Arizona 72, Michigan 70

Submitted by Ace on December 14th, 2013 at 3:48 PM


Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog

"The devil's in the details," said John Beilein after the game, describing the difficulty of winning against good teams.

For 38 minutes, Michigan did enough of the little things to hold a lead against top-ranked Arizona. They shot the ball well, played tough defense on the interior, and didn't allow an athletic Wildcats squad to get into transition at all. Throughout the game, however, they couldn't keep Arizona from owning the offensive boards, and once they started converting putback opportunities down the stretch the Wolverines couldn't hold on—after scoring just two points off nine first-half offensive rebounds, the Wildcats had six critical second-chance points from their eight second-half opportunities. Boxing out, as it turns out, is a critical detail.

Michigan led by 11 points after the first possession of the second half on the strength of an outstanding performance by Glenn Robinson III (right, Fuller), who had 16 points on a perfect 7/7 mark from the field at halftime. For the first time all season, Robinson consistently created his own offense, beginning with a nifty head fake in the post that led to a layup for his first points of the game. Robinson was a non-factor in the latter stanza, however, adding just three points on 1/2 shooting, and the team managed just 12 points—three on a desperation Spike Albrecht shot with two seconds left—in the final 7:55.

The Wolverines still had their opportunities in the late going. The teams played dramatic back-and-forth basketball in the final couple minutes. After Rondae Hollis-Jefferson's three-point play gave Arizona their first lead since the opening minutes with 2:32 to play, Mitch McGary retook control with a pair of free throws, then Brandon Ashley and Nik Stauskas traded quick baskets. Then, when Michigan looked to have the Wildcats scrambling for a good look, McGary picked up a very questionable touch foul on the perimeter; Arizona's Nick Johnson, who played outstanding defense against Stauskas all afternoon, rattled both free throws home with 24 seconds left.

Michigan then tried pushing it up the court for a quick shot; Stauskas got a decent look at a long two but couldn't get it to fall, and the Wildcats had the possession arrow when McGary tied up Aaron Gordon for the rebound. Johnson sunk another pair of free throws, Albrecht managed just a split after Arizona intentionally fouled him with seven seconds left, and Johnson essentially iced the game with a third consecutive perfect trip to the line. While Albrecht made it interesting with a pull-up three with two seconds left, the last-gasp prayer by Stauskas after a missed Arizona free throw only found backboard.

Despite the loss, there were many encouraging signs for Michigan. Robinson's first half certainly qualified, as did another strong second half from Caris LeVert, who finished second on the team with 15 points on 6/15 shooting, ten of those coming after the break. Jon Horford played 25 strong minutes, tallying four blocks—all in the first half—and throwing down a huge dunk on Gordon for his only points of the game. While Derrick Walton was limited to one point in just 14 minutes, Albrecht ran the offense well, dishing out four assists in addition to hitting three of his four attempts from downtown.

In the end, though, Arizona's size and athleticism simply overwhelmed; seven different Wildcats had an offensive rebound (five with 2+), and the massive front line of Gordon, Brandon Ashley, and Kaleb Tarczewski combined to score 46 points on 21/37 shooting.

"It gives us great confidence," said Beilein, referring to hanging in there against a team he praised highly. "But also an attitude to come back and get better now."

The path to improvement, of course, begins with the details.

Comments

Magnum P.I.

December 15th, 2013 at 3:15 AM ^

I'm not that upset about all the hoops losses. We look competitive and downright powerful at times, and you get the sense that we've had some bad breaks and that things will even out.

This is the opposite of our football team, which looked absolutely horrible in its losses (and most wins) with clear indication of systemic problems and no promise of improvement.

The Geek

December 15th, 2013 at 10:27 AM ^

especially in the first half. We had the #1 team in the country against the ropes in the 12th round. We are young (to share a parallel with the football team) and early season losses mean little in MBB. We can win the B1G and go deep in the tourney, imho. 

However, I remain optimistic our OL will gel in 2014, and I predict Devin will have a monster senior season. We have a lot of positives going into next season for this football team. The only thing I can find to complain about is the home schedule.

Spock

December 15th, 2013 at 12:04 PM ^

While it always sucks losing, especially a game Michigan should have won (like this one), it's not a bad loss. Just win the conference and they'll be a top five seed.

Lbones7

December 15th, 2013 at 6:18 PM ^

Was he even paying attention ? 24 secs left down by one and you don't call time out? Aren't you playing for last shot? Horrible mins management. And he looked confused himself on the sideline. Lavall Jordan all but jumped in his face.

MGoBender

December 15th, 2013 at 7:22 PM ^

It was an interesting decision that myself and my basketball friends discussed a lot.

He almost always does call a timeout, so why not this time?  What was Arizona doing (or what was he worried of them doing) that prevented it?

My feeling is that with having to rely on Spike, you're giving up ball handling ability.  If you call a timeout to set something up, it's pretty likely that UA sets up some kind of trap on Albrecht.  Spike's a heady guy and can probably handle that, but it's a risk.  I'd love to hear Beilein talk about the end of that game as there were so many factors to consider. 

FrankMurphy

December 16th, 2013 at 2:08 PM ^

Who wants to take 2013 out back and bury it? I know it's not scheduled to expire for another couple weeks, but it's looking really sick and old and sad and I say we put a bullet in its head. For mercy's sake. The half-hour of tears and kicking the body is also for mercy.

I was thinking the exact same thing that other day. I might want to keep the NCAA tourney run though; that also happened in 2013.