hoops game recaps
Those moving pictures are the thousands of words you very much don't want to read about Michigan giving up a 21-2 run to close out yet another overtime loss. Worst of all, perhaps, is I couldn't lead off this post with Aubrey Dawkins taking Nnanna Ewgu for a ride on the BOFA Express.
This is apparently what happens when your only trusted inbounder is 5'10". I don't much like it.
Oh, the faces you'll show. [Patrick Barron/MGoBlog]
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman's last-second attempt to tie from the corner summed up this Michigan team of late. Indiana looked like they'd win comfortably for most of the game, at times threatening to break the game wide open, but the Wolverines clawed back into it late, overcoming their porous defense with timely buckets.
The final possession played out similarly. Zak Irvin, whose hot hand brought M within striking distance, was clearly the first option, but IU wouldn't allow him a decent look. As the clock wound perilously close to zero, Michigan swung the ball around the arc, and suddenly there was MAAR, standing alone in the corner.
His try caught only iron, and we're once again left to commending Michigan's effort in a narrow loss against a better team.
This team, in its current form, just isn't talented enough to overcome too many mistakes. The first half featured Indiana jumping out to a lead in part due to too many Wolverine turnovers. The second half featured a couple critical missed layups—including MAAR blowing a breakaway that would've pulled M within two—and too many offensive boards for IU.
Michigan struggled throughout on defense, failing to keep Yogi Ferrell (18 points, six assists) out of the lane whether in man or zone; Ferrell did most of his damage in the paint, either swooping in for layups or creating open looks when the defense collapsed. Troy Williams posted 20 and 8 in an impressive performance highlighted by a couple thunderous dunks.
The failings on the other end meant Zak Irvin's 23-point output (9/16 FG) went in vain. Ditto Michigan's most productive performance from a big man in a long time, Ricky Doyle's 15 points on 5/5 FGs and 5/6 FTs. While the offense clicked in the second half, the hole dug in the first proved too deep to escape.
Facing their most difficult stretch of the season ahead, Michigan has a lot of positives to take from the last couple weeks. To actually start recording some signature wins, however, they must start shoring up the mistakes.
Two weeks ago, Michigan made Wisconsin look like Iowa.
Tonight, they made Iowa look like Wisconsin.
While much of the focus will go on Michigan's 8:51 scoring drought that spanned both halves, their woeful defensive play was the main culprit in this loss, as the Hawkeyes shot 63% from the field to finish with 1.39 points per possession. All five Iowa starters finished in double-figures.
The ease with which the two teams scored could hardly have contrasted more. 52 of Iowa's 72 points came in the paint, as they ran their offense through the post with equal success against man and zone defenses; they rebounded nearly half their (rare) misses. Michigan managed just 16 points in the paint and looked completely befuddled when Iowa went to a 2-3 zone, moving little and shooting prayer after prayer.
Aubrey Dawkins scored 16 points on nine shots, hitting a couple second-half threes that briefly drew Michigan within striking distance. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman had a couple decent drives on his way to 11 points, though he struggled to shoot from the outside. Kam Chatman had a solid stretch in the first half, scoring six points, then went cold in the second. Pick a player and he probably blew at least one assignment on defense.
The bubble didn't just burst; Iowa took a shotgun to it, and gleefully pumped in a few more rounds to the detritus for good measure. After an inspring performance against Michigan State, the Wolverines fell flat, and it'll be a long final month of the season if their effort on both ends doesn't improve.
And lo, the Sparty Bros chanted "Little Sister," for they had survived the onslaught from Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Spike Albrecht, and Max Bielfeldt. The resilient Spartans nearly covered the spread in overtime, and this outstanding effort was well worth reinforcing their massive inferiority complex and questionable-at-best views on gender.
With this signature victory, MSU improved to 1-0 against Michigan in 2014-15, and 3-6 against them over the last five regular seasons.
Derrick Walton came out for warmups, limped around on his injured toe, and exited early to the locker room. He'd emerge in sweats, out for a critical game against Nebraska and their stout defense.
