Michigan got a heroic performance out of Detroit native Derrick Walton, but it wasn’t enough on the road against Michigan State.

Michigan State controlled the game from the inside-out and was able to keep Michigan at arms’ length down the stretch to pull away with an 8-point win. The Spartans outscored the Wolverines 34-20 in the paint and were led by their freshman trio of Miles Bridges, Cassius Winston and Nick Ward — all of whom reached double figures.

Michigan battled, but couldn’t overcome uncharacteristic second half turnovers and an 0-for performance by Zak Irvin, who had been battling the flu.

Michigan State did a great job of manufacturing easy looks at the basket all game. These were generally Nick Ward flashes in the post (6-of-6), Miles Bridges slashing across the lane and finishing with a hook, or Cassius Winston creating something out of the pick-and-roll game. There were a few breaks along the way — a grazed rim putback and a Nairn bank shot stand out — but Michigan State made 54% of its two-point attempts and that’s just not good enough interior defense to win on the road.

Turnovers kept Michigan in the game early, but after giving the ball away 8 times in the first half, the Spartans only turned the ball over 3 times in the second. Michigan flipped the script with 4 first half giveaways and 9 in the second half. Not turning the ball over is a Michigan staple and an MSU weakness and that was a battle the Wolverines couldn’t afford to lose.

Michigan’s defensive rebounding was solid — MSU rebounded only 29.6% of its misses — but the Spartans were in the bonus early in both half and manufactured points at the free throw line. That combined with three timely triples by the slumping Matt McQuaid resulted in 1.13 points per trip by the Spartans, too much for the Wolverines to overcome.

Michigan’s offense managed to score a point per possession, but only barely. This was the third-worst offensive showing of the season as the Wolverines shot just 40% inside the arc and 27% from three. Turnovers on 21% of possessions and 12-of-30 shooting inside the arc were the biggest problems with the offense. There were times that Michigan wings got into good spots but failed to finish and those opportunities can’t go wasted on the road.

In the big picture, this loss doesn’t change a lot. A win would have been pivotal, but the mid-week win against Indiana bought Michigan some space. The situation remains the same: defend home court and figure out how to steal a couple on the road down the stretch.

Michigan has a week to re-tool before hosting Ohio State, then it gets another crack at Michigan State on its home floor. I think this is a game that the Wolverines will look back on in film and think they have as good of a chance as you could ask for in the rematch 10 days down the road.

Player Bullets

  • Derrick Walton: Derrick Walton appears to have figured things out and if he’s going to keep playing like this then I think Michigan can scrap something together down the stretch. Walton scored 24 points on 4-of-12 (2-9 3pt) shooting, making 14-of-15 free throw attempts while grabbing 9 rebounds and handing out 5 assists. He’s averaging 19 points per game and is 16 of 22 on twos and 10-of-23 on threes with 16 assists since the Illinois melt down. That’s the ‘outlier’ that Michigan needs and this was another critical step in the right direction.
  • Zak Irvin: There’s no sugar coating how poorly Irvin played: 0 points on 8 shot attempts, 2 assists to 3 turnovers. Irvin has had his ups and downs during his career, but this was one of the lowest. Michigan obviously needs more from its senior wing and he just didn’t produce today in East Lansing. He also missed Thursday and Friday practice with the flu, which explains some of his struggles.
  • Moritz WagnerWagner had some great post moves and finishes when he was composed on the block, finishing with 10 points on 4-of-6 (1-2 3pt) shooting with 8 rebounds. He also still has the habit of getting a bit too wrapped up in the game and committing silly fouls (one offensive, one reaching away from the basket and one questionable technical today). Michigan State took away the pick-and-pop shot and Wagner tried to drive but committed 4 turnovers.
  • DJ WilsonWilson couldn’t hit the three, but watching the film back I’d guess two things will stand out: he still struggles to defend dribble penetration against combos with quickness and he missed a number of pretty easy shots around the rim. While Bridges seems to have mastered the half hook shot there, Wilson seemed to get caught in the middle and missed a number of chances in the paint. He threw a beautiful backdoor pass for a layup and his ball skills are developing, but he just couldn’t find his offense — especially in the 2nd half.
  • Duncan Robinson: Way too many passed up shots for Robinson today. He finished 3-of-9 from the floor (2-6 from three) and it felt like he had several good looks in the second half where he hesitated to pull the trigger. Michigan needs his offense and his best offense is a catch-and-shoot three: let it fly.
  • Muhammad-Ali Abdur-RahkmanAbdur-Rahkman had a great drive and finish early when Michigan was in a hole, but he seems to get taken out of his game whenever he ends up in foul trouble. The junior guard knocked in a three in the second half, but had a quiet day overall.
  • Mark DonnalDonnal made some timely plays in the first half with Wagner battling foul trouble and played one of his better games in a long time.
  • Xavier SimpsonSimpson had a great pocket pass to Mark Donnal and an underwhelming drive and botched finish against Winston.
  • Jon TeskeTeske was thrown into the mix in the first half with both bigs sidelined with two fouls and he had an offensive rebound tap out (apparently a real skill of his) but also quickly committed a foul on Ward fighting for position.
  • Ibi WatsonBeilein went to Watson in the final minute of the first half and he gave up a three by getting caught in a screen which forced Beilein to the two point guard look with Walton and Simpson.

