Michigan got a heroic performance out of Detroit native Derrick Walton, but it wasn’t enough on the road against Michigan State.
Michigan State controlled the game from the inside-out and was able to keep Michigan at arms’ length down the stretch to pull away with an 8-point win. The Spartans outscored the Wolverines 34-20 in the paint and were led by their freshman trio of Miles Bridges, Cassius Winston and Nick Ward — all of whom reached double figures.
Michigan battled, but couldn’t overcome uncharacteristic second half turnovers and an 0-for performance by Zak Irvin, who had been battling the flu.
Michigan State did a great job of manufacturing easy looks at the basket all game. These were generally Nick Ward flashes in the post (6-of-6), Miles Bridges slashing across the lane and finishing with a hook, or Cassius Winston creating something out of the pick-and-roll game. There were a few breaks along the way — a grazed rim putback and a Nairn bank shot stand out — but Michigan State made 54% of its two-point attempts and that’s just not good enough interior defense to win on the road.
Turnovers kept Michigan in the game early, but after giving the ball away 8 times in the first half, the Spartans only turned the ball over 3 times in the second. Michigan flipped the script with 4 first half giveaways and 9 in the second half. Not turning the ball over is a Michigan staple and an MSU weakness and that was a battle the Wolverines couldn’t afford to lose.
Michigan’s defensive rebounding was solid — MSU rebounded only 29.6% of its misses — but the Spartans were in the bonus early in both half and manufactured points at the free throw line. That combined with three timely triples by the slumping Matt McQuaid resulted in 1.13 points per trip by the Spartans, too much for the Wolverines to overcome.
Michigan’s offense managed to score a point per possession, but only barely. This was the third-worst offensive showing of the season as the Wolverines shot just 40% inside the arc and 27% from three. Turnovers on 21% of possessions and 12-of-30 shooting inside the arc were the biggest problems with the offense. There were times that Michigan wings got into good spots but failed to finish and those opportunities can’t go wasted on the road.
In the big picture, this loss doesn’t change a lot. A win would have been pivotal, but the mid-week win against Indiana bought Michigan some space. The situation remains the same: defend home court and figure out how to steal a couple on the road down the stretch.
Michigan has a week to re-tool before hosting Ohio State, then it gets another crack at Michigan State on its home floor. I think this is a game that the Wolverines will look back on in film and think they have as good of a chance as you could ask for in the rematch 10 days down the road.
- Derrick Walton: Derrick Walton appears to have figured things out and if he’s going to keep playing like this then I think Michigan can scrap something together down the stretch. Walton scored 24 points on 4-of-12 (2-9 3pt) shooting, making 14-of-15 free throw attempts while grabbing 9 rebounds and handing out 5 assists. He’s averaging 19 points per game and is 16 of 22 on twos and 10-of-23 on threes with 16 assists since the Illinois melt down. That’s the ‘outlier’ that Michigan needs and this was another critical step in the right direction.
- Zak Irvin: There’s no sugar coating how poorly Irvin played: 0 points on 8 shot attempts, 2 assists to 3 turnovers. Irvin has had his ups and downs during his career, but this was one of the lowest. Michigan obviously needs more from its senior wing and he just didn’t produce today in East Lansing. He also missed Thursday and Friday practice with the flu, which explains some of his struggles.
- Moritz Wagner: Wagner had some great post moves and finishes when he was composed on the block, finishing with 10 points on 4-of-6 (1-2 3pt) shooting with 8 rebounds. He also still has the habit of getting a bit too wrapped up in the game and committing silly fouls (one offensive, one reaching away from the basket and one questionable technical today). Michigan State took away the pick-and-pop shot and Wagner tried to drive but committed 4 turnovers.
- DJ Wilson: Wilson couldn’t hit the three, but watching the film back I’d guess two things will stand out: he still struggles to defend dribble penetration against combos with quickness and he missed a number of pretty easy shots around the rim. While Bridges seems to have mastered the half hook shot there, Wilson seemed to get caught in the middle and missed a number of chances in the paint. He threw a beautiful backdoor pass for a layup and his ball skills are developing, but he just couldn’t find his offense — especially in the 2nd half.
- Duncan Robinson: Way too many passed up shots for Robinson today. He finished 3-of-9 from the floor (2-6 from three) and it felt like he had several good looks in the second half where he hesitated to pull the trigger. Michigan needs his offense and his best offense is a catch-and-shoot three: let it fly.
- Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman: Abdur-Rahkman had a great drive and finish early when Michigan was in a hole, but he seems to get taken out of his game whenever he ends up in foul trouble. The junior guard knocked in a three in the second half, but had a quiet day overall.
- Mark Donnal: Donnal made some timely plays in the first half with Wagner battling foul trouble and played one of his better games in a long time.
- Xavier Simpson: Simpson had a great pocket pass to Mark Donnal and an underwhelming drive and botched finish against Winston.
- Jon Teske: Teske was thrown into the mix in the first half with both bigs sidelined with two fouls and he had an offensive rebound tap out (apparently a real skill of his) but also quickly committed a foul on Ward fighting for position.
- Ibi Watson: Beilein went to Watson in the final minute of the first half and he gave up a three by getting caught in a screen which forced Beilein to the two point guard look with Walton and Simpson.