Game 23: Indiana at Michigan Recap

Dylan Burkhardt

Three years ago to the day, Michigan and Indiana faced off as the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams in the country. Tonight, the Wolverines were beaten down on their home floor by Indiana in a double-digit home loss where the final score felt forgiving. 

The loss was a stern reminder of just how far Michigan has to go to come close to that level again, which felt worlds away as Indiana closed the first half on a demoralizing 25-0 run.

Four players that were in Assembly Hall for that game three years ago were in the Crisler Center tonight. One was the best player on the floor, one didn’t play in that game, but had since switched allegiances, and the other two sat on the Michigan bench injured.

The Wolverines 7-2 run through the easier portion of their conference schedule was impressive without Caris LeVert, but it masked the fact that the current, healthy Michigan roster is closer to the team that lost seven out of eight Big Ten games last February and March than the one that played for championships a couple years earlier.

iu game flow

Indiana’s 25-0 run to close the first half — in Ann Arbor — was a damning indictment of this current team. Right now, Michigan has a team of guys that play great when things are going well, but have shown the tendency to fold when they get hit in the mouth.

Even in some wins this season, Michigan has let big leads slip away with inconsistent play on both sides of the ball. Part of that can be attributed to depth and substitution patterns — Beilein’s sometimes questionable substitutions become especially costly when there are limited options off the bench — but the issue goes beyond that.

There’s been plenty of talk about the experience, maturity and confidence that this group has gained closing out games over the last few weeks, but the simple fact is that those games were against some of the worst teams in the conference. There’s another level this team has to reach if it wants to compete in earnest in the top-half of the conference.

Caris LeVert’s eventual return will certainly help — the 6-foot-7 senior is one of the best players in the country to dial up when you need an isolation set to break a slump — but some of these problems have become a theme this season, with or without LeVert.

iu four factors

Michigan was held below a point per possession for the first time this conference season and the final numbers were forgiving thanks to some late-game stat padding. Indiana played very physical defense on Michigan’s drives to the rim and the Wolverines never seemed to figure out how to adjust. The threes weren’t falling for yet another game and most of them weren’t great looks. Indiana took Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin out of the game and right now if you can eliminate those two options, there’s no one else on the roster to beat you without help.

Defensively, Michigan was a disaster. The Wolverines were backcut to the death, abused off the bounce, terrible in transition and dominated for all intents and purposes. Indiana shot 64 percent on twos, 33 percent on threes and rebounded 38 percent of its misses. Nine different Hoosiers scored and it was OG Anunoby who seemed to dominate on both ends of the floor with his size, strength, hustle and defense against Zak Irvin.

Michigan was always going to lose a few games as the schedule tightens, but losing the first game of a big week in this fashion leaves a bad taste. It’s one thing to lose a heartbreaker at home, it’s something completely different to get embarrassed on your home floor. This game was reminiscent of the Iowa and Michigan State games at Crisler last season when Michigan was flat run off the floor. The good news for Michigan is that it still counts for just one game in the loss column and all will be forgotten if the Wolverines can figure out a way to come together and knock off Michigan State on Saturday.

Player Bullets:

  • Derrick Walton: Walton seemed to settle for elbow pull-ups all night and that’s just not a shot that he’s made with any regularity this season. Ferrell is a tough matchup, but after four great games in a row Walton looked more like the player who struggled earlier in January with LeVert sidelined.
  • Zak Irvin: Irvin was a big reason for Michigan’s hot start with a few made shots and sharp passes off the ball screen, but Anunoby’s physical defense against him completely took him out of the game. He couldn’t score at the rim and you could see the confidence being sapped from him as the first half wore on. Irvin has always been a confidence driven player, but Michigan just isn’t going to win games without LeVert if Irvin is struggling offensively.
  • Duncan Robinson: Robinson’s three-point shooting is starting to be a concern after he went 1-of-5 for the second consecutive game, but he showed some solid signs attacking the basket. Robinson made 5-of-6 twos on the night, but also turned the ball over three times. Robinson is shooting just 37% from three-point range in league games after making over half of his threes in non-conference play.
  • Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman: Abdur-Rahkman also struggled on both ends. He was just 3-of-8 from the floor and was beaten badly by Yogi Ferrell off the dribble several times in the first half while struggling with Indiana’s off-ball movement as well.
  • Mark DonnalDonnal was pushed around more in this loss than he has been throughout the Big Ten season. Thomas Bryant is a load, but Donnal seemed to really struggle with the physicality inside from start to finish.
  • Aubrey DawkinsDawkins had strung together a few good games recently, but every bad defensive habit that he’s ever displayed was present on Tuesday night. He gave up handfuls of backdoor layups and just seemed completely checked out of the game defensively. He wasn’t the only one, but he was the most egregious ball watcher on the night.
  • Vince