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  • MLaw

    I’m not surprised they lost, but obviously it would have been great to have. if MSU had lost at home to us, their season would be over (12-11 with many tough games left), so we got their best performance. Still If you clean up the turnovers( 8 instead of 13) and avoid so many fouls (more Mo and more Rahk), this is a game we probably win.

    Michigan basketball isn’t that far away from being a good team, the defense doesn’t have to improve that much, they don’t have to shoot that much better, etc to beat some decent teams. That is part of the frustration. It frequently feels like a one step forward one step back team that is always just about to break through or fall apart.

    I think the break comes at a good time and they will be focused for OSU and MSU at home. Win both of those and we are 15-8 and probably need to finish the season 4-3 down the stretch to have a chance going into the BTT. There are still enough winnable games left, but obviously everyone left is huge. Still feel that Iowa loss on Jan 1 may be the game that costs us a tournament spot this year.

    • Alex

      Actually we’d be 16-8 if we beat OSU and MSU. I think we have to have those games. Blackmon being potentially out also makes @Indiana more tractable so the next three games are important.

      • MLaw

        I know he is out indefinitely, but is there any reason he would be out for over 2 weeks? I have heard others suggest this, but I just don’t know why this is such a significant lower leg injury.

        I agree that the games are must have though and you are right on the record. I forgot about the Indiana game.

        • ChathaM

          No real reason to think he’ll be out that long. However, Caris also had a “lower leg injury”.

  • ChathaM

    I was happy to see the officials deal with Izzo early. I watched the entire MSU-Purdue game the other night, and Izzo was constantly bitching at the officials, often standing on the court while he did it. They let him do whatever he wanted that night, and it wasn’t right. So, well done today by the stripes.

    The effort today was solid. That’s now two straight road games with very good effort and no pay-off. There are 5 road opportunities left, and we probably need to win a couple of them for the tourney resume. I’m not confident that we’ll get two, but it shouldn’t be for a lack of effort. Like Beilein, I was impressed with MSU’s defence. I’ve watched them play a few times, and that was the best they’ve defended in those games. They seemed well prepared for what we were trying to do (unlike Indiana…still can’t believe that).

    I thought that DJ did a good job guarding Bridges. He was conscious of forcing Bridges to use his right hand, which makes him far more ineffective than if he can go to his natural side. Bridges missed several RH finishes, and that wasn’t an accident. The one defensive possession that really burned me involved Bridges driving to the basket, DJ not allowing him to get to his left, and Irvin inexplicably helping off a strong side corner shooter (McQuaid) when DJ needed no help at all. Same #!%& play that happened at Wisconsin, and same #!%& result. Take away that defensive breakdown and a banked prayer from Nairn, and it’s likely a one possession game down the stretch. That said, it is amazing how little seems to separate the league’s top teams from the average ones. Maryland and Wisconsin find a way to win the tough road games, and the average teams just can’t do it. Is it just a few less breakdowns per game, or is it luck? Probably a bit of both.

