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.”