Michigan battled against Minnesota, forcing overtime despite trailing by 6 points with 1:17 to play, but it wasn’t enough to escape with a road victory.

The Wolverines played nearly flawless offense in the second half, but couldn’t get out of the way of their own mistakes some frustrating officiating on the road. I’ll avoid one of John Gasaway’s four dullest topics in sports blogging, especially from my perch in the second deck of Williams Arena, but the numbers speak for themselves and while John Beilein wouldn’t comment directly, he certainly wasn’t pleased with the whistle.

The Wolverines were whistled for 27 personal fouls and a technical (apparently for Saddi Washington jumping onto the court) and gave up 41 free throw attempts on the night. Both the free throw attempts and personal fouls numbers high-water marks for a John Beilein-coached Michigan team and they proved to be the difference. The 41 free throw attempts are also 9 more than the Wolverines allowed in the last three games combined.

Michigan also didn’t help itself when it made it to the line, making just 9-of-18 free throw attempts — the Wolverines entered tonight’s game ranked 4th in the country in free throw percentage — to be outscored 28 to 9 at the charity stripe.

In an overtime loss that featured 17 lead changes and eight ties and laid in the balance down the stretch, the first place to look is clear.

The four factors graph reiterates the foul differential as Minnesota posted a season-high 71.9% free throw rate (yet another high-water mark under Beilein). Michigan’s defense just couldn’t get enough stops in the second half and overtime and allowed the Gophers to score 17 second chance points. While a 31.7% offensive rebounding rate is right around average (for both teams and in the league), the sheer volume of misses (there were 41 defensive rebounding opportunities) meant that those offensive boards yielded 17 second-chance points.

Michigan’s offense wasn’t great at 1.05 points per possession, but most of that damage was done in the first half. Michigan managed just 27 points in 33 first half possessions (.81 PPP) before scoring 51 in the final 41 of the second half and overtime (1.24 PPP). The Wolverines made 62% of their two-point shots and Minnesota only blocked 3 shots on the night (shot blocking extraordinaire Reggie Lynch played just 13 minutes with foul trouble). That aggressiveness to create two-point shooting opportunities paid dividends and Michigan was also aggressive in transition (a 12-3 advantage) and off of turnovers (18-9 advantage).

While the Wolverines showed some impressive resolve to bounce back in the second half, there were still far too many moments in this one that felt like a missed opportunity. Just about every Michigan player that saw the floor will be able to look back on the game and find two or three plays that they want back and could have made the difference. Whether it was a missed free throw, a weak defensive rebound try, or a bad shot. The Wolverines were almost able to overcome them in the end, but those mistakes mixed with a harsh whistle were just too much.

This isn’t a loss that drastically changes the situation for Michigan, but with only 4 games left in the schedule it’s hard to stomach any missed opportunities. Next the Wolverines have to turnaround and head to New Jersey on Wednesday. Rutgers is the worst team in the Big Ten, but they are competitive this year and have given plenty of opponents a scare. They are also the best offensive rebounding group in the country.

Player Bullets

  • Muhammad-Ali Abdur-RahkmanAbdur-Rahkman was aggressive attacking the rim (5-of-6 2P) and knocked in a three to rack up an efficient 14 points in 40 minutes. His moment to forget came right after his best moment of the night — a three-pointer put Michigan up by 1 in overtime — as he went to the line on the next possession and missed both free throws. That being said, he has quietly emerged as a consistent secondary option for the Wolverine offense.
  • Derrick WaltonWalton has taken his superman cape off over the last two games and he had to grind out his 16 points on 6-of-15 shooting. He attacked the rim aggressively all night, but couldn’t buy a call as both him. He thought the overtime three was down before it rimmed out, but it was just an average 3-of-8 three-point shooting night. Then there’s the free throw shooting. Walton is one of the best free throw shooters in the country, but he went just 1-of-4 at the line including a missed front-end.
  • Zak IrvinIrvin had some nice moments, especially in the second half, but his two missed three-point attempts with Michigan up by 1 point and down by 3 points in overtime were both pivotal. They were both pretty late in the shot clock and fairly open — if I remember correctly — but they were off the dribble and that’s just a shot that Irvin hasn’t been consistent with this season. Irvin does deserve some credit for containing Amir Coffey (he only made 1 shot all night) and picking up a couple of steals, assists and no turnovers, but Michigan needs to him to find some consistency with his shot down the stretch.
  • DJ WilsonThe birthday boy kept the game alive with his game-tying three-pointer and then knocked in another three in overtime. The game-tying play wasn’t drawn up for DJ, but he did a great job of reacting to the situation and burying the deep triple from 27+ feet. In regulation he did most of his work attacking the basket, getting to the paint and then finishing with his little hook shot. There are offensive opportunities there for Wilson, but it feels like sometimes the Wolverines can’t find him consistently enough. He grabbed 7 defensive rebounds, but Michigan’s defensive approach seemed to have him helping on drivers and leaving his man (usually Jordan Murphy) open for a backside putback.
  • Moritz Wagner: Wagner boosted Michigan’s offense with a pair of first half threes and was aggressive off the bounce in the second. He had an efficient 15 points and 7 rebounds, but his 3 turnovers all seemed avoidable. He battled foul trouble, but his aggressive play was also a key reason that Reggie Lynch ended up on the bench with foul trouble.
  • Duncan Robinson: Robinson didn’t make a three-pointer for only the 4th game all season, but he still found the box score with some aggressive cuts and curls to get to the rim. He also handed out 5 assists — I’m curious to watch the tape on this one because that’s an impressive total — but saw his playing time limited due to foul trouble (5 in 15 minutes).
  • Mark DonnalFor the second straight game, Donnal gave Michigan some important quality minutes off the bench in the second half. He had a huge block and was solid all around while Wagner was on the bench in foul trouble.
  • Xavier SimpsonSimpson is starting to settle into a grove where he makes one or two nice plays every game. Tonight it was a great pick-and-roll feed as he also continues to give other guards fits with his aggressive defense.
  • gobluemd16