You'd have been excused for assuming the worst at that point. Michigan not only found a way to win, though, they did so comfortably, relying on defense and contributions from players who weren't even expected to see significant minutes when the season started.
The Wolverines stifled the Huskers while switching up defensive schemes regularly; star Terran Petteway was totally off his game, going 1/11 from the field to finish with just seven points. Nebraska started cold and couldn't snap out of it, missing contested shot after contested shot. High scorer Shavon Shields even required 16 shot equivalents to tally his 14 points.
With Walton sidelined, Michigan needed a big performance from Zak Irvin, and he came through not only with his scoring—a team-high 14—but also with career highs in rebounds (12) and assists (3). Irvin's effort on the boards covered for Walton's usual contributions in that regard.
The play of a pair of freshmen was just as encouraging. Aubrey Dawkins had an efficient 13 points on seven shots, hitting three triples and two midrange jumpers off curl cuts that were eerily reminiscent of GRIII's pet shot. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman added nine, helping Michigan pull away in the second half with a pair of impressive transition finishes and a tough and-one. His burst to the basket stood out in a season when Michigan has struggled to get to the rim.
Max Bielfeldt continued his recent solid play with a 12-point, nine-rebound performance; four of those boards came on offense as he simply outworked Nebraska's bigs. His performance proved critical as Ricky Doyle had a quiet 14 minutes and Mark Donnal missed the game due to illness.
Michigan's taken lump after lump and yet have somehow pushed through to 6-3 in the Big Ten. Given the circumstances, this may have been the most impressive win so far. With a collection of walk-ons and freshmen supporting Irvin, the Wolverines blew out a Nebraska squad that entered with the second-stingiest defense in the conference.
While expectations have lowered significantly with Caris LeVert out for the year and Walton hobbled, this team has become... fun? Yeah, let's go with fun.
They played their asses off.
Despite Derrick Walton's tying three-pointer in the waning moments of the second half, Michigan couldn't quite pull off a colossal upset against Wisconsin. The ovation from the Crisler Center crowd after the game said it all, though—the fight was well worth the price of admission.
As early as the opening five minutes—in which time Michigan had fallen behind 7-2, their only bucket an implausible Spike Albrecht floater—there were any number of opportunities for the team to pack it in. After all, Albrecht was occasionally defending Wisconsin's superstar seven-footer, Frank Kaminsky, as Michigan frequently switched on defense in a sometimes comical effort to slow him down.
When Wisconsin went on a quick 9-0 run to end the half up seven, it felt like the excitement was over. Ditto when Sam Dekker extended that lead to 11 with an uncontested dunk four minutes into the second, prompting a Michigan timeout. After the Wolverines fought back to tie on a run sparked by the unlikely trio of Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Mark Donnal, and Kameron Chatman, the Badgers landed another series of blows, going up by as much as seven and maintaining the edge until the final moments of regulation.
But Michigan never quit. Walton charged to the hoop time and again, absorbing hit after hit to get to the line; he'd finish with 17 points, going 7/8 from the line. Adbur-Rahkman turned in his finest performance in a Michigan uniform, scoring nine (3/4 FG), playing solid defense, and keeping a couple crucial loose balls alive.
Walton took full control at the end of the half. With M down four and 0:31 on the clock, Josh Gasser missed the front end of a one-and-one, and Walton quickly capitalized with a Euro-step layup through contact. After Bronson Koenig split a pair of free throws, Walton sunk two of his own. Koenig went back to the line, this time drilling both with ten seconds remaining.
At first it appeared Aubrey Dawkins would be forced into a heavily contested heave over two defenders; instead, he dropped a nifty pass to Walton as he found an opening and swished home the tying triple. Crisler got as loud as it's been all season.
Kaminsky dominated the overtime session, opening it with an and-one on Ricky Doyle; he'd score eight points in the decisive period. That Michigan made it that far at all, though, felt like a win in and of itself. They've been written off by just about everyone since Caris LeVert went down for the season, but tonight they showed that when they're on their game, they can hang with the very best in the conference.