I need a macro to write these posts a little quicker. It’s the same thing every week.
That’s from The Blog That Yost Built’s lede after Friday night’s 3-1 loss to Northern Michigan (HT: mgoblog). The sad part is that it is just as true for this basketball team. Yeah, every loss is a little different but in the end the script is pretty much the same. Michigan fails to make the plays down the stretch and their opponents make them.
Last night, Penn State scored 4 points in the final 9 minutes and 57 seconds of the game and they still managed to win. The Nittany Lions gave Michigan every chance in the world to get back into the game but Michigan only mustered 7 points of their own in the final 10 minutes of action.
After pulling within two points with 4 minutes to play, Michigan had three possessions with a chance to tie: a missed Manny Harris three pointer, a DeShawn Sims turnover, and a missed DeShawn Sims jump shot. The only shot that mattered was Jeff Brooks’ jumpshot with 14 seconds remaining.
I’m not sure how much the details of the game are even relevant. On the heels of a season where Michigan seemed to win every close game they have flipped the script and figured out a way to lose them all. Savannah State, Indiana, and UCLA have been replaced with Northwestern (twice), Penn State, and Wisconsin. After going 6-2 in games decided by 6 points or less a year ago, Michigan is 2-7 in close games and searching for answers. The confidence that Michigan played with at times during last year’s season is nowhere to be found.
Most of all, Michigan has been woefully inconsistent from night to night. They haven’t won three games in a row versus Division 1 teams all year long. While they have put together a couple nice games they have been unable to sustain any kind of streak of strong performances all season.
Michigan needed to take the next step this year but they have toppled backwards right back down the stairs. It’s disappointing but it’s clear – this is a lost season. The disappointment is universal. The look on Zack Novak’s face after the game, as he appeared to be almost fighting back tears, said everything.
The story of Saturday’s game was simple. Penn State dared Michigan to shoot the ball and Michigan couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn. Michigan’s “shooters” were a combined 2 of 17 from three point range despite getting numerous wide open looks.
Darius Morris did a tremendous job defending Talor Battle. However when Morris was in the game Penn State (obviously aware of Morris’ shooting struggles this year) doubled DeShawn Sims immediately with Morris’ defender. Sims would look to kick the ball but obviously the shots weren’t falling. Sims is most effective when he gets the ball on the block with room to work and Penn State did a great job of swarming the ball and taking Sims out of his comfort zone.
Beyond the double team, Penn State also packed the lane and went under almost every screen, again daring Michigan to shoot. The obvious cure to that problem is to shoot Penn State out of their defensive game plan. Either Morris or Laval Lucas-Perry have to hit a couple threes. They combined to shoot 0-6 from three point range. Douglass and Novak didn’t help either, combining to shoot 2 of 12 from three point range.
Knowing that Morris is not a competent shooter, Beilein continued to insert Lucas-Perry into the lineup just hoping that he could catch a spark and get the offense going. In hindsight, Michigan should have sided with defense over offense and stuck with Darius Morris. Morris posted a +20 Roland rating (+8 in traditional +/-) compared to Laval Lucas-Perry’s –24 (-14 traditional +/-). (Full +/- data here) Despite his shooting struggles, Morris was locking down Talor Battle and managed to notch 4 assists to Lucas-Perry’s zero.
It was a good game plan from Ed DeChellis. Take Sims out of his comfort zone and hope that Michigan, who never shoots well from three point range, can’t beat you from behind the arc. Michigan took 28 three pointers to 25 two point attempts which is certainly a lot. But you have to take wide open looks and some of Michigan’s misses down the stretch were just that, wide open.
Looking at the four factors it’s clear that Penn State outshot and outrebounded Michigan. Penn State had a 54.1% eFG% and managed to pull down 37% of their missed shots. The only reason Michigan was really in the game was because Penn State turned the ball over on 23.6% of their possessions. Michigan actually scored 19 points, almost 40% of their output, off of turnovers. Like most games these two teams play, free throws were few and far between and not a huge factor.
Next up is a home game with Illinois before a road trip to Ohio State. Predicting how Michigan will react to each loss is becoming a futile task. At this point, Michigan has their work cut out for them if they want to make the NIT so it’s time to start figuring things out in a hurry.
Recruits: Trey Zeigler and Isaiah Sykes were both in attendance. Zeigler recently conducted a Formspring q&a through his twitter account which you can find here.
- Manny Harris: Harris has been going to his three point shot very often over the last few games. Harris was 4 for 10 from three point range and 3 of 4 from inside the arc. He also had 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and 2 turnovers. It was a good game from Manny, who was really the only scoring threat on the court for most of the night but grabbing only 2 rebounds leaves something to be desired.
- Darius Morris: Darius played inspired defense on Talor Battle. He did his best to deny Battle from getting the ball the whole night and was forced to guard him one-on-one in an iso situation for what seemed like forever.
- DeShawn Sims: The double team got to Sims, who was 4 of 10 on the night, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a lot more doubles down the stretch. Sims pulled down 8 boards and only turned it over twice but his last turnover was him trying to make a play that he shouldn’t have even considered.
- Laval Lucas-Perry: It was shocking how far some of Laval’s three point attempts were from going in. They weren’t close and you could tell from the time it left his hand. He has the ability to shoot the ball but mentally Laval’s confidence is beyond shattered.
- Stu Douglass: 8 points on 3 of 11 shooting. Douglass had a dunk (!) but he also missed another layup in the first half. He takes some bad three point attempts (1-6) but he also misses some wide open ones. At this point I don’t care where he takes them, please just make a couple.
- Zack Novak: Novak was playing very well early on. He got a couple of opportunistic baskets and hit an early three. But like the rest of Michigan’s supporting cast, he couldn’t buy a three as the game went on.