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hoops game recaps
File photo, but whatever. [Patrick Barron/MGoBlog]
Shannon Scott pickpocketed Zak Irvin in the backcourt after a lazy crossover. Caris LeVert tossed an inbounds pass directly to an awaiting Buckeye, not even bothering to look at his intended target.
Michigan's top two scorers spent much of the second half on the bench, not because they weren't needed—the Wolverines were, in fact, getting blown out—but because whatever minuscule chance of a win they'd give the team wasn't worth John Beilein not sending a message. This team would've had a hard enough time upsetting the Buckeyes with everything clicking; instead, after some hot shooting from Irvin kept M in it early, sloppy mistake after sloppy mistake compounded the familiar offensive woes that have plagued this team for much of the season.
Lengthy scoring droughts in both halves led to OSU doubling up Michigan early in the second half, and even the final 19-point margin wasn't representative of the gap between the two teams for most of the game. Before M even scored a point in the second half, they trotted out a lineup of Derrick Walton, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Aubrey Dawkins, Kam Chatman, and Max Bielfeldt. It was no longer a contest, but a learning experience.
Let's hope the lesson sticks, because that was hard to watch.
The Penn State student section is rocking. pic.twitter.com/gZuYDPnhbf
— Brendan F. Quinn (@BFQuinn) January 7, 2015
Michigan and Penn State both entered tonight's game coming off ugly losses in which their respective offenses disappeared. The Bryce Jordan Center crowd was anything but raucous. Both teams' lone offensive creators battled foul trouble throughout.
Surprise! This game was ugly.
The Wolverines overcame 15 turnovers to pull away late thanks to six straight points from Caris LeVert, who led the team with 18 points on 6/8 shooting, and a couple critical buckets from Zak Irvin, who added 17 and a game-high nine boards.
Derrick Walton once again struggled from the field, going just 2/7, though he went 7/7 from the line and made a big impact on the boards; he still didn't look close to healthy, having one seemingly open driving layup blocked when he wasn't able to cover ground and lift like he does at 100%. Michigan got just enough secondary scoring from Ricky Doyle and Aubrey Dawkins, who chipped in eight points apiece, to make up for Walton's scoring struggles and an 0-fer from Spike Albrecht, who started in place of Kam Chatman.
After getting crushed on the boards in the first half, Michigan evened out the rebounding battle in the second, and a late switch to the 1-3-1 zone gave Penn State fits as they were unable to keep pace. While DJ Newbill scored 20 points, he got no help from the PSU frontcourt, and the Nittany Lion offense stalled when Newbill—who often plays wire-to-wire—had to sit six minutes due to foul trouble. A surprising 16-point performance from backup John Johnson wasn't enough to overcome the frontcourt no-show, especially that of forward Brandon Taylor, who went just 1/10 from the field.
The bright spot for Michigan was their shooting—they went 9/15 from beyond the arc, and some nifty second half work from LeVert, Irvin, and Doyle managed to drag their two-point percentage up to 50% after it languished well below that for most of the game.
It wasn't pretty, but a road win is a road win, and this Michigan team will certainly take it.
I don't have much to say here, because nobody is going to want to read this.
Michigan went into halftime with an eight-point lead after Spike Albrecht drilled a contested three over AJ Hammons. A long two by Zak Irvin kept the lead at eight with 19:11 left in the second half.
The Wolverines would not hit a shot for the next 12:34. They'd finish with just three second-half field goals.
The big three of Zak Irvin, Caris LeVert, and Derrick Walton combined to hit just 6/31 shots. Irvin managed to miss all four of his layups, and he accounted for nearly half of M's total attempts at the rim. If not for Albrecht scoring 17 and Ricky Doyle going 3/3 from the field, this game somehow could've gone worse.
Aubrey Dawkins, the hero of the Illinois game, scored a basket for Purdue on an accidental tip-in. He did not score for Michigan.
