on Michigan’s offense that has found any consistency over these first four games.
  • Derrick Walton: Walton hit three triples late, but struggled to create for the first portion of the game. He played 31 minutes, but sat for a pretty lengthy stretch of the second half when Beilein went with Abdur-Rahkman at the point guard. Walton had just two assists, but was the only other Wolverine to reach double-figures.
  • Zak Irvin: Irvin’s jumper isn’t close to going in. His shot doesn’t look good out of his hand and he’s hitting everything other than net. He’s 3 of 8 on twos and 1 of 13 on threes since he returned against Elon, but he did grab seven boards in 28 minutes.
  • Aubrey Dawkins: Dawkins hit an early triple, but still finished 3 of 10 from the floor. His off the dribble game was a struggle and his long range stroke isn’t consistent either. He grabbed six rebounds on the night, but had his third underwhelming showing is as many tries.
  • Ricky Doyle: Doyle got the start and had a dunk off of a LeVert drop off, but he dropped another pair of drop off passes that should have been dunks. He finished with 5 points, four rebounds and an assist in 26 minutes.
  • Moritz Wagner: Wagner moved up to the second big man off the bench, but was 0 of 2 from the floor with two fouls and a three second violation in four minutes of game time.
  • Duncan Robinson: Shooters gotta shoot and Robinson stopped shooting by the end of the game. He’s in the game to make threes, but he was just 1 of 8 from the floor and started to force things off the bounce when he missed a couple early treys.
  • Spike Albrecht: Beilein said after the game that the staff is focusing on a heavier load of rehab for Albrecht because he’s not in the physical condition that Michigan needs from him at this point. He played just four minutes, but did create a turnover getting on the floor for a jump ball.
  • DJ Wilson: Wilson had a two handed dunk off of a drop off pass and also a nice block as a help-side defender, but overall his night was fairly limited. Beilein complimented his third big man for knocking down 3 of 4 free throws on the night.
  • Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman: 20 minutes was a high water mark for Abdur-Rahkman this season and he scored 4 points. His lone field goal was a nice driving take to the rim, but his night was otherwise pretty quiet.
box score uconn
  • Bigrange

    Michigan always seems to be a mystery at the beginning of the season. They can surprise us with big wins or disappoint us with poor losses. This team is no different. Key players are still trying to get their legs back after coming off of injuries, while young players are trying to find their way into the JB system and their roles. At this point, Michigan needs to beat the teams they are supposed to. Getting through the non-conference schedule will be rough, but we all know JB teams tend to get it going in Big Ten play. Get the win tonight, build some confidence, and get ready for the next opponent.

    • Mike Bee

      Good perspective. I think JB is just as perplexed as us. He knows he has to shrink the rotation and establish roles but you want guys to earn spots. Need more ‘dog’ out of guys

      • Fab 5 Legends

        i totally agree…our team is extremely soft out there against these tourny teams (Xavier & Uconn) we need to put up a better fight and our offense needs step up…i do expect a 8 man lineup by big ten play

    • Wayman Britt

      I really like your confidence, because I am starting to panic. Before the season I was thinking how far can this team go in the NCAA tourney, now I worry even if they can make the dance. I will try to stay positive.

  • nexttimedown

    Team 100 does not look good at this point. Irvin and Spike rounding into playing shape will obviously help, but our frontcourt is a problem. Defense and rebounding are obvious weaknesses and it is hard to win games when most of your shots are contested jumpers.

  • Corperryale

    So much is wrong with this team. Bad offensive flow, bad shot selection, bad penetration, bad offensive fouls, shots getting blocked, inability to finish, bad rebounding, porous defense, bad close-outs. If this turns out to be a repeat of last season (or worse), you really have to question received wisdom about (1) the system and (2) all those recruiting misses. It’s hard to dislike the personnel we have, except they may not be cut out for the job of competing at a high-major level. Won’t give up on them now as there is plenty of time to turn things around, even if the schedule affords few opportunities for a marquee non-conference win.

