Team 101

Game 27: Michigan at Minnesota Recap

Michigan battled against Minnesota, forcing overtime despite trailing by 6 points with 1:17 to play, but it wasn’t enough to escape with a road victory.

Michigan battled against Minnesota, forcing overtime despite trailing by 6 points with 1:17 to play, but it wasn’t enough to escape with a road victory.

The Wolverines played nearly flawless offense in the second half, but couldn’t get out of the way of their own mistakes some frustrating officiating on the road. I’ll avoid one of John Gasaway’s four dullest topics in sports blogging, especially from my perch in the second deck of Williams Arena, but the numbers speak for themselves and while John Beilein wouldn’t comment directly, he certainly wasn’t pleased with the whistle.

The Wolverines were whistled for 27 personal fouls and a technical (apparently for Saddi Washington jumping onto the court) and gave up 41 free throw attempts on the night. Both the free throw attempts and personal fouls numbers high-water marks for a John Beilein-coached Michigan team and they proved to be the difference. The 41 free throw attempts are also 9 more than the Wolverines allowed in the last three games combined.

Michigan also didn’t help itself when it made it to the line, making just 9-of-18 free throw attempts — the Wolverines entered tonight’s game ranked 4th in the country in free throw percentage — to be outscored 28 to 9 at the charity stripe.

In an overtime loss that featured 17 lead changes and eight ties and laid in the balance down the stretch, the first place to look is clear.

The four factors graph reiterates the foul differential as Minnesota posted a season-high 71.9% free throw rate (yet another high-water mark under Beilein). Michigan’s defense just couldn’t get enough stops in the second half and overtime and allowed the Gophers to score 17 second chance points. While a 31.7% offensive rebounding rate is right around average (for both teams and in the league), the sheer volume of misses (there were 41 defensive rebounding opportunities) meant that those offensive boards yielded 17 second-chance points.

Michigan’s offense wasn’t great at 1.05 points per possession, but most of that damage was done in the first half. Michigan managed just 27 points in 33 first half possessions (.81 PPP) before scoring 51 in the final 41 of the second half and overtime (1.24 PPP). The Wolverines made 62% of their two-point shots and Minnesota only blocked 3 shots on the night (shot blocking extraordinaire Reggie Lynch played just 13 minutes with foul trouble). That aggressiveness to create two-point shooting opportunities paid dividends and Michigan was also aggressive in transition (a 12-3 advantage) and off of turnovers (18-9 advantage).

While the Wolverines showed some impressive resolve to bounce back in the second half, there were still far too many moments in this one that felt like a missed opportunity. Just about every Michigan player that saw the floor will be able to look back on the game and find two or three plays that they want back and could have made the difference. Whether it was a missed free throw, a weak defensive rebound try, or a bad shot. The Wolverines were almost able to overcome them in the end, but those mistakes mixed with a harsh whistle were just too much.

This isn’t a loss that drastically changes the situation for Michigan, but with only 4 games left in the schedule it’s hard to stomach any missed opportunities. Next the Wolverines have to turnaround and head to New Jersey on Wednesday. Rutgers is the worst team in the Big Ten, but they are competitive this year and have given plenty of opponents a scare. They are also the best offensive rebounding group in the country.

Player Bullets

  • Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman: Abdur-Rahkman was aggressive attacking the rim (5-of-6 2P) and knocked in a three to rack up an efficient 14 points in 40 minutes. His moment to forget came right after his best moment of the night — a three-pointer put Michigan up by 1 in overtime — as he went to the line on the next possession and missed both free throws. That being said, he has quietly emerged as a consistent secondary option for the Wolverine offense.
  • Derrick Walton: Walton has taken his superman cape off over the last two games and he had to grind out his 16 points on 6-of-15 shooting. He attacked the rim aggressively all night, but couldn’t buy a call as both him. He thought the overtime three was down before it rimmed out, but it was just an average 3-of-8 three-point shooting night. Then there’s the free throw shooting. Walton is one of the best free throw shooters in the country, but he went just 1-of-4 at the line including a missed front-end.
  • Zak Irvin: Irvin had some nice moments, especially in the second half, but his two missed three-point attempts with Michigan up by 1 point and down by 3 points in overtime were both pivotal. They were both pretty late in the shot clock and fairly open — if I remember correctly — but they were off the dribble and that’s just a shot that Irvin hasn’t been consistent with this season. Irvin does deserve some credit for containing Amir Coffey (he only made 1 shot all night) and picking up a couple of steals, assists and no turnovers, but Michigan needs to him to find some consistency with his shot down the stretch.
  • DJ Wilson: The birthday boy kept the game alive with his game-tying three-pointer and then knocked in another three in overtime. The game-tying play wasn’t drawn up for DJ, but he did a great job of reacting to the situation and burying the deep triple from 27+ feet. In regulation he did most of his work attacking the basket, getting to the paint and then finishing with his little hook shot. There are offensive opportunities there for Wilson, but it feels like sometimes the Wolverines can’t find him consistently enough. He grabbed 7 defensive rebounds, but Michigan’s defensive approach seemed to have him helping on drivers and leaving his man (usually Jordan Murphy) open for a backside putback.
  • Moritz Wagner: Wagner boosted Michigan’s offense with a pair of first half threes and was aggressive off the bounce in the second. He had an efficient 15 points and 7 rebounds, but his 3 turnovers all seemed avoidable. He battled foul trouble, but his aggressive play was also a key reason that Reggie Lynch ended up on the bench with foul trouble.
  • Duncan Robinson: Robinson didn’t make a three-pointer for only the 4th game all season, but he still found the box score with some aggressive cuts and curls to get to the rim. He also handed out 5 assists — I’m curious to watch the tape on this one because that’s an impressive total — but saw his playing time limited due to foul trouble (5 in 15 minutes).
  • Mark Donnal: For the second straight game, Donnal gave Michigan some important quality minutes off the bench in the second half. He had a huge block and was solid all around while Wagner was on the bench in foul trouble.
  • Xavier Simpson: Simpson is starting to settle into a grove where he makes one or two nice plays every game. Tonight it was a great pick-and-roll feed as he also continues to give other guards fits with his aggressive defense.

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