A Big Ten road loss is not a death knell, of course. The fashion in which Michigan acquired it, however, is deeply troublesome. The Boilermakers crushed them in the paint, owned the glass, and on the rare occasion they gave up half-decent looks, the Wolverines rarely converted.
Whether it's inexperience, injuries, the lack of a viable big man, or—most likely—some combination of the three, there's something deeply wrong with this team. They're running out of time to figure it out.
LET THE BODIES HIT THE FLOOR
Michigan easily dispatched an overmatched Coppin State squad to snap their four-game losing streak, coasting to a 16-point victory that wasn't as close as the score would indicate. The above GIF is more representative.
Ricky Doyle led the team with a career-high 16 points, going 6/7 from the field; he could've had even more if not for a 4/9 mark from the free-throw line. Derrick Walton recorded a career high in assists for the second straight year against CSU, dishing out nine in addition to scoring nine points.
Zak Irvin hit 3/7 three-pointers on his way to 13 points while hauling in seven boards. Caris LeVert did solid work on the glass as well, pulling down eight rebounds on top of his eight points. Kam Chatman added nine points, Mark Donnal eight, and the bench got plenty of run.
That included Austin Hatch, who tallied his first official career point at the line after getting fouled on a three-pointer that he very nearly sunk. After Hatch narrowly missed another opportunity from the corner, John Beilein called timeout to sub him out and allow the crowd a chance to give him a standing ovation. It was quite a moment to cap off a much-needed win.
Michigan dropped their fourth straight game, unable to Harbaugh themselves past SMU. Their three-point shots wouldn't fall through the Harbaugh; the Fightin' Harbaughs hit just 8/36 shots from beyond the arc.
A nice stretch by Mark Donnal, who finished with 13 points, briefly got Michigan back into the Harbaugh in the second half, only to see the Mustangs pull away late. Caris LeVert couldn't hit the broad side of a Harbaugh, scoring four points on 1/8 shooting. Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton required far too many Harbaughs to tally 17 and 11 points, respectively.
The Wolverines are really going to have to Harbaugh in Big Ten play to have any hope of making the NCAA tournament. With only Monday's game against Coppin State left before conference play beings, they must get their Harbaugh together soon.
In the face. (GIF via Vice Sports.)
For a reeling, young, undersized Michigan squad, Arizona represented one of the worst possible matchups.
The Wolverines fell in a laugher, unable to deal with the Wildcats' imposing combination of size, skill, and athleticism. Michigan's inability to generate shots inside the arc or hit them from beyond it led to an early deficit that only grew as Kameron Chatman and then Zak Irvin found themselves in foul trouble.
At one point in the first half, John Beilein threw out a lineup of Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Caris LeVert, Aubrey Dawkins, Max Bielfeldt, and Mark Donnal; Beilein subsequently relented on his usually rigid foul policy and reinserted Irvin late in the half despite his two fouls.
The situation only got more dire in the second stanza, as M failed to score a point until the 14:55 mark; the Arizona faithful stood until that moment, displaying impressive adherence to tradition. The Wolverines remained unable to get into the paint, get out on the break, grab offensive rebounds, or defend the interior; adding to the blowout, Arizona got numerous second-chance buckets after failing to record an offensive rebound in the first half—not as much of a surprise as it may seem, as they only missed nine shots in that span.
The individual issues are barely worth noting; such is the nature of a bloodbath. Zak Irvin's shooting woes continued, and a mental lapse of some sort earned him a benching from Beilein mere moments into the second half. Caris LeVert, repeatedly denied even a sniff of the rim, couldn't carry the offense as he has in the past. The bigs were helpless against Arizona's impressive front line of Brandon Ashley, Stanley Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and Kaleb Tarczewski.
Without context, this game may not be cause for sounding the alarm; after all, this was an extremely tough matchup—especially for a young Michigan front—against a very good team in the first true road game of the season. Coming off back-to-back upset losses at home, however, it's time to acknowledge the possibility that the Wolverines will have to claw their way into the NCAA tournament picture, even with Beilein on the bench. This team is better than it looked today, but it's also got a long way to go.