    The passivity and ball watching on defense is really concerning. I can understand shots won’t be dropping every night and there are games where calls don’t come easy. But defense is really more of an effort and concentration driven product. We simply cannot let the frustration on offense or no-calls carry over to the defensive end. Hope we can rebound from this and toughen up quickly.

    • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

      Agree. For whatever reason we had passed up an open shot to force or take a worse shot. During that stretch in the first half, there were a few horrible no calls and our guys didn’t regroup fast enough.

      The refs finally called all that crap in the second half, but we still just didn’t bring it for 3/4 of the game.

      • John

        Michigan was looking for contact on essentially illegitimate shot attempts, never going to get those calls. Indiana is, and will continue to be, a terrible matchup for us. They play with reckless abandon. I think there style of play ultimately costs them at tourney time with teams that can match them atletically, but their combination of speed and skill and their fearless offensive approach just overwhelms us. We are a team that “prods” and “pokes” and ultimately tries to shorten the game. IU simply will not have that and imposes their will. I groan whenever I see this game on the schedule. We were due for a let down and Indiana is and will continue to be our kryptonite.

        • Mattski

          This is a pretty good call, in my view. And I don’t think it’s simply a matter of Beilein’s style of play. We had tough teams with Novak.

          • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

            Mixing in a Novak on this type of team would do wonders.

        • AA7596

          Regarding terrible matchups: I’m starting to suspect that any opponent with quickness or size or aggressiveness or a decent offense is a terrible matchup for us.

          There just isn’t much we do remotely well besides shoot the 3. Going 7 for 23 shouldn’t be ruinous, especially when the opponent shoots 33%. But if you take that area of the box score away from us, where else are we going to win?

  • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

    Way too much standing around. Michigan made themselves easy to defend after 24-24.

    The most upsetting this is that we did not use the atmosphere and positive vibes from the guests and signing day thing. There was a lot to feel good about and the fans were let down with this performance.

    The fans showed up (something people had been complaining about) and were left with little to cheer for.

    • Mattski

      The atmosphere and positive vibes seemed to circulate around the football circus, which then circled into IU’s locker room at halftime. Not cool. The whole planet, especially not Crisler, should not be the stage set for a college football reality show. A certain lack of simple self-awareness.

      • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

        Agreed. That was embarrassing. I don’t care if its family. Talk to him after the game.

        Can you see something like this happening anywhere else? That was just plain stupid.

        • Mattski

          The more I thought about it the more it upset me, because after the 24-point sequence to end the half THEN they all waltz into the IU locker room? To celebrate maybe? I hope I’m missing something regarding the incident, but if it really did unfold like that Warde may have his first bone to pick with Jim. Would be very curious to see this early test of who wears the man pants.

      • ChathaM

        Whoa, what happened? I was at the game, so saw Harbaugh enter the stadium to a roar, but that’s all I saw.

  • Mattski

    Got kilt.

  • Wayman Britt

    This just in, as Aubrey was walking home to his house last night after the game, a 85 year old grandma blew by him and beat him up the stairs.

    • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

      She gave him a coffee and donut to dunk, but he managed to miss the cup despite spending all summer working on it.

  • GTFOmycourt

    Taken on the whole, Dawkins defense was some of the defense you will ever see from a college basketball player. However, it is not his fault. He should not have had as many chances to screw up because he should have been on the bench.

    • gobluemd16

      If there was ever a game to give Kam a shot, this was it. Aubrey did NOT deserve to be on the court. He was an embarrassment.

  • GTFOmycourt

    oops, “some of the worst defense you will ever see”.

  • gobluemd16

    Game summary: Welp.
    If you thought we had trouble in transition against Indiana, MSU arguably pushes much harder. And, they are even tougher down low. You can believe Izzo is going to push the ball down our throats, off both misses and makes. We aren’t as bad as this game showed, but unless we see a drastically better effort defensively Saturday, we could be in for another home blowout. Really feeling Caris’ loss; hope he can return over the weekend.

