Splat

That about sums up Michigan’s 54-48 loss to Wisconsin last night. I’m really at a loss for words when it comes to this team — even with leads of 13-2, 21-10, and 39-30 (the last coming with just nine minutes left in the game), a collapse always felt just around the corner. Maybe I’m just paranoid, or too used to watching the post-Fab Five Wolverines, but the entire game I was bracing myself for what felt like the inevitable. Then Michigan scored its 43rd point of the night with 5:18 left in the second half to take a three-point lead, and stayed at that number until Manny Harris hit a jumper with 38 seconds left, with Wisconsin now up six. In that stretch, Michigan went 0-4 from the field, turned the ball over twice, and committed four fouls. That’s not how you close out a game against a strong home team like Wisconsin.

What went wrong for the Wolverines? Well, besides DeShawn Sims, who had 23 points (9-14 from the field), 13 rebounds, two blocks, and two steals before fouling out late, just about everything:

  • Manny Harris played one of the poorest games I’ve seen him play as a Wolverine. He scored just 11 points on 4-14 shooting, with four rebounds, one assist, and three turnovers. As Dylan points out at UMHoops, as bad as he was on the offensive end, Manny was just as ineffective a defender — he was the main culprit in allowing reserve forward Rob Wilson to score 13 points in just 18 minutes. A couple weeks ago, all the talk was about how John Beilein needed to motivate Michigan’s other star, Sims, to play to Harris’ level. Now, it seems, Michigan has the opposite problem.
  • I love the way Zack Novak plays, but it’s hard to sugarcoat a zero-point, 0-6 shooting effort. Novak did do a good job of hitting the boards, pulling down six rebounds (two offensive), but he also missed a couple open layups that the Wolverines really needed to drop. Sometimes it seems like Novak’s hustling style can work against him — on one of the layup misses, he had to put the ball up with his off-hand while flying towards the opposite side of the basket. If Novak plays a little more in-control, he can make the game a little easier for himself.
  • On a tough road trip, you need your shooters to hit big shots. Unfortunately, Michigan didn’t get much from Stu Douglass (2-8 from the field, 2-7 from three, eight points) and Laval Lucas-Perry (2-5 from the field, 1-3 from three, five points). These two seem to have problems of the “polar opposite” variety: Douglass has been jacking up shots with reckless abandon, while LLP seems all-too content with passing the ball off and generally playing as passively on offense as possible. Still searching for a reliable third scoring option…
  • Speaking of searching, can somebody put out an APB on the bench? I realize that there’s little depth to work with here, but the entire bench combined for one point, zero shot attempts, four rebounds, an assist, and three turnovers. Darius Morris, whose play has improved all season, was exploited on the defensive end and wasn’t able to create much on offense. Zack Gibson continued to alternate nice plays on defense with ugly turnovers on offense. Ant Wright and Matt Vogrich only played four minutes each and had little impact on the game.

Michigan needed to make a statement during this critical stretch of conference play, but the only statement they made last night was “choke”. In order to salvage the season, they’ll need to put this game behind them and come out a very different team against Purdue on Saturday.

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