2008-2009 Season

Game 19: Michigan at Penn State Post Game

Penn State played more physical basketball tonight and they were rewarded with the ‘W’. Jamelle Cornley imposed himself on the game and posted monster numbers, 17 points on 8 of 10 shooting and 11 boards, while dominating not only the glass but the whole painted area. Michigan had plenty of very good looks from long range in the first half but they just couldn’t hit any.

Michigan still managed to stay close in the first half thanks to some turnovers and poor three point shooting from Penn State. In the second half the Nittany Lions blew the game wide open. Penn State heated up from three point range and hit 7 of their 10 three pointer attempts en route to the easy win. The lead ballooned as high as 26 points and the outcome was never really in doubt. Beilein sums it up well:

“We had some great looks early, couldn’t hit any of them, and had a chance to get out early enough on them because we played good defense on them early. But we couldn’t make any shots. Once they got it going in the second half it was lights out.”

The defensive effort just wasn’t there all night for Michigan. Penn State scored at will inside throughout the first half and forced Michigan to collapse so far in on Cornley that three point shooters were left wide open. Penn State shot the ball very well (eFG% 67%) and also rebounded 37% of their misses. When you let a team shoot that well you definitely can’t let them pull down that many offensive boards as well. Penn State scored 1.19 points per possession and their 67% eFG% was the highest that Michigan has allowed all year.

We have known all along that this team is very limited in the sense that they have no size in the front court. The only way that Michigan has found to disguise their lack of size this season is with the three point shot. When it works it works, but when it doesn’t things get ugly. Michigan played some great offensive basketball throughout the non-conference season but their shooting touch has disappeared over the last several games. The numbers don’t lie, Michigan shot 39.3% from the field and 16.7% from behind the arc tonight. Michigan has shot over 40% just twice in the last 10 games after shooting over 40% in 7 of their first 8 (the only game under 40% was the win over UCLA).  At the end of the day winning basketball games comes down to making your shots. It doesn’t matter whether they are two point shots or three point shots; an open shot is an open shot.

Sims was the only bright spot tonight for Michigan on offense. The junior big man put up a double-double with 21 points on 10-14 shooting and 11 boards. DeShawn was the only one on the team that could score the ball today but he was still out played by the 6-foot-5 Jamelle Cornley. The rest of the team combined to shoot 12 of 42 (28%) from the field and no one else reached double digits.

This team is free falling right now and it’s clear that something isn’t right. I don’t think they have looked quite the same since Wisconsin handled them in the Big Ten opener. Maybe even before that, the FGCU and North Carolina Central games left a sour taste in my mouth headed into Big Ten play.  Laval Lucas-Perry’s stellar debut against Oakland looks like fools gold in hindsight because there are clearly some adjustment issues going on. Laval is 2 for his last 17 three point attempts after starting his season by making 16 of his first 35. I have no doubt that Laval is going to be a very good player throughout his career but right now he is going through the type of growing pains that freshmen go through.

Michigan is also dealing with more quality big men at the same time that they are trying to move an undersized guy to the power forward position. The issue here is that Beilein just doesn’t have the pieces to fix this problem. There are two guys that can play center on this roster: DeShawn Sims and Zack Gibson. There are three others who can play power forward: Jevohn Shepherd, Zack Novak, and Anthony Wright. Playing Gibson and Sims together sounds nice but if you do that too much there is no one to back up Sims at the center position.

It isn’t like Beilein is leaving Greg Monroe on the bench:

    • Jevohn Shepherd is a 6-foot-5 wing who isn’t much of an offensive threat and isn’t going to stop a guy like Jamelle Cornley or Marcus Landry.
    • Zack Gibson is a shooting guard trapped in a 6-foot-10 body; he is a finesse player and he’s not going to turn into a banger over night.
    • Anthony Wright is a 6-foot-6 forward who made a great backdoor pass against UCLA but has very little athleticism or hustle and is a career 27.4% three point shooter.
    • Zack Novak is 6-foot-4 but he gets to more loose balls than anyone on the team and despite struggling a bit of late is shooting 39.5% from long range.

    Pick your poison.

    Michigan needs to start figuring things out in a hurry. They have some extended practice time for the first time since before the Iowa game so hopefully they can get back in some kind of groove.  A win over Northwestern might help get this team energized but after that they have tough road games in Columbus and West Lafayette. This team needs something to turn their Big Ten season around in a hurry but I’m not quite sure what it will take. Let’s hear your theories, suggestions, and ideas in the comments.

    Player Bullets:

    • DeShawn Sims: Good (see above).
    • Stu Douglass: The only other notable performance, Stu was 3 of 8 shooting for 9 points with 3 assists and 2 steals. Stu seems to be finding his stroke again but he seems like a guy who needs 8 shots to have a good shooting day more than a guy who can come off the bench and knock a couple down.
    • Everyone else: Bad.
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