Michigan searching for toughness after crumbling vs. Indiana

Zach Shaw
on

When Indiana pulled to within two of the Michigan basketball team with 8:40 to go, it was clear the Hoosiers were gaining steam. Down 15-4 just a few minutes prior, Indiana had made it a 24-22 game, hushed a star-studded Crisler Center crowd and looked in control — but was only getting started.

As the Hoosiers picked up speed, the Wolverines tried to keep pace, but quickly began to fall off the rails.

By the time Indiana had finished its staggering 28-0 run, Michigan’s performance was nothing short of a comically bad train wreck that fans couldn’t look away from.

Tuesday’s game was expected to be an evenly-matched bout between two high-flying offenses, but a run as rare as any stole the show. The Wolverines collapsed on both ends, shooting 0-for-13 over more than 10 minutes while letting Indiana knock down 11 of 14 shots.

“That’s happened so rarely it’s hard to put it into words,” said Michigan coach John Beilein of the run after Michigan’s 80-67 loss. “That run that they made turned out to be insurmountable. We feel bad about it, and we’ll watch some video to see what we can do.”

Plenty of improvements could be found in the stretch: Michigan was outrebounded 15-4, couched up three turnovers and even shot 0-3 from the free throw line. Possessions and shots looked forced on offense, and just about any and every Indiana player got a free pass on defense. Seven different Hoosiers scored during the run, and they combined to knock down nearly as many threes in the run (five) as Michigan had the entire game (six).

Instead, the biggest glaring improvement to be made is the mental makeup of a team that gave up 28 straight points to begin with. Such a run isn’t a sign of a bad team — even Rutgers and Delaware State can find buckets after a few minutes — or an incapable team, but a defeated one.

“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. A (28-0) run, that’s something that none of us saw coming.”

The run unequivocally ended Michigan’s hopes of winning Tuesday, but may foretell a larger problem at hand. Only six Wolverines played during the stretch, and none of them looked ready to lead the shorthanded unit through adversity.

“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

Added redshirt sophomore forward Duncan Robinson: “They kind of punched us and we kind of laid down, which I think is uncharacteristic of us and of Michigan in general.”

But aside from Michigan’s win over No. 4 Maryland, the sense of lying down when the game gets tougher was not unique to Tuesday. The Wolverines’ six losses have all been forgivable defeats to strong teams, but have also been double-digit games that at the very least teetered on blowouts.

There was Xavier’s 22-6 run; a 15-4 spell against Connecticut; 13-2, 8-1 and 10-2 droughts against Southern Methodist; a 17-6 finish at Purdue; a 16-3 run to surrender the lead at Iowa and, of course, the 28-0 run Tuesday to hand Indiana a win.

Instead of stopping opposing charges in their tracks and creating momentum of its own, Michigan seems to climb aboard until the game is out of reach.

“It’s a flow sport,” Beilein said Tuesday in a familiar tone. “You don’t have a chance to huddle up all the time. We had some open shots, we missed them, they’re tremendous in transition as a team.

“All of a sudden the flow was going their way, and we couldn’t stop them.”

Indiana’s 28-0 run is almost certainly a fluke, and in all likelihood won’t be matched again by anyone in the Crisler Center or elsewhere anytime soon.

But as each basket fell for the Hoosiers and clanged off the rim for the Wolverines it was clear that it was a train wreck of a game, but the cause wasn’t an accident.

“Sometimes the other team is just damn better than you on that night,” Beilein said. “I’m not the coach who’s going to point fingers at my players.”

“We’ve got to get better, we’ll find a way.”

  • Chezaroo

    Zach, you will never see a run like that at Crisler again in your lifetime. Absolutely unbelievable.

  • John

    I don’t know as though I have ever seen a game go from competitive to completely out of hand as quickly as that game did. I don’t know if it is a matter of basketball IQ or something else, but there are certain times in which this team looks completely dumfounded by what they are being asked to run on offense. During that 28-0 run, I struggled to see nearly any clear cut opportunities to score the basketball. There are players on the team that can penetrate the basketball, but there is simply no where for them to go and I do not understand why. It is not as though they can get to a certain spot in the paint and then kick, that “spot” in the paint does not exist in Michigan’s offense and I don’t understand why that is. It don’t know if it is a problem with design or execution, but at times I begin to actually feel bad for the players because as I am watching the game I don’t know where to suggest they go with the basketball to get points because there is simply nothing there.

    • mpbear14

      Getting stops on defense would have helped the offense. Hard to get transition baskets when the other team is laying the ball in repetitively.

      That old saying, “it starts with defense” rings truer than it ever has with this year’s team.

