It’s not often that I turn off or leave a Michigan game early no matter what the score is simply because I don’t want to miss anything that may be worth talking about on this blog. That was not the case on Sunday, though. Michigan was playing so poorly against Michigan State that I finally reached my boiling point and couldn’t take any more of it. Watching MSU run Michigan out of the Breslin Center was simply not worth it, so I decided to move on to other things once the score hit 42-14 on an alley oop to Isaiah Dahlman of all people. I figured that was the best thing to do for my well-being considering Michigan only had 14 points with 16 minutes left in the second half and was just playing downright awful basketball. In the end Michigan lost by a score of 64-48 (only 16 points!) and capped off the regular season with yet another performance that was excruciating to watch.
The story of this game was Michigan’s inability to do anything on offense. For a few minutes Michigan was in the game thanks to sloppy play by Michigan State, but the Wolverines simply couldn’t capitalize on the Spartans’ mistakes. Michigan was just as sloppy and careless with the ball, and it struggled to simply make shots. MSU’s defense was suffocating, and on most possessions Michigan followed a similar script: pass the ball around the three-point line and fire up a bad shot with time running out on the shot clock. This led to multiple scoring droughts that lasted for around four minutes at a time. In the final 4:32 of the first half, for example, Michigan only scored 1 point (a free throw by Laval Lucas-Perry), and in the first 4:37 of the second half Michigan only scored 2 points (a pair of free throws by Zack Gibson). Gibson finally ended the field goal drought with a layup on the possession following his free throws, giving Michigan its first made shot in more than nine minutes of action.
Michigan State led by as many as 29 points in this game before it basically took its foot off the gas in the second half. Looking at the play-by-play breakdown of the second half, Michigan did play decent at times, going on a stretch where it made 5 consecutive shots after the first field goal drought ended. The Wolverines played awful basketball at times as well, however, following up that hot streak of made shots with another scoring drought of almost four minutes. Michigan got to the free throw line a lot in the final five minutes of the game to cut the lead down to 16 points, but by that time MSU was emptying its bench anyways.
The only player who scored in double figures for Michigan was Zack Gibson, who played for 16 minutes. Most of Gibson’s points came from the free throw line, where he went 6-7. The next-highest scorer was DeShawn Sims, who had 9 points to go along with 9 rebounds. He struggled shooting the ball big time, going 3-8 from the field and 3-6 from the free throw line. Zack Novak and Darius Morris both had 8 points on 3-6 shooting. Manny Harris only scored 4 points (a season low) and went an ugly 1-10 from the field. Stu Douglass, Laval Lucas-Perry, and Matt Vogrich (he made his only shot in the 3 minutes he played) all scored 3 points. Anthony Wright missed the 2 threes he took and Corey Person recorded an assist in 2 minutes of action.
As a team Michigan shot the ball 34.9% from the field (15-43) and 19% from three-point land (4-21). Like I said earlier, Michigan State’s defense was great and gave Michigan very few open looks. The worst thing about that, though, is that even when Michigan did have open looks it still struggled to make shots. All in all it was just a pathetic performance, especially when you continue to look at the boxscore and see that Michigan turned the ball over 19 times. Usually Michigan does a great job of taking care of the ball (it only had 4 turnovers in the first game of the season against MSU), but it was just careless on Sunday. MSU had 17 turnovers of its own, but there were a few instances where the Spartans would turn the ball over and Michigan would give it right back literally seconds later.
Next up for Michigan is the Big Ten tournament (full bracket here). After finishing the season with a 14-16 record overall and a 7-11 record in the conference, Michigan will be the 8 seed in the tournament. For the third straight year, Michigan’s opponent in the first round is Iowa, the 9 seed. The Wolverines beat the Hawkeyes 73-45 last year and 55-47 in 2008 in the Big Ten tournament, and so far this season Michigan is 2-0 against Iowa.
Michigan didn’t play Iowa to open the Big Ten tournament in 2007, but it was victorious over Minnesota. Unfortunately, despite winning its first game of the Big Ten tournament the last three years, Michigan hasn’t been able to win in the quarterfinals even once. In fact, Michigan has only been to the semifinals once (in 2004 after beating Iowa) since the first conference tournament in 1998, which Michigan actually won. Even then, Michigan advanced to the semifinals after having a first-round bye, so it hasn’t actually won two games in a single Big Ten tournament since the very first one in 1998.
If Michigan beats Iowa, it would face Ohio State in the quarterfinals. The Buckeyes are the top seed and have eliminated Michigan in the quarterfinals three times in the history of the Big Ten tournament. The most recent time was in 2007 when Ohio State was also the top seed and beat Michigan 72-62. Before that OSU beat Michigan in 2002 (75-68) and 1999 (87-69), both times as a 2 seed. The Buckeyes went on to win the whole thing in 2007 and 2002 after beating Michigan.
Thursday’s game against Iowa is set to start at 2:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on ESPN2. If Michigan is able to get past the Hawkeyes for the third straight year, Friday’s game against Ohio State would be a noon ET start on ESPN. Based on how Michigan played on Sunday, though, that’s a really big if.