    I was kind of relieved to hear that Irvin was sick, just because it partially explains how ineffective he was today. It’s incredible how a player being a little off physically can show on the court; same sort of thing with Blackmon on Thursday.

  • Wayman Britt

    Man is Cassius Winston a nice player. Losing the PG recruiting battle between Cassius and Simpson could haunt Beilein for the next couple of years against MSU. Recruiting is so so important.

    • Weren’t you a huge Quinton Goodin fan? Sometimes PGs struggle as a freshman. X obviously has a long way to go and Cassius played great today. Cassius has also had his downs this year as well. Would Winston look great in maize and blue? Of course.

      • Wayman Britt

        Dylan – I understand completely what you are saying and I agree it’s early in players career, but would you take Simpson, Watson & Teske over Winston, Langford and Ward on your team. Based on one year of data, I think MSU beat UM on everyone of them.

        • Sure MSU’s freshman class is great, Michigan’s hasn’t been good. Both teams are in almost the exact same spot right now though despite the great class.

          • Mattski

            You’ve stood up for X, and I appreciate it. I get on other people when they criticize the kids. But I find it hard to project him into a place of leadership or great success with/for the team. Hope I’ll be eating my words next year.

          • Not standing up for anyone. He’s been bad this year and I among others hoped he could play 15-20 mins per game. Flat out he hasn’t been able to. A lot of freshman point guards struggle though, this offseason and next year is a make or break time for him.

          • AC1997

            Dylan – I think a lot of PG struggle as freshmen, especially when they are undersized and in a complex offense. Winston has been good, but it helps when you can pass to Bridges.

            My question to you is this – what traits made X a star in Ohio as a senior? And what aren’t we seeing out there this year? I thought he was an attacker on offense who was good at getting into the paint and he seems afraid to even have the ball in his hands right now.

          • I think X was always more of a defense first PG. Didn’t follow him that closely on the circuit because the Michigan interest happened so fast, but watching his EYBL film what stands out is that he didn’t do a lot of creating in the half court.

            I do think he has the ability to be a good passer in time. You can see that he will be a good defender. He just really lacks confidence and it’s hard to gain that when you play two minutes at a time.

          • ChathaM

            It is tough to project freshmen that don’t have clear next level talent. But, the fact is that they often do change a great deal in a relatively short time. DJ Wilson is a good example of that. As Dylan said, you can already see that he’s going to be a good defender; the physical tools are all there for that. It’s also clear that his court vision is pretty good. I think he’s going to be a solid 4 year player.

  • AA7596

    Totally agree with this recap from a basketball standpoint, but man: These guys are our rivals. Hard to say a fifth straight loss to them doesn’t mean much in the big picture. (There’s got to be a bigger picture than just squeezing into the NCAA tournament.)

    Look at it this way: If we lose the rematch, is that also no big deal so long as we wind up on the right side of the bubble? Or at some point is it important to beat this particular opponent?

    • MLaw

      From a recruiting perspective it matters because we can’t sell history like MSU can (we had a similar stretch against MSU not long ago). For this team the rematch matters because we need every game we can win.

    • Sure it sucks because you want to beat your rival, but the next two games at home are key. Split with MSU by winning the next two and you are still in a decent spot down the stretch.

  • AC1997

    Michigan had trouble getting into its offense all game. Credit to MSU for their perimeter D. I really wanted to see Wagner in the post more and it felt like he lingered on the perimeter too much.

    The technicals were a total joke.

    Watson should have redshirted. He is lost on the court right now and in about 30 seconds of play was -3.

    I didn’t think Donnal was as good as Dylan was. I thought he gave up two easy shots to Ward and lost a ball off his fingertips. Not a bad game, but not a good one either.

    Bottom line is that Irvin can’t be invisible if Michigan wants to win a road game where they know the refs will not help them out.

  • ZRL

    If Zak was battling the flu, combined with his poor play, why not take him out for MAAR down the stretch?

