In what could be described as nothing short of a must win, Michigan fell painfully short… again. Michigan got out played, out hustled, and flat out beat.
Michigan clawed back into the game several times thanks to some stellar play from Manny Harris but just couldn’t get over the hump. Every time Michigan got close, Michigan blew a huge play or Utah made one. Utah freshman Marshall Henderson was the man for Utah. He came out on fire, knocking down an array of three point shots and didn’t look back en route to a career high 22 points.
The four factors don’t lie, Michigan was terrible on both sides of the ball:
Michigan’s offensive ineptitude can be summed up by a couple painful statistics:
- They shot only 35.7% on two point field goals.
- 14% of Michigan’s field goal attempts were blocked.
- Michigan made just 17 shots last night. Manny Harris made 8 while everyone else combined for just 9 baskets. 5 two point field goals and 4 threes.
- Michigan got to the line but shot just 51% (11-20) from the free throw line.
Michigan’s offense just isn’t working. They go inside and can’t score, they can’t hit threes, the occasional successful backdoor cuts lead to blocked layups half the time. The entire offense looks tentative, whether it is passing, dribbling or shooting. The offense on the floor looks painfully similar to the offense in Beilein’s first year in Ann Arbor and that should be scary for any Michigan fan.
As bad as the offensive was, the defense might have been worse. There have been far too many inexcusable lapses on defense. Michigan is getting beat down the court, getting caught out of position after going for cheap steals, not stopping the ball in transition, going under screens, and consistently arriving late with help side defense. There is really no explanation for the poor performance on defense. Once again, the numbers don’t lie:
- Utah shot 67% from inside the arc, almost double Michigan’s total, for an eFG% of 57.3%.
- Utah rebounded 41% of their missed shots (12 out of 27), meaning that Michigan has allowed opponents to rebound 40% of their misses in five out of eight games.
This team is struggling in so many facets that it is tough to even know where to start. This is a team in disarray and their struggles are snowballing. They aren’t getting better, they are probably getting worse.
If you look back at every successful season John Beilein has had, he emphasizes one thing: team chemistry. It sounds extremely cliché but there is obviously something to it. Something just isn’t working with this team that worked last year. In many ways, Michigan’s early season losses have snowballed in the same fashion that last year’s wins in the opposite direction.
At this point it seems unlikely that something will just click. This team is playing bad basketball and a 6-6 non conference record looks likely. As an astute commenter, Jeff, points out that means Michigan is on the NIT bubble, likely needing a 9-9 conference record to make the NIT.
- Manny Harris: Manny Harris was simply phenomenal, especially considering the fact that he probably isn’t even 100%. He single handily kept Michigan in the game with 25 points (8 of 16 shooting, 3-5 3pt), 6 rebounds, and 4 steals. My one complain with Manny’s game is that it feels like he is roaming far too much on defense, going for cheap steals and getting out of position. They can lead to fast break points but I think that is at least part of Michigan’s defensive breakdowns. We know he can produce, now he needs to become a leader and take ownership of this team.
- DeShawn Sims: DeShawn Sims is killing this team, period. Michigan needs him to be productive but against real teams he is disappearing, jacking up threes (7 3 point attempts is far too many), and grabbing rebounds on the floor. This is the DeShawn Sims of two years ago, last year’s Peedi is gone. Michigan simply can’t be a good team without DeShawn’s production.
- Darius Morris: Darius is one of the few bright spots, he appears to be getting more comfortable with the offense and finding ways to fill up the stat sheet: 7 points (3-8 shooting), 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 2 turnovers. The problem is that his jump shot needs so much work, he doesn’t need to be a lights out three point shooter but he needs to be able to hit pull-up jumpers and finish in the lane.
- Stu Douglass: I don’t know what’s more painful, watching Stu play these days or concluding that he still might be Michigan’s best option. Stu’s confidence has been shattered completely and now it is affecting his ball handling and decision making.
- Laval Lucas-Perry: Last year it was clear that Laval struggled to pick up the offense. It tended to stagnate with him in the game and he struggled to find his role. I attributed most of his struggles to joining the team in mid-season and had high hopes for this year. He appears to still be struggling, as evidenced by his 11 minutes of playing time in a game where Stu played that poorly.
- Eso Akunne: You can see what the coaches love about Eso but Michigan isn’t going to be able to win many games when he plays 17 minutes at this point. It’s certainly a tough situation with Novak getting hurt and I thought Eso stepped up the best that he could, especially considering he probably practiced with the scout team for most of this season. I wouldn’t be opposed to experimenting with Eso at the four a bit, taking some minutes from Anthony Wright.
- Anthony Wright: 10 minutes with little production, his transition three point attempt was the epitome of poor shot selection.
- Zack Gibson: We got a pretty good example of why Michigan doesn’t go big all too often. Sims and Gibson are not much of a rebounding combination and their lack of quickness hurts Michigan.
- Matt Vogrich: Matt showed some flashes, including at least one very nice dish, however he just lacks the quickness on defense to stay on the court for very long.