"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
hoops game recaps
It could've gone either way. Alvin Ellis drove baseline, Muhammad-Ali Adbur-Rahkman squared up, the two collided, then Ted Valentine hopped three times and called a block.
With 13:11 left in the first half, Adbur-Rahkman exited with two fouls. Michigan State led 11-8. When John Beilein reinserted him a little over eight minutes later, the Spartans held a commanding 33-14 lead.
It'd be too easy to point to that 16-point swing and say auto-benching MAAR proved the difference in the game. Michigan's problems tonight went far beyond early foul trouble for their freshman guard. No matter the defensive strategy, the Wolverines couldn't defend the paint. The Spartans finished an astonishing 25/32 on two-pointers, rebounded nine of their 19 missed shots, and turned the ball over just eight times. That's a far bigger issue than who's playing at one spot on the floor.
On this Michigan team, though, the dropoff is so severe that ceding points in the name of caution isn't an option—and, let's face it, playing Andrew Dakich instead of MAAR is handing over points to the opposition. That's twice now Beilein has benched MAAR for extended time while the Spartans pulled away. While it's unlikely Michigan would've forced overtime in this one, seeing MAAR score 12 points on seven shots in the second half—after Dakich went 0/1 with a foul in eight minutes—made it hard to imagine the strategy gave them the best shot at winning.
The story of the game on the other side was the dominance of Branden Dawson, who finished with 23 points (10/12 FG) and 13 boards. Michigan's wings couldn't handle Dawson one-on-one, but when the Wolverines went zone, Travis Trice served up lob after lob for the athletic forward to finish. Trice had an excellent night himself, scoring 22 points and dishing out seven assists; his two early threes from nearly the same spot above the break helped ignite MSU's early run. From start to finish, the Spartan offense ran smoothly and effectively.
The Wolverines, on the other hand, couldn't consistently hang. Zak Irvin needed 15 shot equivalents to score 16 points; Aubrey Dawkins needed 12 for his 12; Spike Albrecht ten for his 12. The big men were all but nonexistent; the bench, of course, depleted. On a night when Michigan's defense needed the offense to wring out every bit of talent, strategy, and luck available, they couldn't maintain that for 40 minutes.
Sometimes it's not your night. Lowrawls Nairn hit just his second three-pointer of the season early on, when Michigan sagged off of him, and it felt then like it'd be a long game. What's equally frustrating as the loss, though, is the overwhelming feeling that it could've—should've—been closer, if only Michigan approached the first half with the same urgency as the second.
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.