Michigan played a thrilling back-and-forth game in College Park on Sunday afternoon, but just couldn’t figure out a way to escape with a road upset over Maryland.
The best and worst of this Michigan team was on display in the loss.
The Wolverines continued to struggle defensively against dribble penetration and against forwards with size. They still had a painful field goal drought in the first half (7:25) and fell into a double-digit hole. They still had several fast break opportunities or layups that ended up instead as turnovers and fastbreak opportunities in the other direction.
But unlike some other losses this season, Michigan showed off its good side too. The Wolverines executed their pick-and-roll offense to perfection in the second half as Mark Donnal went for 25 points on the game. The Wolverines hit their threes for the first time in what feels like weeks, knocking down 13-of-27 long range attempts. And mostly importantly, something that we just haven’t seen consistently enough this season, Michigan battled.
John Beilein’s team fought its way out of a 16 point first half hole, taking the lead in the second half. Then after Maryland took it back, Michigan fought its way back to another lead. After falling woefully short at Ohio State in the effort category, the Wolverines traded blows with the top-ten ranked Terps despite committing a myriad of mistakes that they’d love to have back.
This game was a track meet with 40 first half possessions and 75 for the game. Both teams were loose with the ball and the offense was free flowing throughout despite Michigan’s first half drought.
In the second half, Michigan’s offense started clicking in a way that it hasn’t for weeks. The Wolverines scored 46 points in 35 second half possessions against the Big Ten’s best defense — a respectable 1.09 points per trip for the game. Mark Donnal’s 22 points on 11 second half shot attempts powered the offense, but they were the result of ball movement and pick-and-roll flow that has been absent for weeks. For the game, Michigan tallied an impressive 22 assists on 32 made field goals,
Defensively, one of the biggest differences was at the free throw line. The Terps attempted 19 free throws to Michigan’s 8 and while there was some late game fouling, Trimble’s ability to pick up free throws late in the game helped balance out the Terp offense.
Outside of Trimble, who also had 7 turnovers to just one assist, Michigan had no answer for the lengthy combination of Robert Carter and Jake Layman, who combined for 33 points on 19 shots after tallying 33 points on 21 shots in the first meeting.
The saving grace for the Wolverine defense was its ability to force turnovers. The Terps gave the ball away on 24% of their offensive possessions which led to 21 Michigan points. On the flip side, that means that Maryland scored 1.51 points per possession when it didn’t turn the ball over. When the Terps ran their offense and stayed under control, Michigan just couldn’t come up with the defensive answers and allowed Maryland to shoot 59% on twos and 44% on threes.
At the end of the day, this is the sort of feel good loss that only means something if it can turn into something more. Donnal’s (re)emergence, Chatman’s minutes off the bench, Abdur-Rahkman’s passing ability — these things have to be permanent if Michigan wants to take a step forward. Michigan played one of its better games in weeks, but still has nothing to show for it.
Wednesday’s home game against Northwestern is setting up to be a season defining game. A win won’t necessarily punch Michigan’s ticket to the NCAA tournament, but a loss could rip it to pieces.
- Mark Donnal: Donnal wasn’t just good in the second half, he was dominant. The big man was the best player on the floor and almost willed Michigan to victory. He hit 3 triples on 4 attempts, but also made 7-of-9 two-point attempts and finished ball screen after ball screen around the rim. Donnal’s lost some of the consistency he showed early in Big Ten play, but he was just phenomenal against one of the Big Ten’s best front lines. He didn’t just catch drop-off passes for layups, he also hit threes to stretch the floor and blocked five shots around the rim to shore up an otherwise porous defensive effort.
- Derrick Walton: I thought Walton got a bit out of control at times in the first half and he had 5 turnovers to 5 assists, but he also scored 14 points and hit a few threes. The charge to foul him out late was a tough call (here’s Walton’s take) and hard to see from my vantage point on the other end of the floor. I still think Walton finds himself taking too many early shot clock threes when he’s far more effective off the catch — especially via the flare screen action that Michigan has been throwing in of late.
- Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman: I thought this was one of his best games that Abdur-Rahkman has played. He flat out stole two baskets grabbing lazy inbound passes and he also tallied 9 assists to just 1 turnover to go along with three steals. His ability to chase down opposing fastbreaks and send them the other way is also an underrated skill set. His didn’t shoot the ball poorly either, making 2-of-5 threes and 4-of-8 twos on the day.
- Kameron Chatman: Kameron Chatman was the primary reason that Michigan was able to claw back into this game in the first half. He was 3-of-20 from three-point range entering Sunday’s game and knocked in two critical triples to help narrow the gap while dishing a pair of assists in eight minutes. His contributions off the bench — essentially he was all Michigan had off the bench — were as important as they were unexpected.
- Zak Irvin: Just when you get frustrated with Irvin’s shot selection or decision making, he hits a huge shot. He made some big-time plays in the second half to keep Michigan within striking distance, including three assists in the final 20 minutes. But the botched inbounds plays were a hot topic in post-game after he threw away two possessions by trying to force the ball in rather than call timeout.
- Duncan Robinson: Duncan hit a couple threes and got involved off of some nice cutting action early in the first half, but he’s also been making some pretty costly mistakes of late. In the first half he missed a layup and then saved the ball out to halfcourt, resulting in a three-point play. Late in the second, he bobbled a simple catch on the wing and fumbled the ball out for bounds.
- Aubrey Dawkins: Dawkins only played four minutes and was the second wing option off the bench, falling behind Kam Chatman. His defense has really suffered in recent games and he finds himself facing the possibility of slipping out of a rotation that isn’t deep to begin with.
- Ricky Doyle: Doyle played 10 minutes and missed both of his shot attempts around the rim and the drop-off from Donnal remains significant.
- Moritz Wagner: I think everyone sees the potential in Wagner, but he’s still too liable to make mistakes on the floor. He played a minute in the first half and was pick-pocketed at midcourt for a fastbreak layup.