Michigan just didn’t have it tonight. The rhythm wasn’t there, the shooting wasn’t there, and the defense wasn’t there. Thursday was an example of how easy the game is to play when everything is going right but today was an example of how quickly a few bad plays can spiral into a loss.
Michigan was in the game in the first half despite awful 9 of 30 shooting. Illinois got off to a hot start in the second half and the rest was history. The lead ballooned as high as 20 points in the second half before a late Michigan run got the game back to single digits. The run was based on Illinois’ lock down defense and hot shooting (started 10-13 in the 2nd half) coupled with a couple frustrating turnovers.
Similar to the match-up in Champaign, McCamey hit big shots in the first half to keep Illinois afloat before getting a lift from the rest of the team in the second half. Mike Davis was unstoppable throughout the night, he got plenty of easy looks but he also could get his patented mid-range jumper whenever he wanted over Zack Novak. Michigan tried to go with the 1-3-1 and the 2-3 but neither of them fazed the Illini.
Looking at the four factors, Michigan just didn’t shoot the ball well enough despite hanging tough on the glass and doing a decent job holding onto the ball. Michigan’s effective field goal percentage of 41.2% was dreadful and Michigan only managed to score .86 points per possession. Illinois didn’t shoot the lights out but they managed a respectable 1.03 points per possession. Illinois also managed to get to the line with a free throw rate of 24% compared to Michigan’s meager 8%.
Was it tired legs? Over confidence? Taking the foot off the gas? Looking ahead? Who knows. There is no denying that this team plays much better when they think that they have their backs against the wall. It was pretty clear that Michigan felt they were in after the Iowa win. It might have been a little bit of a Michigan let down but the bottom line is that Illinois had a week to prepare for Michigan and they were clearly ready to go.
There are 44 hours until Selection Sunday and it is going to be a long wait. Michigan should still be in the dance but anything can happen. Of course, the committee tends to make one or two awful decisions every year. Michigan’s RPI held steady at 42 (ahead of Wisconsin’s 43) and their strength of schedule jumped to #9. Michigan wasn’t near the “last four in” range before today and hopefully they stay off of those lists and remain safely in the field. The resume speaks for itself: an RPI of 42, 6 top 50 wins, 2 (potentially 3 or 4) top 25 wins, top 10 strength of schedule, 20 wins, and a .500 conference record. The bottom line is that waiting is painful — I’ll believe it when I see our name on the television Sunday evening.
- DeShawn Sims: Peedi definitely didn’t have it today: 6 of 19 shooting for 15 points with eight rebounds. Peedi started 2-10 and those early misses really killed his confidence. I thought Illinois did a great job of forcing Peedi outside and he settled for far too many longer jumpers.
- Manny Harris: 9 points on 3 for 11 (1-5 3pt) shooting with nine rebounds and four assists.Â Frazier was out but Illinois was in Manny’s grill the entire night. He just never really got going and started pressing in the second half after the big Illini run.
- Zack Novak: Novak had 10 points and seven rebounds thanks to two triples and a couple put backs. Novak scrapped but he is just so out-matched in a game like this that it is very tough.
- Stu Douglass: Stu struggled out there, 6 points on 2 of 8 shooting with five rebounds, two assists, and three turnovers. The backbreaker was Stu’s pull up three pointer on a 2-on-1 break that turned out to be a five point swing. That was right when Michigan was starting a bit of a run and was just a poor decision.
- CJ Lee and Dave Merritt: It is trendy to rip CJ and Dave after a loss and they clearly weren’t spectacular but I don’t think they were the reason we lost. I think it is pretty clear that Beilein is going for some consistency there in terms of playing just two guys at the point. Merritt and Lee have had their ups and downs but they have been playing well lately. They combined for 6 points on 2 of 5 shooting with only two assists and three turnovers.
- Laval Lucas-Perry: I’m a bit surprised LLP didn’t get more time in the second half because he set up a few nice plays in the first half.
- Zack Gibson: 4 points in only 6 minutes; I don’t know if Gibson even played in the second half. His two baskets were both nice finishes off of some good looks in the first.