  • JJ3ball

    My biggest concern from this slaughter is the health of Derrick Walton; he was noticeably limping around out there, with a grimace on his face.
    Last two games I’ve attended have been Xavier and Indiana. Bad as the Xavier game was, last night was worse.

  • Fab 5 Legends

    we are a soft team unfortunately that lives and dies by the 3…i feel like we are in the upper class of the Big Ten regardless…when are shots are going in, we are a different team…we do lack toughness, inside presence and leadership when we are down but we are who we are…Levert would have definitely help the bleeding….tough to lose this way at home, buy we will show up for SPARTY! learn from mistakes and keep building for MARCH

  • ChathaM

    I think this game was far more about the quality of IU than any lack of toughness on Michigan’s part. IU is a significantly more athletic team, and it’s difficult to combat that. It’s just a really bad matchup, as someone below stated. IU was extremely well prepared, and seemed to run our sets right along with us. Except for the early transition looks, open shots in the rhythm of the offence were few and far between, and that’s because of IU’s defence, not our supposed softness. Yogi is an outstanding player, and I think he can survive in the NBA, despite his size.

    We haven’t lost home games to Xavier, SMU, and IU because of any lack of toughness. We’ve lost to those teams because they are significantly more athletic than we are. It bothers me that people try to project personality traits onto players. Sometimes the other team is simply more talented. This is what happens when you don’t have next level athleticism on your roster.

    Nobody has more fun out there than TV Teddy. I’m sure most fans can’t stand to watch him, but I think he’s hilarious. As an official, his mechanics are embarrassing, but he does make me laugh.

    • bobohle

      That’s why I keep repeating over and over on this site,that the Beilein staff has to start closing the deal on our elite recruits. Then some reply they would rather the staff develop lesser talent. The IU,SMU,Xavier game results is what you get when the development is not coming the way you would like.

  • Chris De Sana

    Tough game to watch that is for sure. When Michigan is hitting on all cylinders they can be fun to watch but when they don’t wow. The big picture is that when our team over achieves to their projected ceiling we can compete when they don’t we can get run out of the gym by a more athletic and aggressive team.

    AS mentioned in many posts last night I would have hoped that our success would have helped land more consistently strong recruiting classes rather than have to be always trying to find the diamond in the rough that needs a lot of development.

    Last I know they miss Caris but lets not think for a minute they do not miss Spike almost as much.

  • Chris De Sana

    And by the way this site continues to drag any computer I log in from ….

  • Drew

    Indiana fan here: I think this game can be boiled down to Michigan not matching up well with IU. You guys simply don’t have the post presence to handle Bryant and Walton, although sturdy, isn’t in the same tier as Yogi as a point guard. In a way, you guys remind me of Indiana last season: potent on offense, average to bad on defense. Getting Levert back will certainly help though. I hope you all take it to MSU on Saturday!

    • MAZS

      Not necessarily questioning your overall thesis, but Bryant was a minor player in what happened last night.

      • Drew

        I agree to an extent. His impact may have been small looking at the box score, but he helped open up driving lanes with his passes out of the post and helped limit Michigan’s frontline to 8 combined points. Point is, Michigan still had to worry about him even if he wasn’t the top scoring option on Tuesday.

  • MrLG

    I have to assume that IU got a really, really good scouting report from Max Bielfeldt.

    • Chris De Sana

      They sure cut off the baseline pass to the corner 3 but that seems to be the case with most teams today.

  • umnyc

    At the end of the day, I believe you need at least one pro on your team to be an elite college basketball team in any given season. Unfortunately our pro is injured and riding the pine at the moment, so we have to rely on above average college players to hopefully all click at the same time to have a chance to beat good teams. We did it against Maryland, but last night it just wasn’t there. What was even worse is how our “stars” folded once things started to go south, and eventually seemed to just give up. I saw the same helpless look from Coach as the IU lead started to approach 30, that he showed during the SMU drubbing. He knows this team is limited, but other than Caris coming back (which I’m starting to doubt will ever happen), I’m just not sure how many more rabbits he can pull out of his hat when things are not clicking for this group. Lets just hope he can get them motivated to right the ship for this weekend.

    • bobohle

      Right on! That’s what I’ve been calling for the past two years(Your first sentence). START CLOSING THE DEAL ON YOUR ELITE TARGETS!