Michigan’s offense looked well-rehearsed and unstoppable when it took the floor on Saturday night.

16 points by 5 players in 8 possessions.

The Wolverine offense was so crisp it looked like it could have been a practice walk through of how they wanted to attack Ohio State. Moritz Wagner scored on a drive to the lane, DJ Wilson swooped into the lane and hit a turnaround, Derrick Walton hit a three in an unsettled break, Zak Irvin flashed to the basket with a great cut and knocked in a three off the catch.

The Wolverines quickly extended their early lead to 11 points with over 14 minutes to play in the first half and watched Ohio State’s leading scorer, Jae’Sean Tate, take an early seat on the bench with 2 fouls. Another home blowout felt inevitable, but the Buckeyes didn’t pack up and head home, they dug in.

Ohio State cut the lead to a single possession by the next media timeout and played volleyball on the backboard en route to a 1-point halftime lead. The Buckeyes seized control of the game with a quick start to the second half, watching Michigan’s frontcourt take a seat on the bench with 3 fouls a piece, and left the Wolverines to play catch-up for the rest of the night.

Derrick Walton gave Michigan everything he in the tank and then some, finishing with 25 points, 10 rebounds and three assists in 37 minutes, but he came up just one shot short in the end — missing a baseline pull-up jumper that would have tied the game with :25 seconds to play.

He also didn’t have much help. Zak Irvin played another poor game and Michigan’s big men battled foul trouble and inconsistency for much of the night.

Michigan’s offense was as three-point happy as its been all season. Many of the tropes that are thrown around with respect to Michigan’s three-point heavy offense miss the mark — three-point reliant offenses can be very good — but there were some major concerns on display tonight. Michigan only made 1 shot inside the arc in the second half.

The Wolverines only made 6 two-pointers all night and four of them came in the first five possessions of the game. That means the Wolverines made exactly two shots inside the arc in the final 36 minutes of the game.

I’m not sure what changed — especially given that the early makes were textbook cuts, drives and finishes that appeared to be relatively uncontested — but it didn’t work. Derrick Walton made three-pointer after three-pointer and willed Michigan to 1.02 points per possession but this was a broken offensive performance. Michigan turned the ball over twice as many times as it scored inside the arc and just wasn’t able to get anything going outside of Walton.

Of Michigan’s 35 three-point attempts, Walton made 6-of-9 for 67% while his teammates were just 7-of-26 from deep.

On the other side of the floor, the Wolverines were unable to overcome their inability to grab a rebound. Ohio State rebounded 48.5% of its missed shots — U-M’s worst defensive rebounding effort of the season — racked up 19 second chance points. Both Thad Matta and John Beilein commented on how Michigan’s aggressive switching on the perimeter seemed to take the Wolverines out of proper defensive rebounding position.

There were several offensive boards where Jae’Sean Tate or Trevor Thompson just overpower Wolverine defenders, but there were also plenty of Buckeye misses that seemed to bounce a couple times on the floor while the Wolverines were still trying to figure out who they were guarding. On the positive side of the ledger, this was Michigan’s best eFG% defensive performance of the Big Ten season and they forced turnovers on a quarter of Ohio State’s offensive possessions.

This loss and the Virginia Tech loss stand out as the most painful of the season. Two teams that Michigan clearly was capable of beating but just let slip away on its home floor. NCAA Tournament teams don’t lose those games and the clock is ticking. There are only so many more chances to get those critical wins.

Sitting at 4-6 in the league with only three home games — two of which come against the league’s top two teams — it’s starting to become now or never. I think the baseline target is probably 5 more wins — pushing the record to 9-9 in league. But it isn’t going to get any easier, a realistic path would look something like wins over Michigan State, at Indiana, Wisconsin, at Rutgers and Purdue at home. Possible? Sure, but there’s only so many more second chances.