    MGoTweeter said it best in the open thread; the refs cost us the game in regulation, but we cost ourselves the game in OT.

    • Grant Schwieger

      The refs also gave you the shot to put it into OT… The jump ball with Coffey that gave Michigan the ball with under 35 seconds left gave Michigan the ball to tie it… when it was obviously a foul in every way shape and form. Just because the calls didn’t all go your way, doesn’t mean Minnesota didn’t get the shaft at points too.

  • Fab 5 Legends

    Tough L to swallow…I think we played well even though we missed a bunch of FT…it’s hard to lose to Minn, because we are the superior team talentwise…the referees were extremely inconsistent…1 of the worse officiating games I’ve seen this year, a little homecooking in an important game for Minn…@Rutgers, vsPurdue, @Northwestern, @ Nebraska…hoping we go 3-1 to end the season but even 2-2 should be ok? Overall we played well, was hoping to steal this W and continue the win streak..i think a win against Purdue or NWestern officially puts us in NCAA tourny

    • Alex

      Need to beat Rutgers, another regular season team, and then probably win one in the BTT. We do that then I think we’re in.

      • Fab 5 Legends

        True, though I think a NW/Purdue gets us in too..but you are right Rutgers is a must win! BigTen will get 6/7 teams in

  • gobluemd16

    V. MSU football last year, @OSU football last year, @Wisconsin bball this year, and tonight. Why does it seem like Michigan athletics always get the wrong end of the whistle?

    • MAZS

      We don’t always–anecdotes aside–but we did last night.

    • ChathaM

      It does feel like that sometimes. But then, just tonight, I saw multiple phantom fouls called in the Miami-Virginia game, and later flipped to Iowa State – Texas Tech just in time to see a phantom backcourt violation call with a second left in regulation. No matter the college sport, there are a ton of games and not a ton of good officials. Some of them are just bad.

  • Wayman Britt

    A very winnable game. Now the pressure to win at least one or maybe two games at BTN is extremely high. They have had many opportunities to have Selection Sunday a fun enjoyable day just waiting to see where they play, now they watch on needles to see if they even get in.

    Of course they could beat both NW and Purdue, then it’s a different ball game.

    • Fab 5 Legends

      I think a win @NW and/or Purdue puts us in…think BigTen will get 6/7 teams in…Rutgers is a must win

  • John Mills

    Watching this game I started to feel a sense of pride for these guys that fought so hard in the uniform of my school. Here’s the difference: Michigan had to earn everything they got. Minnesota, on the other hand, got bailed out of every situation. Every position had an and one. How can you win a game when the other team shoots 41 free throws? Watch out for these guys when they get on a neutral court.

  • MAZS

    This wasn’t remotely a moral victory, but it was probably our best loss this year. The effort was consistently there.

  • wolverheel

    Forum not working for anyone else?

  • Champswest

    I hope we get Minnesota again, either in the B1G or NCAA.

