Sooner or later, every team plays a game like this. The shots don’t fall, the mistakes pile up and the breaks go the wrong way. Great teams can escape with a victory from time to time, but not at Assembly Hall and not when Yogi Ferrell knocks down seven threes.
Michigan’s 10 game winning streak was so impressive because the Wolverines avoided a performance like just like this. Michigan’s offense cruised along with relentless efficiency and it made timely plays down the stretch against Stanford, Minnesota, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Michigan State.
Not in Bloomington.
Early turnovers, poor shooting, missed free throws, blown box outs and a career night for Yogi Ferrell doomed Michigan as Indiana handed the Wolverines their first conference loss of the season.
Nik Stauskas played his worst game since an early December trip to Durham, making just one field goal. Glenn Robinson III struggled and Caris LeVert was left to pick up the pieces and couldn’t do it for 40 minutes.
In the first half dreadful offense cost the Wolverines. Michigan made just two baskets in half-court offensive sets (one on a putback) and turned the ball over on 30% of its offensive possessions. While the offense improved in the second, Michigan’s defensive woes reared their ugly head as a steady first half defensive rebounding performance deteriorated and Yogi Ferrell kept raining threes.
Michigan’s offensive performance was very poor and Indiana’s defensive approach was unique. The Hoosiers went small on Stauskas (Ferrell) and Morgan (Sheehey) and went big on Robinson (Vonleh). Ferrell had the quickness to deny Stauskas, Vonleh had the length to bother Robinson and Morgan wasn’t a threat if Stauskas couldn’t touch the ball.
The Hoosiers didn’t quite play a box-and-one, but their no-catch defense on Stauskas was evident from the jump. Conventional wisdom is that you beat a box-and-one by playing a four-on-four game with no help – that didn’t work as Indiana’s length at the other spots caused Michigan some problems.
While the Wolverines shored up their early turnover woes, those empty possessions were an early gut punch. At the end of the day, Michigan just couldn’t find its typical offensive flow or any jump shooting rhythm – shooting just 47% on twos and 23% on threes. Late free throw shooting doomed any hope of a comeback as Michigan missed 5-of-10 second half free throws including two front-ends of 1-and-1s.
Defensively, Michigan really battled in the first half. The Wolverines held Indiana to .95 points per trip in the first half and controlled the defensive glass. Yogi Ferrell hit threes, but his teammates got very little going offensively. Ferrell hit more threes in the second half, but he got help. Indiana was 13-of-20 from the field in the final 20 minutes and managed to grab five offensive rebounds en route to 1.34 points per possession of scoring output.
The Hoosiers got to the line 15 times in the second half after failing to attempt a free throw in the first and Michigan just couldn’t get enough stops to put together a run. Indiana slowed the game down a lot – a smart move given its transition inefficiency – and was able to make Michigan pay with a number of late shot-clock baskets and free throws.
Michigan wasn’t going to make it through the Big Ten undefeated and a win at Assembly Hall is always a tall task. The loss is disappointing because so much of the execution and offensive precision that carried Michigan for the last month was painfully absent, but there are nine Big Ten games to play. The Wolverines have to regroup quickly to host a Nebraska team that’s surging before a road trip to face an Iowa Hawkeye team itching to get back into the Big Ten race.
- Derrick Walton: Walton led Michigan with 13 points on 3-of-6 shooting (including 8 free throws), but he had some bad turnovers after leaving his feet when driving the lane. Driving against Noah Vonleh will tend to do that to a 6-foot guard, but it’s something to work on going forward. Walton’s improving jump shot will be a huge asset for this team going forward.
- Caris LeVert: Teams are going to game plan Michigan to make LeVert beat them. He did it against Purdue, but he really struggled in the first half. LeVert bounced back to start the second half (10 points on 4-of-8 shooting with 3 assists), but he missed a couple critical shots late. Caris walks the fine line of being great at attacking the basket and having the tendency to over dribble himself into trouble.
- Nik Stauskas: I’m not sure that Indiana found some sort of magical defense to play against Nik, but it was eerily similar to Duke’s approach and the results were similar. The few times Stauskas got a screen (or hand off) he was very effective and I would have liked to see Michigan go more with the dribble handoff because Stauskas was finding the rolling big very easy. Stauskas missed a few shots right over Ferrell that he is more than capable of making and that threw off his confidence a bit as well. Stauskas played 12 straight great offensive games after that Duke loss, if he can rattle off 12 more in a row Michigan will be just fine.
- Glenn Robinson III: This is what Robinson looks like without confidence. We saw the same thing earlier in the year and when he’s not locked in he struggles to do simple things on the floor. He was stripped multiple times driving, bobbled an alley-oop and took a number of questionable pull-up jumpers early in the shot clock. He had a great offensive rebound in the first half, but only grabbed two defensive boards on the game.
- Zak Irvin: Irvin steps on the floor and starts shooting. He gave Michigan 7 points on 3-of-6 shooting in 17 minutes. He takes some off-balance heat checks, but when Michigan needs a boost offensively, he’s a nice weapon. On the downside, he continued his trend of struggling to close out on shoots and gave up a three to Ferrell (he wasn’t the only one) where he didn’t get his hand in his face.
- Jordan Morgan: Morgan grabbed nine rebounds in the first half and just one in the second (0 defensive). He was very active on the offensive glass to open the game, but he either tired (he played 31 minutes to Horford’s 8) or lost his edge late as Indiana won over the battle for the boards. Morgan did a great job defending ball screens for the most part and I thought Michigan’s defense was much better with him on the floor. The free throw misses were crushing, especially because he’s been fairly solid at the line over the last few weeks.
- Jon Horford: Horford was just 0-for-1 from the floor with a turnover and two fouls in eight minutes. He didn’t grab a rebound and gave up inside position to Vonleh a couple times.
- Spike Albrecht: Ferrell is probably as difficult of a cover as there is for Albrecht and he was limited to 11 minutes. However, he did a great job of jumpstarting the offense in the first half by forcing the tempo and getting some easy transition opportunities.