Welcome back to Big Ten basketball. Wisconsin won a 59 possession game thanks to 58.7% shooting from the field. It’s definitely too early for Michigan fans to jump off the bandwagon because Wisconsin is going to do that to a lot of teams this year and Michigan has 17 more Big Ten contests yet to go.
Wisconsin posted their third highest offensive efficiency of the season at 123.7 and Michigan posted their fourth lowest at 103.4. Wisconsin came out hot and got out to an early 12 point lead and while Michigan made runs, Wisconsin answered every one of them and hit big shot after big shot to keep Michigan out of the game. There aren’t many teams who can execute as well as Wisconsin did today on offense, they methodically picked Michigan apart.
Before the game I said the key for Michigan was pace and forcing a more uptempo style. A 59 possession game is just what Wisconsin wanted, they wound the shot clock down time after time and still managed to get their shots. Michigan’s defense certainly needs work and there are a couple things I didn’t like today on the defensive side of the ball. First off, Michigan abandoned the 1-3-1 pretty early on, I think they need the 1-3-1 to force some turnovers and they just didn’t do that today. The man-to-man defense today had us switching on every screen and I don’t know that I liked that so much either. This team isn’t going to be dominant defensively but they are going to need to do better in this conference. Wisconsin hit some tough shots but they got a far too many good looks.
Looking at the four factors there is only one that Wisconsin won handily: shooting. Wisconsin shot an eFG% of 65.2% to Michigan’s 47.1%. Turnovers were low for both teams, Wisconsin posted the 2nd lowest turnover percentage of any of Michigan’s opponents this year. Michigan lost the rebound battle 30-26 but they did a good job on the defensive glass and Wisconsin only rebounded 13.6% of their misses. Free throw rate was a tieand in the end Michigan really needed to get to the line more than they did to have a chance.
Even though Wisconsin led for the whole game there were a couple chances for Michigan to get back in it. Michigan was on the cusp several times but they just missed some wide open looks. The Laval Lucas-Perry three at the end of the first half comes to mind along with several others but I think it’s at least encouraging that we got some really good looks.
It’s always frustrating to lose at home, especially to lose a game this way where you are down start to finish. But in the end it’s just one game and it’s too early to jump off any cliffs. Purdue and Minnesota both lost on their home courts and they are both good teams. I made the mistake of underestimating Wisconsin in my Big Ten predictions and they showed why today. Michigan isn’t the only team that will lose to Wisconsin but this loss makes Sunday’s contest against Illinois a big one.
- Zack Novak: Wow, how did Zack Novak have no scholarship offers coming out of high school. Zack is just a warrior and he played his heart out today. Novak had a career high 20 points on 7-11 (5-8 3pt) shooting and also pulled down a game high 8 rebounds. I questioned Novak’s rebounding but he can flat out get after it whether he is out matched in height or athleticism. Zack single handily kept us in this game and it was an admirable performance in a day that didn’t have many.
- Manny Harris: Frustrating night for Manny to say the least. Manny was 3-13 (0-2) and 4-6 on free throws with 6 boards. Manny just wasn’t getting the foul calls when he was driving to the lane but he just kept putting his head down and driving. Manny’s game relies on getting the line but he just can’t let the refs get in his head like he did today.
- DeShawn Sims: Peedi had 14 points on 5-6 shooting in 29 minutes but just never really seemed like a factor. I wasn’t impressed by his defense and it seemed like he got beat quite a bit. I think he might have been fighting a cold (he was wearing a nasal strip) but he’s going to need stronger performances as Michigan’s only real big man.
- Stu Douglass: Stu was 0-5 and it just wasn’t his night. It was interesting that Beilein went with Stu running the point for stretches today, I think it was an attempt to match a little of Wisconsin’s size. Stu had a couple good looks but he they just weren’t falling. Stu did have 2 assists to 0 turnovers so he didn’t appear to be an awful answer at the point.
- Laval Lucas-Perry: LLP played a career high in minutes with 30 but wasn’t hitting his shots either. LLP was 2-8 (1-6 3pt, 6-8 ft) for 11 points with 2 assists and 5 boards. It was a solid outing but I think LLP is definitely still feeling out the offense and he also missed a couple wide open threes. Trevon Hughes got the best of everyone today but I think he really took it to Laval a couple times as well.
- Jevohn Shepherd: Shep got only one stint off the bench but I think Novak’s monster game was a big part of that. Beilein also played Gibson a little more in an attempt to match Wisconsin’s size. Shep might have helped defensively but Novak was just playing too well.
- CJ Lee: CJ hit a big three in the first half and played hard but he still doesn’t give us that much besides basically being a coach on the floor. I think a lot of his minutes in their first half were a message to Manny to calm down.
- Zack Gibson: 1 rebound in 14 minutes with 2 points isn’t really going to cut it. Gibson is in a funk and needs to figure his way out of it because Michigan is going to need him to win games in the Big Ten.
- Kelvin Grady: Grady didn’t get a lot of minutes and I’m not sure why. The game certainly wasn’t uptempo which hurts Kelvin and Wisconsin just had so much size with all the switching on defense.