Player Bullets:

  • Derrick Walton: Walton has been playing incredible basketball, but it wasn’t enough. He made 2-of-7 twos, 6-of-9 threes, grabbed 10 rebounds and really was the only reason that Michigan had a chance in this game . He’s averaging 19.5 points per night over the last six and is playing like you would expect a senior down to his final eight regular season games to play. If Walton keeps playing this well, Michigan will gut out some more wins this season, but man somebody give the man some help.
  • Zak Irvin: Irvin was 2-of-10 from the floor (1-6 3pt), grabbed 3 rebounds, had three assists and three turnovers. He was bad for most of the night and there’s not really any other way to put it. He made one great play to pick off a steal and assist a Walton three, but after making his first two shots of the night he missed his next eight and gave Michigan nothing for most of the game despite playing 35 minutes. It’s not about whether there are other options, this is a team that is, for better or worse, built around Irvin. If he plays like this, the Wolverines are going to lose more often than they win.
  • DJ Wilson: Wilson is really struggling to contain any dribble penetration defensively. He struggles when he’s switched onto a guard and he struggles when he is matched up against someone like Jae’Sean Tate, who consistently got into his chest and finished at the rim. Wilson has had some good defensive games this year, but his last two showings on that side of the ball have been ugly. Offensively, he hit a couple of late threes but never really got involved as he battled foul trouble. Rebounding? One in 25 minutes.
  • Moritz Wagner: Silly fouls limited Wagner to 22 minutes as some of his bad habits have been creeping back in defensively, but the bigger question is what exactly happened to his offense of late? He was 1-of-5 from the floor and his four three-point misses weren’t even in the same orbit as the basket. He’s hitting a rough patch offensively at a time when Michigan needs him and I think a turnaround will start with attacking off the bounce.
  • Muhammad-Ali Abdur-RahkmanAbdur-Rahkman was one of the only guys to give Michigan any offense other than Walton as he knocked down a couple of triples, but he also was 1-of-3 inside the arc and isn’t attacking the rim. Defensively, he seems to get caught ball watching as much as anyone on the roster.
  • Mark DonnalDonnal played 17 minutes and grabbed 1 offensive rebound and 0 defensive rebounds. He wasn’t the only Michigan player to struggle on the glass, but he’s high on the list.
  • Duncan Robinson: Robinson came out firing and looked confident with a couple of early triples, but he cooled off and only finished with 8 points.
  • Xavier Simpson4 minutes and 2 steals, but Simpson still doesn’t look ready to make an impact offensively.
  • bobohle

    JB said he thought their effort was there tonight. Was he watching the same game we were? Even MAAR said Walton wanted it and the rest including himself did not play that way.

    • Chris De Sana

      Irvin and Wilson were lifeless

  • Wayman Britt

    They say you aren’t as bad when you lose a game, but this team is the exception. They are a bad team. They are soft, play with no emotion and don’t learn from their mistakes. It’s so sad to see the players make the same mistakes game after game. Some of the players clearly don’t want to be playing basketball anymore.

    This roster has no balance. And the coaching staff has been bad. Beilein has been bad. The program as a whole is going the wrong way. I am sure we all will have further discussion about the staff, recruiting and the program, but I am too frustrated to talk about that now.

    • Fab 5 Legends

      Completely agree with your comments…I’m still not anti-Beilein yet…I would only say the recruiting has decreased, we expected more from our current freshmen; who are not close to being ready and recent classes have been mediocre at best…the development of TreyBurke, Stauskas, Levert, Morgan etc…was impressive because they were similar recruits but Irvin did not pan out as we expected, nor has Rahkman, Donnal…Walton has had some ups/downs but will go down as a better player than Irvin was…our next crop of guys look promising in the next 2years…

    • No Walmart Fan Here.

      I’m not going to call them soft. That’s rather disrespectful. However, I will to bet my last that you couldn’t either one of them one on one .I have the up most confidence that these kids will turn it around because the talent is there. They have competed with good teams and played to lower teams and that’s the only issue that I have. They will be fine.

  • bebopson

    Wagner needs to man up and stop bitching about his fouls. They’re all legit calls. He’s constantly making stupid decisions on D and lacks awareness of his positioning and movement with respect to his assignment.

    • Chris De Sana

      Agree mentioned in a previous recap that it appears his theatrics are catching up with him. I remember a day when he just put his hand up and took his medicine now he seems to whine after every whistle. Stop it and play…..

  • Fab 5 Legends

    Great recap, couldn’t agree with you more. Walton has been the most important piece these last couple years barring injuries, his freshmen year was great, and he seems like he will finish his UM career with some pride…can’t say the same about Irvin, did he still have the flu?? I hate to be negative towards him, but he has regressed as a senior. DJ Wilson has some nice offense but is a easy target on the defensive end to take off the dribble…as mentioned should have won this game and Virginia Tech @ home…

  • PeteM

    I don’t have the basketball knowledge of many on this site, but my general observation is that this team is seems to be reacting rather than forcing the other team to react. On defense they are constantly being pushed back by penetration, never forcing the offense to do something it doesn’t want to do. On the offensive end they seem stuck around the perimeter. The handful of times Mo or DJ got the ball inside they seemed reluctant to take a shot.

