Michigan 52, Northwestern 61

Submitted by Seth on February 6th, 2018 at 9:53 PM


[photo: J.D. Scott (@jdscottphoto)]

They say you have to make your shots to win in basketball, and Michigan went nearly 10 minutes in the second half without a field goal. They say Bryant McIntosh is going to distribute well but not carry the offense, and Northwestern went nearly 10 minutes in the second half with nobody but McIntosh scoring. And when McIntosh found himself isolated on Mo Wagner, picked his moment, drove, and scored his 14th point in a row, they said it’s not over, though I haven’t the faintest idea why.

On Michigan’s next possession Charles Matthews—who put up a brutal 56 ORtg while using a quarter of Michigan’s possessions in this game according to Kenpom—took a terrible step-back long two that bounced out with zero chance of a friendly rebound. That made it a minute left with the Wildcats up 58-52. And unlike some people, Northwestern makes their free throws.

For the first time in weeks it was Michigan who started hot, breaking down the Northwestern zone defense early with transition baskets and getting Mo moving through the lane. However the early 9-1 run was costly, as Isaiah Livers fell awkwardly on his left foot after a layup. He would not return.

Absent Livers, and with Matthews having an awful night, Jordan Poole and Duncan Robinson played more than normal minutes. Neither had the kind of shooting night that can make up for their respective defensive issues. Northwestern climbed back after that by crashing the boards, but still managed to head off Michigan’s constant attempts to push the floor. The Wildcats also soon found the chink in Michigan’s defense as cross-court passes got a bunch of open looks from three; only half went in, but it provided enough offense to get them to the end of the first half down one possession.

Northwestern flipped the script in the second half, going on a 10-0 run after a hard foul by Gavin Skelly that the officials waved off after a lengthy review (Look, Steratore loves his reviews, okay?) From there it was McIntosh. Matthews’s drive attempts were definitively suppressed, forcing a batch of turnovers to extend the drought. Michigan finished an abysmal 5/22 from three-point range, with only a few more Mo cuts to the basket and your standard crazy MAAR drive-whistles forcing a rare change in Michigan’s tally.

They say this happens to everybody on the road, even if “road” was a 50/50 abandoned building next to the airport. I say if you’re a three-reliant team hitting under 23% from the arc and Bryant McIntosh turns into Trey Burke it’s probably just not your night.

[Click the JUMP for the boxscore—lol no you’re not reading that box score you’re going to make basketball comments]




February 6th, 2018 at 10:13 PM ^

Know how many more times we’re going to watch Moe matched up in the post with a guard. Throw him the ball. Make them foul or double team.

Overall just one of those bad games that happens. They’ll be fine.


February 7th, 2018 at 8:14 AM ^

But if we throw it down to Moe, how can Charles Matthews drive into double and triple coverage?  Sheesh - does anyone have a worse handle than him in traffic?  I really question his basketball IQ with the way he takes us out of our offense and plays hero-ball.  At the start of the season, I was expecting the reincarnation of THJ, but I know Tim Hardaway and Mr. Matthews, you are no Tim Hardaway.


February 6th, 2018 at 11:50 PM ^

Is that all too often Wagner lets the guard front him and he doesn't work hard enough to reposition himself. Simpson looks down there but is hampered by his own defender having a height advantage making it tough to throw it over to Wagner, who is behind his defender.

See it far too often. Wasted opportunities.


February 7th, 2018 at 10:19 AM ^

There were a lot of missed opportunities, like cutters which had a step, Wagner being guarded by a midget, open three point shooters waving their hands, but we failed to pull the trigger. I've seen a lot of this since the MSU game, and it looks like the guards lose confidence in their ability to make the quick, decisive pass when the opportunity presents itself. So we wind up wasting the shot clock on the perimeter and playing hero ball when it gets under 5 seconds. I wouldn't be as quick to criticize the coaching as some on this blog, maybe that's just who we are. We'll be better in a year or two.


February 7th, 2018 at 11:25 AM ^

he had a pretty nice lob into Wagner in the post in the second half and Wagner got fouled (I think this was when he missed them both).

Z did a great job of hitting Wagner in both the high and low post in the first half.

Remember, Wagner was 6-6 on twos with 8 FT attempts.  We fed him quite a bit in the first half, had a good game plan to do that, and in the second half, I think they made a concerted effort to sag in on Wagner and make those a lot more difficult.

And when they sag way off Z because he either won't shoot or he misses, and Robinson and Poole combine to 2-9, there's just not a lot you can do. 

I said it after last game that them going to a matchup zone that takes away our ability to run our usual offense and takes away the dribble drive was a pretty smart gamble and turns us into a 3 pt shooting team exclusively.