    • Wayman Britt

      UM just doesn’t have any bench strength. Zak had to play the almost the whole game because Ibi Watson is not very good. MAAR could have played but not sure he would have been better than a sick Irvin. If a sick Zak is that much better than anybody healthy on the bench, that’s trouble.

    • ChathaM

      Beilein sort of addressed that in the post-game, saying that Zak told him at halftime that he was fine. Beilein decided to trust Zak, although you can certainly argue that it wasn’t a good choice.

    • Mattski

      Someone said that MAAR had four fouls. And I myself kept thinking that sooner or later he’d nail a few.

  • umnyc

    I still don’t understand why we have not made the adjustment to starting our offense far earlier in the shot clock then we do. Although I never have any expectation of winning in EL, this game was winnable. There was a stretch in the first half when we were playing against the shot clock for 3 or 4 possessions in a row and did not get a good shot up, and then that stretch in the 2nd half with the 5+ turnovers really hurt too. Still very encouraged by what I’m seeing from DJ and Mo, and hats off to DWalt for keeping us in this one until the end.

    • Mattski

      I don’t think it’s so simple. Their perimeter d was terrific, and pushed us way out to the edges.

      • bobohle

        They haven’t been this good all season defensively. Could we be too predictable?

        • Mattski

          Maybe. They had two days more rest, too, and a good game plan.

  • bobohle

    Need to go 6-3 rest of the way with must wins against Wisc,Purdue at home (top 25 wins) and Northwestern (need quality road win). IMO

  • JJ3ball

    Amen to wanting Robinson to hunt his shot..

    Wilson still learning his game. He took an easy 8 foot jumpshot, and turned it into a difficult left-hand hook shot from about 10

    • Mattski

      Robinson was hunting his shot; they were beating him to his spots.

      • JJ3ball

        I don’t think he was. If he can get squared up and get his shot off, he’s open, and needs to shoot. IMO he passed up a couple of those opportunities.
        He needs to be afraid of missing the opportunity as opposed to being afraid of missing the shot.

  • JJ3ball

    Teske seems a long ways from grabbing an offensive rebound and going up strong. He really should be redshirting this season, but they need his spot minutes.

  • bobohle

    When we play Sparty Feb 7, they get 4 days to prepare M gets 2 days again. The schedule makers are doing a job on us again.

    • Mattski

      Quite simply–this could have been the difference in yesterday’s game. The rest and extra days to game plan. Absolutely does suck, and it makes our job tougher at Crisler. I bet we beat them anyway.

      One hugely important factor from yesterday: we didn’t back down physically. Walton and Wagner’s unwillingness to take crap may prove even more important next Tuesday. But first we have to beat OSU.

  • Fab 5 Legends

    Have a protect home court – MSU Ostate, Wisco, Purdue, resume Ncaa builder games – it would be nice to win road games @Minn, @NWestern but Mich is entirely different road team – they will have trouble with a much better Rutgers team @ the end of the season

  • Chris De Sana

    In regards to Walton: does a shot taken where the player is fouled count in the below numbers?

    Derrick Walton: Walton scored 24 points on 4-of-12 (2-9 3pt) shooting, making 14-of-15 free throw attempts

    • No, if you are fouled on a shot and don’t make it it is not a field goal attempt.

      • Chris De Sana

        Did not watch the game but not sure I would call 4 for 12 and 2 for 9 from 3 dominant.

        • 24 points on 12 shot attempts, 9 rebounds and 5 assists. Missed some open shots from three, but played great. Maybe go back and watch the game.

          • Chris De Sana

            I was looking for it on CBS but could not find a taped version, any idea where else to look?

          • Chris De Sana

            So just to be on the same page as I lose track of terms – his EFG was 41.6%?

          • He scored 19 of UM’s 34 points in the second half. Scored or assisted over half of Michigan’s points. Played down hill, got to the line. Didn’t shoot the three well and had a key turnover late. But he is playing the way Michigan needs and a way we haven’t seen much before the last couple of weeks.

          • Chris De Sana

            I got it…… I was only asking as I dont always understand some of the terminology used in the blog.