    • bobohle

      Good call out on the recruiting misses. Look at Cals box scores and see what Jaylen Brown has been doing. Lights out. We already seen what Bluiett can do. Just to name a few. I noticed in Spike’s interview videos in the last week he is doing a lot of coughing. Maybe he has been ill on top of recovering from injured hips. I thought Doyle would be much better this season His stamina is very low. He’s huffing and puffing all the time

  • umnyc

    This might be a bit captain obvious, but I think Walton is the key to this teams success. Our success over the past few years has been primarily predicated on having an NBA caliber point guard that can score and distribute. Walton’s first year we had Nik and Caris to pick up the load, but now its really on him to be the star we all thought he was going to be. That Elon game was encouraging, but these past two games have been very underwhelming. Hopefully he can turn it on again for Charlotte.

  • Champswest

    If I am coaching against UM, I go hard at LeVert on every possession. Try to get 2 fouls on him as early as I can in the first half, so that Beilein will sit him until the second half when it will be too late. Caris is the only guy that is producing right now and should be the last guy to sit.

  • Fab 5 Legends

    i honestly thought our young talent would develop quicker but unfortunately guys are not stepping up. Injuries to Spike & Irvin hurt but the rest of the team is totally out of sink – our offense is basically Levert. I did like Rahkman aggressiveness to the rim….our bigs continue to be disappointing unfortunately…I had higher expectations going into this year but we have taken 2 L’s to tourny teams without putting up much of a fight…I am now hoping we can get it together for big ten play and creep into the tourny as a 8 or 9 seed..

  • Mattski

    Get some guys hitting threes and we are in the thick of both of these last two games, interior presence or not. But privately, the lack of progress by Doyle and Donnal has to be pretty vexing to the coaches. At their best, these Beilein teams have been thrilling in the way they moved the ball and hit from outside–such a refreshingly different style from (say) hard-banging Izzo teams and, to me, full of grace and intelligence. But while you don’t need a post-up player you still need an efficient shooter and passer there in the middle, someone with good hands. I think four bigs who are works in progress is just too many. I wonder if they completely sideline Donnal now and work to develop Moritz and Doyle, have Wilson come is as an athletic change-of-pace.

  • Harbaugh Effect

    This what bad recruiting gets us, no NBA players = losing. Beilein n staff cant develop big men its just like Hoke was with quarterbacks. N with the recruiting class we have nxt year, dont see any change coming. Better get with the time n embrace the 1 n done stars i.e Izzo, Coach K. Just thought about the 2 big men we have coming n nxt year to join the 4 undeveloped bigs we have right now uh oh. Our losing is 10% coaching n 90% recruiting. Give Calipari, Izzo, Coach K these same players same results

    • Corperryale

      It often seems like they recruit bigs who will be just “good enough” to play a relatively minor role inside while the guards run the system around them. The problem is, when you also miss on nearly every elite guard and wing that can truly create his own shot (Langford, Battle, Brunson, Thornton, Brown, Bridges, etc.), it really exposes the lack of talent and athleticism inside. Seems like 80% of the decent teams we face have at least one interior guy who gives us a major match-up problem.

      Coaching is a little harder to assess. When Doyle plants his feet and tries to draw a charge just inches outside the semi-circle and gives up a barely contested and-one, it sorta bothers me that he doesn’t at least try to block the shot. Is that due to coaching (i.e. an extreme aversion to fouling) or athletic limitations of the center? Hard to tell. But I have no coaching experience.

    • MAZS

      We’ll talk later in the season. Your pessimism has almost zero basis in fact or history.

      • Harbaugh Effect

        No NBA players = No Championship. No Heart = Loses. Bad Recruiting = State of Michigan Basketball. Simple

        • MAZS

          You’re going to be a joy on the site.

  • ChathaM

    The crazy thing, to me, is that last year’s team post-Walton and Levert injuries seems better than this year’s team with those two healthy. I’m not pinning the bad start on them (in fact, Levert has been very good offensively), but it’s just weird.

  • JimC_UM

    Sheesh, RealTimeRPI has us at #107 right now.