This one is going to sting for a while. Michigan did all of the hard work to finally take the lead after trailing for 31 minutes. Then the Wolverines pulled away by 9 points only to let it all slip away down the stretch.
Michigan was outscored 18-7 over the final 5 minutes of play and walked away with a loss as Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman’s desperation three-pointer missed and Moritz Wagner wasn’t able to follow the miss.
Wagner and Charles Matthews played up to their billing, combining for 52 points on 19-of-31 shooting but it wasn’t enough to carry the Wolverines.
LSU freshman point guard Tremont Waters was the best player on the floor and he dominated the game late, magnifying the fact that Michigan still doesn’t have a proven point guard that it can trust in crunch time.
Michigan’s offense sputtered in the first half, managing just 29 points in 30 possessions, but it was almost flawless in the second. The Wolverines scored 46 points in 32 second half possessions — 1.44 points per possession — and still lost the game.
That’s because the defense just wasn’t good enough, especially late. LSU posted a 66% effective field goal percentage, rebounded 39% of its missed shots and got to the free throw line 23 times. If you give up over 1.2 points per possession, you are going to lose games more often than not.
Michigan made critical late mistakes on offense — Eli Brooks missed two big shots, Matthews and Brooks both missed a free throw and had a costly turnover each — but the bottom line is that the Wolverines couldn’t get the stops to ice away the game. The Tigers scored 18 points in the final 9 possessions of the game. If Michigan gets 1 or 2 stops during that span, the game is probably over.
The good news is that Michigan’s offense finally figured out some things that work. Everything positive that Michigan did offensively came from Charles Matthews and Moritz Wagner and their best moments originated from two-man side ball screen action. Wagner picked and popped to the perimeter and drove to the basket consistently while Matthews posted up smaller defenders and crashed the glass.
The bad news on offense is that Michigan still doesn’t really have a point guard. Beilein rode Eli Brooks to the finish line tonight and he made some big plays early, but made costly mistakes late. Zavier Simpson and Jaaron Simmons failed to impact the game in any way during their minutes — combining for 0 points and 3 assists to 3 turnovers — leaving the Wolverines where they started at the lead guard. Michigan needs production from that spot and it isn’t getting it right now.
The result hurts beyond a single loss because Michigan will face Chaminade on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET) instead of Notre Dame. A Division II opponent won’t help the RPI and there’s nothing to gain for the Wolverines, who now need to knock off the Silver Swords and then take care of VCU or California on Wednesday to save face.
- Charles Matthews: Matthews made big play after big play and finished with 28 points on 10-of-17 shooting with 8 boards and 3 assists. He’s a player and he’s only going to get better as he grows more comfortable. His mid-range pull up jumper is consistent and almost unguardable I love any action that isolates him with his back to the basket.
- Moritz Wagner: Wagner rediscovered his three-point stroke (3-of-7) and was 6-of-7 from the field inside the arc. I thought he had some really great moments defensive in the first half and seemed to hedge, recover and communicate as well as I can remember, but he’ll be kicking himself over losing track of Epps on those late jumpshots that helped spark the comeback. 24 points on 14 shots and 7 rebounds is a whale of a game and Wagner looked as locked in offensively as he’s been all season.
- Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman: Abdur-Rahkman hit a few big shots, but I thought he made some really questionable decisions with his shot selection. He finished 4-of-13 from the floor and missed all five three-point attempts. He’s been pressed to hunt for his shot and that will take some feeling out, but he had several off balance shots or transition pull-ups that just weren’t good decisions.
- Eli Brooks: Brooks seemed to give Michigan a spark offensively until he didn’t. I loved his pull-up three-pointer out of the ball screen game or how he found Moe Wagner for a trailing three in the second half. The offense was working with him at the point guard in the second half, but he made some really costly mistakes in crunch time. Freshmen have to learn from those moments, but a point guard has to be able to manage the game more effectively down the stretch.
- Duncan Robinson: LSU didn’t help off of Robinson and was dead set on taking him out of the game. For the most part, the approach works. Robinson only attempted 4 shots and while he did make the three that gave the Wolverines their first lead, he was ineffective otherwise in 28 minutes. Michigan’s offense needs something else and Robinson’s three-point stroke needs to be that factor. Michigan needs to find a way to get him more looks when teams focus their defense because right now he’s only a threat in transition.
- Isaiah Livers: Michigan needs Livers to provide quality minutes but he still makes too many freshman mistakes. Blown box outs or saving the ball in front of your own baskets are essentially automatic 2 points at this level and Livers needs to work those out of his game.
- Jon Teske: Teske played 8 minutes and had a few nice defensive plays, but in a game of this caliber he looks like he’s going to play primarily backup minutes at the five.
- Zavier Simpson: Simpson is supposed to be Michigan’s defensive guard and he checked into the game late and immediately gave up an and-one layup to Waters. He committed 4 fouls in 10 minutes and didn’t attempt a shot from the floor.
- Jaaron Simmons: Simmons had an assist on a backdoor layup (that appeared to be scripted out of a timeout) but that was about it. He missed his only three-point attempt and never seemed to get involved in the offense.
- Ibi Watson: Watson was 1-of-4 from the floor and played 8 minutes, with most coming in the first half. He was whistled for three fouls and still hasn’t proven that he’s a consistent threat from three-point range.