Five Key Plays: Indiana 80, Michigan 67

Zach Shaw

In front of perhaps as good an atmosphere as Crisler Center has seen all season, the Michigan basketball team fell flat in what was expected to be a heavyweight bout against No. 22 Indiana. The Wolverines snuck to within 13 by the game’s end, but trailed by as much as 26, and even that seemed closer than the game was.

After jumping out to a 17-6 lead, Michigan was outscored 42-7 from the middle of the first half to the beginning of the second. It was one of the Wolverines’ ugliest performances of the season, and here’s our look at how it went down.

1. Turnovers get Indiana in control

Before Michigan fell apart on both ends of the court, it looked nearly flawless against the Hoosiers. Indiana — entering the game last in the Big Ten in turnover rate, coughed the ball up seven times early, and the Wolverines used the miscues to build momentum and an 11-point lead.

Derrick Walton’s first foul and quick substitution was the first brick to crumble as it led to a couple quick baskets for Yogi Ferrell, but when Walton re-entered the game the Hooisers took control.

So it was only fitting that Indiana mounted its comeback in similar fashion, capitalizing on Michigan’s careless turnovers for easy scores. It wasn’t long before the Hoosiers, also one of the best offensive teams in the country, were back in the game.

“It’s just draining when you have an 11-point lead against that team and everything’s going well, then just like that (it’s gone),” said junior forward Zak Irvin. “Basketball’s a game of runs … that’s something that none of us saw coming.”

2. Bad offensive possessions set Wolverines back

During its scoring drought that stretched over 10 minutes, Michigan shot 0-for-13 from the field. Some of the spell was due to a cold shooting night — the Wolverines were also 0-for-3 from the free-throw line — but more of the blame could be handed to their play selection on offense.

Time and again, Michigan forced shots, made ill-advised passes, or was unable to penetrate through Indiana’s defense. The Wolverines have been known to be contagious on offense, but that contagion showed its darker side Tuesday.

“They took away some of our options and nobody has done that and we weren’t good at (countering) today,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “The way we scored at the start of the game was exactly what we had planned on coming in. All of a sudden we missed a couple shots got a couple shots blocked and all of a sudden we lost an awful lot of confidence from the original (plan).”

3. Indiana puts it to bed

On the other end of the court, Michigan failed to contain the Hoosiers’ offense. Working down low and from 3-point range, Indiana showed why it’s the Big Ten’s top offense, while the Wolverines showed plenty of holes on defense.

“I’m not going to have any excuses,” Beilein said. “They’re really good at what they do and we couldn’t stay in front of them, and few people have, they’re averaging 80 damn points a game, few people have. Better teams than us probably have done better.

“They’ve got shooters everywhere. So we kept getting the ball at the zero yard line and they kept getting the ball at the 35.”

Indiana consistently pushed the pace off of Michigan misses and found great looks in transition, where Michigan looked just hopeless trying to recover and matchup to find cutters or shooters. Troy Williams, who had an enigmatic first half, also gets hot thanks to some savvy cutting and lax defensive awareness from Aubrey Dawkins.

Indiana wound up with exactly 80 points, but could have had plenty of more if the game had not become a blowout so soon. And though the Hoosiers are strong offensively, Michigan played one of its worst games defensively.

“We’re not mentally tough, … I think we need to get stronger in that area,” said junior forward Zak Irvin. “When shots aren’t falling, we can’t let that affect how we play on the defensive end.”

4. OG Anunbody makes it 28

What’s worse than giving up 25 straight points to end the first half? Giving up a 3 right out of the gate in the second half. But that’s what Michigan did Tuesday night, as OG Anunbody drained a 3 to simply pile on to the blowout and send fans home early.

A quick run could have given the Wolverines life, but instead it was more of the same to start the second.

“They kind of punched us and we kind of laid down, which I think is uncharacteristic of us and of Michigan in general,” said redshirt sophomore forward Duncan Robinson. “We didn’t feel like we were out of that game (at halftime), but we came out flat again in the second half, which was disappointing. So that’s on us.”

Eventually, the Wolverines would score again, and even close the game on a 20-7 run, but without a spark to start the second half, any comeback hopes were dashed.

5. Missed free throws

Entering Tuesday, Michigan was shooting 75.1 percent from the free-throw line, good for first in the Big Ten. So when the Wolverines sputtered to just 6-of-11 (54.5 percent) from the charity stripe, including two misses by sophomore guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and two misses by Zak Irvin early in the second half, Beilein knew it was just one of those nights.

“I think they need to stay out of the gym tomorrow and I think they need to rest,” Beilein said. “We’re going to be doing this again soon, and we’ve got a great team (in No. 10 Michigan State) coming in here, a team every bit as good as Indiana coming in here, and we’ve just got to come back well-rested. We look at it, we educate ourselves of what happened and try not to make those mistakes in our next games.”

  • bobohle

    My key to the game was when the first group of subs came in with the double digit lead and it evaporated like water and when the starters came back they couldn’t hit anything. Even free throws. This happens too often with this team when the coaches decide to rest the hot hand.

    • Wayman Britt

      Good point, remember in the fall we were all talking about how deep this team was and how was Beilein going to find playing time for everybody. Well we have found out quickly Doyle, Wilson, Chatman and Dawkins are just not that good.

      • Also the two seniors that everyone had high hopes for are on the bench injured. Spike was essentially a non factor this year so it’s easy to dismiss, but he also was critical late last year.

        More than Wilson, Chatman struggling… playing without Spike and Caris is a bigger depth issue.

        • A2MIKE

          Dylan – What is your gut feel on Caris? Do you think he plays Saturday? I actually think that him being able to go 15-20 minutes off the bench would solve the exact problem to which everyone is referring, in the subs coming in with a lead and immediately giving up a run to the other team.

    • Mattski

      Everyone’s been saying this, and I agree. But Beilein’s between a rock and hard place here because he still has to sub–the starters have been playing too many minutes as it is. Worry they may just all crap out down the stretch. . . Don’t believe Caris is going to be able to fix it all, either, unfortunately. Personally, I am revising expectations down a little, because while we will have some hot-shooting nights, I don’t think six players and no real sub at big may be able to cut it. I’m thinking we eke into the NCAAs rather than come flying.

  • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

    After some time to reflect, just a game where everything went wrong.

    When you are trying to slow down and work your way back (especially) when you are in a rut offensively, it always feels like the comeback starts with free throws.

    Being in the crowd and seeing MAAR and Irvin each miss both free throws on those plays, I kind of just got the vibe that nothing is going to go right tonight.

    There is nothing to really do but live another day.

    I have a vibe that the shots will be falling and we will be angry and ready to go and bounce back like we have proven to do in these type of situations.

    Go Blue!

  • nswan

    I hope we are angry and embarrassed going into the MSU game. We have every motivational factor in our favor heading into this game between it being our chief rival and coming off an ugly loss. There is no excuse to come out flat and not compete at a high level on Saturday. I really hope we win, but the real progress in my mind will be shown by the effort and intensity that we bring into this game