      • And being able to score helps the defense, especially considering how effective the 2-3 zone has been the last couple of weeks. Tough to setup a zone when you are trying to get back in transition.

        • mpbear14

          Its certainly a 2-way street. I’m in the camp that defense can be the one consistent element to any team. Offense will never be. Every team will have off nights offensively.

          • A2MIKE

            I think it is worth noting that when Caris went out our defense was ranked in the mid 60’s according to Kenpom. Now we are 130+. I like Rahkman, but Caris is a far superior defender to just about everyone, save Irvin.

            I also thought it was funny that Irvin is talking about the defense slipping when shots weren’t falling. He should look in the mirror, because during that run his defense was as bad or worse than everyone else, it just happened that Troy Williams didn’t catch an alley oop, dropped a ball out of bounds, and threw one away as well. The 28-0 run could have been worse.

            Everything considered, this team reminds me of the 2011 team. This team has a really rough stretch of games over the next month, similar to the stretch the 11 team faced to start B1G play. I think this team will make the tournament but be on the bubble.

            The similarities are in the roster make up and incoming recruits. That 11 team lost Morris to the draft, but returned nearly everyone else and in 2012 had a senior Douglass and Novak. I can remember be almost as equally frustrated with Douglass as I am now with Walton.

            I do think that Xavier Simpson is going to press Walton for playing time even if Walton is a senior and you will probably see a situation where both he and Walton play alongside each other next year. Simpson is going to be a beast, much like those that saw something special in Trey his senior year. Keep in mind, Simpson is not Trey 2.0, but he will be very good, and he will make this team better the instant he puts on that jersey.

            Yesterday was rough, but stay the course, and I do think next year we will be competing for the conference championship, and the sky is the limit in 18 when Beilein will have more seniors on 1 team, than he has had over the last 5 years combined.

      • John

        I get that. But I guess what I am saying is that we have penetrators and athleticism but we do not get opportunities in the lane like Indiana, ever. When I hear people discuss Michigan it is like they are talking about the Hickory team from Hoosiers who can only shoot set shots from deep when that is not the case. There is athleticism on the floor, and there are players who possess individual scoring ability, but the offense seems to be actively working against them from doing so. A 28-0 run, while reflecting on both offense and defense, is a glaring indictment of the offense this team is running or trying to run.

        • mpbear14

          There’s a real lack of athleticism on the floor and it gets exposed almost every time time we play good team.

          • John

            I see it less as a lack of athleticism and more of a failure to teach how to use athleticism effectively. Aubrey Dawkins is as or more athletic than any player on Indiana’s team. He is 6’5, strong, and can jump out of the gym. The guy should literally live at the rim and at the free throw line. Other teams develop these skills and these opportunities exist within the offense. It doesn’t happen here.

          • Mattski

            This kind of comment, from self-styled experts. . . just not sure it’s worth much. Do you think Beilein, for the millions he’s making, with the trainers we’ve got, etc. is just blind to something like this? “Other teams. . .” There are several hundred; we’ve been among the top thirty or so since Beilein got here. . . Let’s not get completely carried away by this kind of categorical criticism.

          • mpbear14

            Dawkins can jump. It stops there. He isn’t quick. He isn’t strong. He doesn’t have great agility.

            Aubrey Dawkins is not more athletic than any of IU’s starters.

          • AA7596

            Interesting discussion. Dawkins can jump, but he isn’t an exceptional athlete relative to other Big Ten 2s/3s. He only looks that way relative to other players on our roster, several of whom are below par in that department.

            But John makes a good point. A guy like that shouldn’t just be chucking threes. In this offense, though, he is.

        • ChathaM

          Our guys made several attempts to penetrate with the dribble, and IU’s defence turned us back almost every time. Beilein’s halfcourt offensive sets are solid; better than most, I’d say; and they create a lot of great opportunities against most teams, as we’ve seen for years. Anyone who talks about Michigan as just a bunch of shooters doesn’t watch them play.

          No run, no matter how lopsided, over a 12 minute span of basketball is an indictment of anything. It happens, and it happened to us last night. Providence lost to DePaul. It’s college basketball.

  • Chris De Sana

    The game plan from the beginning IMO was wrong, trying to outpace a team with better athletes will probably not deliver the best results. Especially if you struggle to score the basketball.

  • Mattski

    “Flow;” interrupt it! Did Beilein have no timeouts to use during that stretch? Love the guy, but his slowness to call TOs and settle his players sometimes bothers me. It’s like he becomes a spectator.

    • ChathaM

      He did call timeout with about 3 and a half minutes left in the half. I thought he might go to zone after the timeout, but he didn’t.

