John Beilein is now 2-15 against Wisconsin and loss number 15 followed a familiar script.
Michigan plays well enough to lead for long stretches early on, but can never take control because a few mistakes, bad breaks, hustle plays and late clock shots allow Wisconsin to hang around. Eventually Michigan cools off from the field and Wisconsin snatches the game away down the stretch with a few backbreaking plays
The first 30 minutes of Michigan’s 68-57 loss at Wisconsin were agonizing because there was an aura of inevitability surrounding the final 10. Michigan fought, scratched and clawed its way to a 40-39 lead at the Kohl Center on Sunday night, but was outscored 29-17 over the final 13 minutes of play, including a stretch where it missed 8 of 9 field goals as the game slipped away.
Wisconsin is a good team that’s playing great basketball, winning 10 of its last 11 games, but there’s no doubt that the Wolverines will fly back to Ann Arbor with a bitter taste in their mouth after dropping a game that could have been there down the stretch with some better execution.
Perhaps the most frustrating part of the loss, is that this isn’t just a Kohl Center script — it’s a 2015-16 Michigan script. Loose balls and 50-50 chances went Wisconsin’s way and the late field goal drought and ensuing run have been par for the course in many of Michigan’s losses this season. That game flow chart above looks eerily similar to at least half of Michigan’s losses.
Junior guards Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton made their first four shots of the game in the opening 6 minutes, but were just 4-of-22 over the final 34 minutes. Both missed critical, open, transition layups in crunch time and it’s hard to win games on the road when your go-to scorers can’t score consistently down the stretch.
Michigan’s offense managed just .93 points per possession in the loss, its worst offensive performance of the conference season. Wisconsin minimizes opponents’ three-point attempts as well as anyone in the country and the Wolverines only managed to attempt 13 threes (making 5). But unlike typical games against Wisconsin, Michigan actually shot far more attempts at the rim (26) than in the mid-range (13). The only problem was that the Wolverines didn’t make them (14-of-26 inside five feet) and didn’t get to the free throw line (7 FTA to 52 FGA).
Defensively, Wisconsin wore down the Wolverines in the second half. Michigan blitzed the Badgers with an array of double and triple teams in the post early on which led to some early Wisconsin made threes. In the second half, Michigan seemed to focus more on taking away the perimeter and was overwhelmed inside. Happ and Hayes were 4-of-11 from the field with 2 turnovers in the first half compared to 7-of-10 in the second half.
For all intents and purposes, it looks like Michigan’s season will come down to whether it can beat Iowa on Saturday night. The Hawkeyes are reeling — dropping four of their last five games — and still have to play Indiana in a mid-week showdown that could give the Hoosiers the outright Big Ten title. The week off over spring break couldn’t come at a better time for this Michigan group, which will be fighting for its bubble life on Senior Night, presumably with both seniors watching from the sidelines in street clothes.
- Derrick Walton: Walton was the KenPom MVP in 6 of Michigan’s 10 Big Ten wins. He’s also failed to post an offensive rating over 101 in Michigan’s last 6 losses. He made plenty of positive plays, but Michigan needs him to be a shot-maker and he’s just not doing that consistently enough. He deserves credit for his great defense and eight assists, but 2-of-9 2-point shooting and 1-of-4 3-point aren’t going to get it done on the road.
- Ricky Doyle: I give Doyle a lot of credit for stepping up with Mark Donnal struggling and in foul trouble, and playing very well in the ball screen game. He was 5-of-5 from the floor (he did miss an alley-oop but it was termed a turnover as an offensive goal tend. Some of the catches and finishes were very impressive and he even had a big alley-oop in the second half. On the negative side of the ledger, 0 rebounds in 16 minutes is a bit disappointing and he had his hands on a few late that slipped away.
- Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman: Abdur-Rahkman’s only basket of the game was a nice put-back off of his own miss in the second half. He was 1-of-5 from the floor with two nice pick-and-roll assists and two turnovers. Like Michigan’s other guards, he just couldn’t seem to get anything going offensively. I thought the Badgers defended him smartly on the pick-and-roll, going under and forcing him to shoot the three, a shot he’s not quite comfortable with off the dribble at this point.
- Duncan Robinson: Duncan got involved early on with a few nice curls and cuts to the rim and then knocked in a couple threes including one with a generous roll. He missed a critical one late, but I think this was a (small) step in the right direction for him after a bit of a cold stretch
- Zak Irvin: Head-down drives and early pull-up 18 footers are becoming the norm for Irvin and he just looks like a player who has predetermined what he’s going to do with the ball rather than reading defenses. Five of Irvin’s 13 field goal attempts were long twos (he made 2) and he gave the ball away 5 times in the loss.
- Mark Donnal: Donnal had 6 points and an offensive rebound, but was whistled for 4 fouls in 21 minutes. The foul he picked up in the opening minutes of the second half for reaching in on the other end of the court is the sort of play that Michigan just can’t afford from him.
- Aubrey Dawkins: Dawkins hit a late three, but his defensive switching has been killing Michigan. He never seems to be on the same page with his teammates and ends up leaving shooters or switching onto the wrong man consistently. He also struggled badly in the second half when switched into Bronson Koenig in isolation situations.
- Kameron Chatman: I thought Chatman gave Michigan some quality minutes in the first half, as he handed out an assist and was active defensively, but he didn’t earn any time in the second half.
- DJ Wilson: Wilson had a nice block in the first half, but he also let a 50-50 ball get away that he thought was going out of bounds on the possession before.