    I have a couple of questions that I’d love Dylan to address if he enters this discussion. First is why not let Teske have some minutes? I don’t I’ve ever seen us rebound this badly, and Donnal seems to have lost his confidence. The second is should we change our defense. I don’t know if that means bringing out the 1-3-1, running a Syracuse-style 2-3 or something but it seems any team that can penetrate destroys our man-to-man D (I realize they may have tried this here and there, but again whatever they are doing isn’t working).

    • Fab 5 Legends

      At this point of the season…Beilein has absolutely no faith in freshmen 3…they have not contributed and sounds like they haven’t earned a right to play through Practice mistakes…he’s got more confidence in Donnal even though you are right; he has no confidence and mentally knows he’s the 3rd wheel behind Wagner/Wilson

      • AC1997

        Zone isn’t the answer. They’ve been better on defense lately and today wasn’t bad. The only reason their D today wasn’t GREAT was the bad rebounding. Going zone isn’t going to help at this point.

  • Fab 5 Legends

    I think we are stuck with this 7man rotation, Beilein has no trust in his freshmen…unfortunately this group has had more negatives than positives…hoping for Irvin to step up and help Walton from here on out…if we lose most of our games in the next stretch, I want to see more fight from Irvin…Walton has set a great example last couple games…We still have opportunities a head of us….that Madison Square Garden tournament seems like a far memory after easily beating 2 possible NCAA tourny teams (Marquette/SMU)

  • AC1997

    This was soooo bad. I think Dylan did a good job of being as blunt as he could without using swear words. After the 5 minute mark they forgot how to play basketball. Wagner and Wilson forgot that they are 6’10” tall and the entire team forgot that you’re allowed to shoot the ball closer than 25 feet from the hoop. Pathetic.

    I’m a huge Beilein supporter, but this was another game this season where it gets harder and harder to be supportive. They ran almost no offense other than “stand around the 3pt line and hope someone gets an open three to shoot.” You wonder why they can’t rebound – they are all standing around the perimeter, they front the post to give up position, they are not physical in the post, and the refs were calling any contact in the post.

  • AC1997

    A moment on the refs…..

    I get that OSU was more physical and Michigan stood around the perimeter. But how does Walton not get the typically automatic call of “star guard goes to the rim, runs into a moving big man, gets foul called”??? They called ticky tack fouls on Wagner, Wilson, and Robinson all night, but Walton can’t get that call? WTF? These are the same refs that actually called the never-seen-in-ten-years lane violation.

  • Cliff Pappe

    We could not get a rebound against osu, I can’t imagine getting any against Purdue. Biggie is an automatic double-double and Haas will just power over guys. I think we get 1 more win: over Rutgers. Sad but that is the reality I see.

  • AA7596

    The switching issue is interesting. Switching is a hallmark of the pack line—you constantly switch to prevent penetration. The thing is, though, it’s supposed to *help* you rebound, since everyone is sagging. Really odd.

    Michigan has played the easiest conference schedule of any B1G team, per Kenpom. And we’re 4-6. We keep talking about the tourney, but at this point, it looks like this team could collapse.

  • A2MIKE

    Michigan lost a very similar game in 2011 on a Saturday night to Minnesota. It tanked their conference record to 1-6. That team turned it around with the next game against Sparty.

    Of course in 2010, facing a similar slide, Michigan lost by 1 point to Sparty, finished with a losing record and missed the tourney.

    Tuesday night will be a turning point, for better or worse.

  • Chris De Sana

    Tough game to watch really. Yes Walton had a nice scoring line but the ball did not move like it needs to for this offense to be successful and for some reason he and Irvin both struggle to hit the Roll man on time or at all. Because of it we miss so many opportunities at the rim (ala Morgan back in the day). And when pretty much every procession starts with a PNR how it is this late in the season and they still struggle to make that play makes me shake my head.

    Irvin and Wilson were lifeless for most of the game.

    Moe has to stop whining and man up.

    I thought MAAR played fairly solid but stull has some defensive lapses that lead to easy buckets. Robinson the same.

    As for Donnal; I like the kid but he seems disinterested so give Teske those minutes. And X needs more minutes if not for the simple reason that Walton needs the rest.