    • rlcBlue

      I doubt he could think of anything else to say. Here’s how the score and clock ran according to ESPN (I think one of the TV timeouts was a Michigan timeout, because he had two left at the half):

      Time Score Stoppage
      14:34 4-15 Indiana timeout
      11:11 14-19 TV timeout
      9:26 20-21 Michigan timeout
      7:19 24-24 TV timeout
      3:34 32-24 TV timeout
      0:00 45-24 Halftime
      15:27 51-30 TV timeout

      We all know that Beilein coaches by encouragement rather than abuse. I can’t recall him ever calling a timeout to scream at a player, the exact maneuver Crean is being celebrated for today. He had plenty of chances to talk to his players on the sideline and in the locker room and obviously nothing he said solved the problem.

      • Mattski

        Don’t want to waste too much time on this, but that’s an almost four-minute stretch during which Indiana scored 10 points, and another 3 1/2 minute stretch in which they scored 13. It could really be that he had nothing left in the barrel–he’s got no bench–but there would have been plenty of time even to bring them together and tell him that he loved them all like sons–anything, even just to play a little rope-a-dope and not have it look like a charnel house at Crisler.

  • robpollard

    “…Michigan’s performance was nothing short of a comically bad train wreck that fans couldn’t look away from.”

    Oh, I did. I DVR’d the game and at about the 20-0 point, I started fast-forwarding that garbage until I saw UM’s score change. Unfortunately that wasn’t for awhile.

    At least Irvin and Robinson recognize a big issue: they are not mentally tough. I have literally seen 3rd grade basketball players respond to adversity better. UM just laid down on defense and starting chucking shots/careening into the lane on offense.

    Not sure how to fix that, but recognizing it exists is a first step. UM, more than most teams, need confidence/mental toughness b/c it’s a jump shooting team. Confidence is key.

    Hopefully MSU is a different story, but that doesn’t look like a great matchup for us, assuming it’s another game where the other team’s D gets physical, which is what Izzo wants.

  • bobohle

    The Basketball Staff needs to take recruiting lessons from Jim Harbaugh’s staff on how to close the deal on 5 Star/Elite Recruits.

    • Corperryale

      Don’t follow football as much anymore — and realize that football and basketball are different animals — but seems to me that JH is willing to be more ruthless than JB. Still clean but ruthless and unsentimental. Can’t argue with the results so far.

    • MAZS

      I consider that a deflection. Lets talk about this team and what went wrong last night–instead of the we-need-to-recruit-better default. Last night had nothing to do with recruiting.

      Bad losses are good for traffic, aren’t they Dylan?

      • They improve the comment per pageview metric more than strict page views :-)

      • bobohle

        You are one of the guys thats always happy with working on developing lesser talent. I respect your opinion. I just don’t agree with it.

        • MAZS

          You are wrong. I fully understand the importance or recruiting and, even more so, talent. But recruiting too often seems to be the default explanation for bad losses. This loss was about performance—and Beilein’s bizarre coaching—a combination of resignation and/or indifference.

      • Corperryale

        I’m not so sure that last night had nothing to do with recruiting. Certainly, there were huge issues with defensive effort, confidence/focus, offensive flow and execution, but more athleticism & talent would have helped with getting stops & boards (and getting to the rim), especially at the five.

        Also, not sure if you’re implying this, but it’s not like”Bobohle” is some drive-by hater who comes out of the woodwork to complain about losses — I think he’s a frequent poster and generally a positive, upbeat presence on this site.

        • MAZS

          Maybe. But chicken-littling after a bad loss almost always out-numbers positive posts after a win. I stand by my proposition–last night had nothing to do with recruiting.

    • Wayman Britt

      I totally agee. Beilein is a great coach. I don’t think anybody wants him to leave, but he does need to improve in the area of recruiting. He recruits too many of the same type of player, great outside shooter, but generally soft and slow. He needs to bring in a tough, little nasty, defensive minder player at least once every other year.

  • Corperryale

    Until they learn (or at least try) to play some defense, I don’t want to read or hear the meaningless sentence, “Michigan is really good at not fouling.”

    • bobohle

      YEP!

  • Chezaroo

    More than anything yesterday our lack of team foot speed and lateral agility was consummately exposed. I don’t care if camp Sanderson increases your vertical 50 inches, if you can’t stay n front of your man, and can’t keep up with him n transition, you’re dead.

    • Wayman Britt

      Amen

  • Chris De Sana

    Wondering who most think is our toughest, most physical big man is right now. Willing to give and take the bumping and grinding in the paint?

  • gobluemd16

    Based on the Massey Ratings, we will only be favored in two more games this year: at Minn and home v. NWestern. That would mean a 2-7 finish and 9-9 overall in conference. Would be tough to get into the tourney with that record. Not sure I totally agree, but we need Caris back asap to say the least!