  • Fab 5 Legends

    NW – 9-5
    Minn – 8-6
    MState – 8-6
    Michigan – 7-7
    Iowa – 6-8
    Penn State – 6-8
    Nebraska – 6-8

    Have to finish 7 or higher! Hopefully we finish 5, 6…need to end the season 3-1 hopefully but 2-2 should do too

  • Fab 5 Legends

    ESPN has us as a #9 seed in Buffalo as of today http://m.espn.com/ncb/bracketology?src=desktop

    • Fab 5 Legends

      That would be an ideal game against VCU then play Villanova

      • bobohle

        We owe Villanova from the last time we played them.

  • malcolm bolt

    This team is capable of going 4-0, 3-1, 2-2, or 1-3 down the stretch. I’m pulling for the winning side, but can the majority of its parts play with consistency at the same time? That’s the determining factor.

    • MrLG

      More like capable of 3-1, 2-2, 1-3, 0-4. Michigan could definitely lose all of them. Rutgers is not a gimme and Michigan is tired. Pretty much no chance of winning all 4 IMHO. I think we need to finish 500 in the big 10 to make the big dance, so we need 2-2.

      • malcolm bolt

        I respectfully agree with you MrLG, but I can’t see Michigan, as helter-skelter as the team is, going 0-4, even with the road woes. It could happen, but my gut judgment would doubt it.

        In a strange twist, this is the best ball the squad has really played all season over the past three weeks or so. Never thought this would actually come to light this season l, but these guys are actually starting to prove their mettle.

        If Michigan goes 2-2 and waffles in the B1G Tourney, it better pray that there are hardly any teams in the field stealing bids. 3-1 or better needs to be the standard and mindset for the team, coaching staff, and fan base.

  • ChathaM

    I appreciate the fight that we showed in coming back from 6-8 points down with only a few minutes to play. There definitely is fight in this team, and I think the coaching staff has instilled that in them. If they’re posting pictures of dogs in the locker room, then you know they’re emphasizing it constantly. It can’t always overcome the lack of strength on the roster in matchups like this, but it is now an entertaining team to watch; very different from some of the weak efforts we saw early in the season. However this plays out, the coaching staff has done a good job of getting the guys to play harder than they were a month or two ago.

    I felt that we took a step back defensively in this game. Minny was able to consistently create help situations, and either get to the basket (or get fouled; legitimately; doing so), or get the ball to an open shooter. That they missed quite a few open looks and free throws, especially in the first half, helped to keep us in the game. Our post defenders hid behind their man several times throughout the game, we fouled a 3-point shooter (twice, but only one was truly a foul), and simply didn’t bother to attempt to box out on some plays (the one that burned me was Walton not bothering to box out Mason when Mason was able to follow his shot and secure an offensive rebound; pretty much the same play that won them the Indiana game last week). I don’t know why that happens, as the defensive focus had been really good over the past few games. But, we really need to lock back in to reach our potential the rest of the way.

    I agree with everyone who thought the officiating was poor. I highly doubt that they were biased, and think more that most of the bad decisions simply went Minny’s way. I don’t know how you think you see a foul on the Robinson block of the 3-point attempt. I don’t know how you call an and-one on a play where Wagner is simply standing straight up with his arms extended. I don’t know how you don’t see a ball go off Irvin’s hand when it happens directly in front of you, miss the call, then have to use the monitor to prove that you weren’t focused. I was surprised that none of the better officials that we regularly see in the league were on this game, given that there was only one other conference game yesterday.

    It does feel like 2-2 the rest of the way should be enough to get in. But, a 2-2 finish does make for a 13-loss resume (assuming a loss in the B1G tourney). Teams do get in with that many losses, but at the same time, it wouldn’t be a confident resume. A 3-1 finish will get it done, no matter what happens in the B1G tourney. That will mean beating either Purdue or Northwestern.

  • Chris De Sana

    Not sure I would agree that they were nearly flawless in the second half as my memory was that there were many bad trips that resulted in desperation shots and missed opportunities to include Walton driving to the hoop out of control, not feeding Moe when he was covered by a much smaller player and Walton taking shots that are not ones most here would call in his shrinking sweet spot (mid range going to his right).

    On DJ we agree, this team and the offense are not really taking advantage of what he brings to the table. To a lesser degree Moe could fall into that category at times.

    As mentioned during the game, Duncan has really improved on both ends of the court. From his defense and blocking out to his movement without the ball and passing. He seems to have a better feel for where scoring opportunities come from than most of our roster. He deserves more minutes.

  • bobohle

    We need to go 3-1 the rest of the way because I don’t think Sparty (now without Harris) and Minn will do better than 2-2. We should be in position for a nine seed.