Michigan dropped a game at UCLA on Saturday night, but the back-and-forth action was still plenty entertaining. Here are Five Key Plays from the defeat.
1. Michigan offense gets hot
Michigan played its worst defensive game of the KenPom era, but for 20 minutes it was scoring points at the same rate. The Wolverine offense was on fire in the first half and seemingly couldn’t miss from long distance. The Wolverines were an incredible 12-of-16 from three-point range as 7 different players hit at least one triple in the opening frame.
The three-pointers ranged from routine to ridiculous, but for the most part Michigan was getting clean, open looks from three in the first half. The Wolverines shot their way all the way to a 7 point lead late in the first half, but the Bruins still had every answer.
2. UCLA closes half strong
Closing the first half has developed into a major problem for Michigan over the last two or three weeks. Virginia Tech and Texas both had strong finishes to the first half and UCLA managed to string together three made triples in the final 90 seconds to tie the game on Saturday night.
Michigan made unforced errors late in the half including a turnover that led to a transition intentional foul and that gave UCLA just enough of an opportunity to strike. The first two threes can be attributed to over-help and a weak closeout by Zak Irvin, but the final three by Lonzo Ball is one that you just have to shake your head and say what else can be done?
“(Lonzo) Ball hit that last one at the end of the half,” Beilein remarked. “We switched the screen, we did everything right, he was downtown.”
Ball hit that final three from right around the logo and buried it with 6 seconds till on clock. It’s the same shot he hit late in the first half against Kentucky and I’m not sure what else can really be done.
3. Early second half start
Another problem that has been developing into a trend: a slow start out of half time. Michigan seemed to make the right offensive adjustments coming out of the half, but just didn’t execute. The Wolverines were aggressive and attacked the basket, but they failed to finish. At the same time, UCLA was getting easier and easier baskets on the other end.
Despite keeping pace for the first 20 minutes the Wolverines quickly fell behind because of their offensive lapse. Michigan got a pair of DJ Wilson looks right around the hoop, a Zak Irvin scoop shot at the rim, an Irvin three and a wide open Moritz Wagner three. They didn’t fall, the lead ballooned to 8 and Michigan needed an early timeout.
4. Missed free throw rebound
Despite playing from behind throughout the second half, Michigan managed to put together a run and had cut the lead to just 5 points with 8 minutes to play. As the Bruins missed a pair of free throws, all the Wolverines needed to do was secure a rebound and they’d have a chance to cut the lead to a single possession.
“First of all it was a really high rebound and I think we had our hands on it,” Beilein said. “We have had a few of those, if we continue to learn that that ball is precious and you have to come away with it. I think it was DJ that might have had two hands on it… He gets that edge and it’ll take his game to another level.”
5. Aaron Holiday ices the game
Aaron Holiday hit five triples on five attempts off the bench and this one was the dagger. The Wolverines had just let the Bruins off the hook with the missed free throw rebound. Now instead of Michigan trying to cut the game to a single possession, Holiday was shooting a three to stretch the lead to double-digits.
Here Xavier Simpson gets caught trying to provide some unnecessary help and then runs right into a flare screen that leads to a wide open three for Aaron Holiday. The Bruins closed the game on a 25-12 run and for all intents and purposes this closed out the game.