It was disappointing to see Michigan lose another game on Saturday, though it of course wasn’t surprising considering the opponent. Even so, it was nice to see the team put up a fight on the road against the top team in the country after falling behind by 23 points. That was the point in the game when Michigan switched to the 1-3-1 defense and went on a big run in the final three and a half minutes of the first half to cut the lead down to 11. Michigan played an excellent second half, but it just couldn’t get closer than 11 points. It was almost comical how many times Michigan would let Kansas increase its lead only to cut it back down to 11. Every time Michigan tried to get any closer shots didn’t fall, and in the end that was the lead Kansas had at the end of the game, winning 75-64.
Early on in this game Michigan managed to keep it close and even led for a little bit. Eventually Kansas pulled away, though, and it looked like this was going to be a blowout. Instead, as mentioned, Michigan switched its defense to the 1-3-1 and Kansas didn’t seem to know how to react. Michigan finished the first half on a run to cut the lead down to 11 points, and both teams each scored 33 points in the second half, resulting in Kansas’ 11-point win. Michigan had plenty of opportunities to make this a really close game but just couldn’t hit an open shot to save its life. The announcers made mention of how few open looks Michigan had in the first half, but in the second half there were plenty of them. The problem is that very few of them resulted in made shots, which killed any hope Michigan had of coming back.
Although Michigan’s defense finally improved after the switch to the 1-3-1, the shooting problems seemed to get even worse on Saturday. Michigan shot a pathetic 17.9% (5-28) from three-point land and 35.8% from the field. To make matters worse, as alluded to, many of Michigan’s missed shots in the second half were wide open looks. It seems like it’s a mental thing with the team shooting-wise, but the problem is this cold spell doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. I keep thinking that they eventually will pull it together and shoot lights out to get things turned around, but if it doesn’t happen soon, any hopes of making the tournament will go by the wayside.
While the team’s shooting as a whole was bad, there were some definite positives from this game, including Manny Harris, DeShawn Sims, and Darius Morris. Manny ended up with 16 points, and although he didn’t shoot the ball that well, he seemed to play well. Even bad games for Manny are usually good, so it still felt like he played well despite shooting only 40% from the field. Sims ended up leading the team in scoring with 19 points. He really seemed to do well in the paint, and his numbers would have been even better if he hadn’t picked up his fourth foul as early as he did. As for Morris, he came off the bench and got off to a shaky start with an air ball on his first shot. After that, though, he played an exceptional game and looked like he belonged on the floor with the #1 team in the nation.
The rest of the team did not play quite as well as the three players mentioned above. Stu Douglass and Zack Novak did end up with 8 points each, but it was really painful to watch either shoot threes. Stu did make a couple long ones, but he missed 5 others. Novak went 0-4 from behind the arc, though he made up for his shooting woes by hustling for every loose ball and making plays in general. He actually had 7 rebounds, and 5 of them were offensive. There was a big drop off after Stu and Novak. Three other players got playing time — Zack Gibson, Anthony Wright, and Matt Vogrich. Gibson continued to struggle big time, going 1-6 from the field. Wright only took 2 shots and missed both of them, but his defense was quite bad in the 8 minutes he played. And Vogrich didn’t have time to do anything, as he was only on the floor for a minute.
Michigan will host Coppin State on Tuesday before having more than a week off. When the Wolverines return to action they will play at Indiana on New Year’s Eve. That will get Big Ten play underway, though the Wolverines will still have to worry about one more non-conference game — UConn on January 17 in Ann Arbor.