Z's slump from three hurts (which he mostly made up for it with 2-2 2s and 5 assists) but Wagner, Poole and Robinson who are supposed to be the shooters and they went 3-12 from 3 and that's just not going to get it done against a defense that's daring you to hit 3s.

True Blue Grit

February 7th, 2018 at 9:56 AM ^

The offense has become very one dimensional for the most part.  If the 3's don't drop, we need to try and score inside.  And Moe's the only guy who can do that at all.  It seems other teams have figured us out defensively.  

Also, we aren't getting nearly good enough PG play.  And how much better will Z get by the end of the season?  

Finally, the FT shooting will be the kiss of death if we're even close with teams down the stretch.  

I'm trying to be optimistic about the team, if nothing else because In Bellein we Trust.  But damn.  Ever since the Purdue game the team hasn't looked good.

814 East U

February 6th, 2018 at 10:15 PM ^

The more I watch Michigan sports, the more I think I will be that 99 year old Eagles fan or that 100+ Vikings fan finally seeing Michigan in the Rose Bowl or win the NCAA tournament.

Maybe someone signed a deal with the devil in the 70s-90s and we are repaying now.

snarling wolverine

February 6th, 2018 at 10:22 PM ^

A bit of perspective: Purdue (yes, that Purdue) hasn't made the Final Four since 1980 - 38 years ago!  And they're a basketball school!  

Since then we've made the Final Four four times, even though we went through a brutal decade without a tournament appearance.  We've been there a total of seven times since 1964 while Purdue has made it only twice (!) in its history.  We won the national title in 1989, something Purdue has never done at all.

Let's not act like we're Cub fans or something.



February 6th, 2018 at 10:20 PM ^

This team's on the bubble. Thanks to awful scheduling, they only have 18 wins with a whole bunch of bad teams pulling their RPI down. OSU is pretty much a guaranteed loss. If they blow it against either Iowa or Wisconsin, then they will finish with 20-21 wins in the worst major conference in basketball this year. And that's if they don't lose to both Penn State and Maryland on the road, which is no guarantee. 

So much talent on this team absolutely wasted. 2 projected NBA players heading into this year and two seniors, along with a couple above-average freshman. And there's a good chance that they won't even make the tournament. Has Michigan ever had a game under Beilein in which they have failed to get more than just 5 second-half field goals?

901 P

February 6th, 2018 at 10:49 PM ^

I like the avalanche of sky-is-falling despair, and then the kicker: "has Michigan ever had a game under Beilein in which they have failed to get more than just 5 second-half field goals?" Isn't that all the more reason to chalk this up to an unusually bad game, rather than writing off the whole season?


February 6th, 2018 at 11:19 PM ^

I'd argue the Pac-12 is the worst P5 conference this year, but point taken.

But the doom-and-gloom here is just silly.  There isn't "a good chance" they won't make the tournament; even if they went 2-4 to end the year they are probably in, especially if they win a BTT game.  I'd also like to know the two projected NBA players on this roster; I assume you mean Mo and then...Matthews?  Simpson?  

It's a flawed team.  It has also shot well below their season average the past couple of games, especially from deep.  That tends to correct itself, and if so, they'll have a decent offense and a solid defense.  This isn't going to be an elite 8 team, but they definitely have the weapons to make a decent run if they get the right matchups, or flame out in the first round.  But good lord are people over-reacting to a loss on the road in a game where they couldn't buy a bucket and the home team's offense did just enough.


February 7th, 2018 at 9:27 AM ^

I think the main problem is this is the latest in what feels like a long string of games where they "couldn't buy a bucket."  This is starting to get concerning and while the faith is that a Beilein team will figure it out and shoot well, this doesn't seem to be happening and the closing schedule is brutal, too. 

This seems like a team that peaked about a month ago and now can't figure out how to play offense anymore and that's concerning.    


February 6th, 2018 at 10:21 PM ^

Not a good shooting team.Z & Matthews show no sign of improving their shot anytime soon.Duncan has shot well in previous years but wow what a long slump he's in.What's with Poole? Been very cold lately but seems like a player who will regain his stroke.Matthews decision making continues to be an issue,that could improve.Been looking at a 4th or 5th place finish in Big 10,that still seems likely.It's about getting better by Tourney time...Crispin continues to say the dumbest things.

901 P

February 6th, 2018 at 10:35 PM ^

Not sure of it was intentional, but the beginning of this recap reminded me of George Clooney's little monologue at the end of Fantastic Mr. Fox. Great movie.

"They say all foxes are slightly allergic to linoleum, but it's cool to the paw - try it. They say my tail needs to be dry cleaned twice a month, but now it's fully detachable - see? They say our tree may never grow back, but one day, something will."


February 6th, 2018 at 11:10 PM ^

I always tell myself that I won't wade into the comment section of a game recap after a loss, but here I am, 11 o'clock at night jumping right in.  I'll never learn.