    • Wayman Britt

      I agree that Beilein should give Teske and X more minutes, but Beilein has been consistent and emphatic that they are not ready and better than a lifeless Donnal or a extremely tired DW. Even just to play a few minutes.

      What does that tell you about the freshman’s talent level and the future of this program.

      • No Walmart Fan Here.

        You panic to much man. You’re giving up on players before they graduate and worrying about the state of this program. Relax a little chief.

  • malcolm bolt

    Maybe these guys should have another Players-Only Meeting (LMAO).

    This group collectively is not that good. Has a low ceiling for the season and little margin for error in order to win most games.

    The season isn’t over yet, but in all truthfulness it has been a disappointment considering most of the team has some level of experience playing together.

    This program is in serious danger of slipping into the nether-world right now.

    • No Walmart Fan Here.

      Thou come

      • Chris De Sana

        We will be just fine? What is fine?

        • No Walmart Fan Here.

          We have five more weeks and I have nothing but faith in this team and Beilien and this team. I’m not about to give up on this team , point blank period.

          • Chris De Sana

            So you’re okay with just being a bubble team

          • No Walmart Fan Here.

            I choose to support the team instead of being negative and giving up on them. Why is that a issue with you?

          • Chris De Sana

            No issue, just not crazy about a bubble team because I think we should be better than that.

          • No Walmart Fan Here.

            I however do agree with you. I’m just a frustrated as the next person but I do have faith that they can turn it around. Boy do I miss Dawkins and Chat man.

      • malcolm bolt

        That makes no sense in me wanting them to fail. There is great concern regarding this team’s gaps and that is stated in this article. Gritty wins over Texas and Nebraska were praised; dominant wins over SMU and Marquette revered; but concerns are legitimate and they are mentioned by many commenters here.

        • No Walmart Fan Here.

          I understand the where you’re coming from and apologize for the misunderstanding.

  • Jack Simms

    things are not all bad—-crisler was full [or nearly full] for the osu game——-and should be full again for msu——-so shouldn’t michigan be deserving of hosting at least a couple of rounds in the nit?

    • Chris De Sana

      Hey they travel well right?

  • snowfordays

    What about U of M pride? They let an average Ohio State team come into their home and slap them around.

    I’ve always had good things to say about our team, but this effort was embarrassing. As Terry Mills put it: they needed to be playing like their hair was on fire. It wasn’t there at all.
    Even bad high school teams can make 2 point baskets, and for a team like this to make only 2 of them in the last 35 minutes is insane.

  • No Walmart Fan Here.

    This site is a cesspool for negativity and Walmart fans and it’s sad. I am upset about the loss just as much as the next person but I’m not about to sit and criticize these kids and call them “soft” and “bad”. I’m not going to continue to bash our head coach constantly after ever loss. I’m going to give up on the players, particularly the freshmen before they graduate. Most of you are Walmart wolverines and that ticks me off. I love this site outside of the few pessimistic who post just to be negative. Half of you guys thinks that you’re coaches and scouts when you haven’t played a lick of basketball. These kids made to D-1 and getting free education. They chose UM. They are here for reason. Our recruits that coming are really talent because I have seen all play in person. Eli Brooks is going be a star despite his rankings and competition. He is basically a star where he lives. Isaiah River is a stud and is Jordan Poole . I really wish that Beilien offer Greg Elliot because he is a beast and he plays with David Dejulius who will eventually be a pro. We have Austin Davis and Matthews coming in next year. Have some faith and stop being so Walmart . it’s annoying. I hate to see this team lose just as much as anyone but where is all of this negative energy when they win? The same people come to this site constantly complaining and it make this site unpleasant to come to. People complain players being untalented and “lacking lateral quickness”( you know who), they complain about kids who earn a scholarship to play this university and they constantly trash players. Michigan has the most Walmart program. I’m a Beilien supporter and will always be because before him our program was in shambles and had missed the tournemnt 11 years in a row. He changed that with players who fit his system despite an fan base that complains about star ranking. He does it the right way. Half of you guys don’t attend games or go check our recruits. You make you basis off box scores and video films. I’m not sorry for this rant because I am a true fan and will always be. I’m giving up until the season is over. Complain on.

    • Chris De Sana

      You OK man? BTW what is a Walmart fan?

    • MAZS

      When I read “I am a true fan”, it’s easy to discount everything else written. That’s an assessment others can make about you, but not one you can make about yourself.

  • NbobBis

    Irvin?