It was a bad game.  This is a team that can beat anyone when the shots are falling and lose to anyone when they aren't.  But they have had some brutally bad outside shooting these past couple of games since Purdue, and a lot of that is opponent-independent.  A win at Wisconsin is obviously key, and they need to finish with 2/3 wins to close the year to be confident about seeding.  I don't see this team competing for a title, but their defense is still solid and if they can even hit their average in 3's this game could have turned out differently.


February 6th, 2018 at 11:22 PM ^

It was like watching 6th grade girls b-ball.
Does this team have a go to play that they can run to get a basket after 5 minutes going scoreless?
How many games have they had a huge drought in?


February 7th, 2018 at 12:46 AM ^

1) Matthews did not use a quarter of Michigan's possessions "in this game".  That's not how kenpom's stats work.  He used a quarter of Michigan's possessions while he was in the game, which was only 26 minutes due to foul trouble.

2) When you said Matthews drive attempts led to a batch of TOs, I'm not sure at what point you're referring to, but it wasn't Matthews turning it over.  He had three TOs in the first half (a travel in the corner, a charge, and then had it stolen once) and he had zero in the second half.

In fact, our only TO in the last 8 minutes (after we cut it to 43-47) was an ill-advised bounce pass by Poole as he tried to thread the needle on the break and it hit a guys foot and bounced to them. Also, Mathews was sitting during that time with his fourth foul and our possessions from 7:46 remaining went:

- Wagner two missed FTs

- Poole shot blocked by Pardon

- Z missed FE of 1-and-1

- MAAR makes 1 of 2 FTs.

- MAAR gets blocked by Pardon

- Poole with the aforementioned TO

- Z makes two FTs

Three points on seven possessions. Ugh.

Then Matthews came back in and hit a three.

Matthews had a rough night but it was not as bad as this recap makes it sound. Maybe you're talking about the 4 min stretch before that during which Wagner and MAAR had TOs? Dunno.


February 7th, 2018 at 12:06 AM ^

I didn’t quite get the love for him after the Minnesota game. He made some big plays down the stretch, but he also shot horribly and couldn’t get the offense running. As the starting point guard he has to be in charge of setting the offense, and of getting the damn ball into the post when they switch on defense. Wagner could do a better job getting position, but the point guard ultimately has got to force the issue. If he can’t get the offense running, he is a big offensive liability because he can’t shoot from distance nor free throws. Teams will just play way off of him and foul him if he gets into the paint.

Pretty much the same thing tonight from him. We’ve been spoiled by good pint guard play, and now we aren’t getting it. I do think he will improve, but it might not happen this season.


February 7th, 2018 at 1:54 AM ^

when your shooting is off. Hopefully the team can get back in the grove from a couple weeks ago when they looked much better. I think we can go .500 the rest of the season and win a B1G tournament game. That may get us an 8th or 9th seed. I'd like them to win a game or two in the tournament but that will depend on match  ups.


February 7th, 2018 at 2:09 AM ^

when Livers went down.

Just very hard to win a game against a team with a pulse when Duncan is forced to play 36 minutes, because he's just such a defensive liability (went back and rewatched and he was victimized badly after switches onto Lindsay and McIntosh), and he's so frequently an offensive liability too. Doesn't make shots, doesn't create shots.

The step down from Livers to Duncan on a per possession basis was around 0.3 ppp which is astronomical a few weeks ago.  That was before the @Purdue game in which Livers was +12 in 32 minutes and Duncan was - 16 (!!!) in 8 minutes.

If Livers is out any amount of time, we might be in big trouble.  Would be curious to see those on-court, off-court efficiencies refreshed.

Our offense was horrible, yes, but we allowed 1.11 points per possession after Livers went down to a team averaging 0.99 in conference play.  Don't let the low possessions fool you, this was as bad a defensive performance as it was a bad offensive performance.

I gave the coaches credit for going to the zone to knock Minnesota out of its rythym, but the coaches had a bad gameplan tonight.  There was a period at the end of the first half in which they inexplicably were doubling Pardon in the post (usually with Robinson) even though Pardon was 1-3 to that point, and Wagner had done a great job on him in the first half.  That led to a few open threes off those skip passes.

We also switched everything and they took advantage to get Duncan and Mo on McIntosh quite a bit and he smoked them.  When you're playing a team that only has one guy that can create a shot, you usually don't want to switch.  You're not worried about the screener.  Hedge hard, let Z fight through the screen and get back to Mac, then find your man.  By switching, we gave them what they wanted and he just want to work.

When Duncan is on the floor, they should stick him on the worst wing guy in the game (Skelly in this case) and don't have him switch.  Similarly, have Z fight through every screen.