Evan Turner Ends Michigan’s Season with 37-Footer at the Buzzer

By · Sunday, March 14, 2010 · 2:59 AM |  Share | Leave a Comment 

Let’s cut right to the chase: 2.2 seconds were on the clock after Manny Harris made a shot to give Michigan a 68-66 lead.  Ohio State called a timeout to draw up a play that would allow it to either tie or win the game despite having to go the length of the court in only 2.2 seconds.

As OSU got ready to pass in the ball, immediately it was pointed out by the announcers that nobody was guarding the inbounder.  Personally that worried me, but the more concerning thing was the fact that only Stu Douglass was even on that side of the court for Michigan.  Everybody else was on the other side, which gave Evan Turner a clear path to get up the court after the inbounder passed him the ball.  Thanks to a screen on Douglass just as the play was developing, Turner had lots of room to run and was able to fire up a relatively uncontested shot from 37 feet out.  In what was sadly a fitting end to a tumultuous season, the shot was dead on and gave Ohio State a 69-68 win.

”Honestly I thought they were going to press or something like that,” Turner said. ”The whole game, they were swarming me. They gave me one good look. Being open felt a little bit free. I felt like I was in the gym by myself.”

That quote from Turner perfectly sums up Michigan’s defense on the final play.  Why Michigan opted to go to a 1-3-1 defense and not put anybody on the inbounder is beyond me.  In that situation, it’s key to make the other team struggle to even get a shot off, or at the very least make sure that shot is a prayer at best.  Although Turner’s shot wasn’t the easiest thing in the world, it was far from a prayer considering Stu Douglass barely managed to get a hand in his face.  The other four players on the court for Michigan basically just stood there and watched the shot fall.  It really seemed like Michigan’s defense on that final play was about the best thing Ohio State could hope for.  Instead of pressuring the inbounder and putting somebody right on Turner, Michigan allowed him to run right down the court and fire up an uncontested shot.  I know John Beilein didn’t want Michigan to foul him, but that fear should not force your defense to disappear.

John Beilein knows a lot more about basketball than me, but just based on similar situations to this one in the past, it seems like it would have made the most sense to put Zack Gibson right in the inbounder’s face, at least one and maybe two players right on Evan Turner, and the other players back near half/the other side of the court in case OSU tries to throw a Hail Mary.  Hell, simply playing man-to-man defense would have made more sense than what actually happened.  I know a lot of times teams just get lucky on some ridiculous shot and that’s that, but Michigan could have prevented this from happening and advanced to the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament.  Instead Evan Turner ripped out the hearts of Michigan fans everywhere and ended the Wolverines’ season.

As for the rest of the game, it was interesting to watch how quickly the momentum would change.  Early on Michigan went on a run and took a 19-10 lead, for example, but Ohio State quickly came back and went on a big run of its own to eventually lead 35-25 at halftime.  At this point it looked like Michigan would be lucky to simply keep things close after a great start turned into another awful stretch of basketball.

In the second half, Michigan’s struggles continued early on before Stu Douglass caught fire and cut down the lead considerably thanks to back-to-back-to-back threes.  Just like that Michigan was only down by 4 points and seemed to have momentum on its side.  OSU made it obvious that it still had the momentum just as quickly, however, going on a 9-0 run to take a 51-38 lead.

Manny Harris took over the game at this point and helped Michigan cut the lead down to 6 points after a 7-0 run.  Ohio State tried to stave off the comeback, but Michigan slowly but surely kept chipping away at the lead and eventually tied the game with 1:06 left when Stu Douglass hit another three from way behind the arc.  That three came right after Manny made one to cut the lead down to 1 point and Evan Turner made a pair of free throws to extend the lead back to 3 points.

With the game now tied, Turner tried to make something happen and missed a layup.  Michigan went down the floor and Manny made a jumper to give the Wolverines a 2-point lead with 30 seconds left to play.  Ohio State’s David Lighty made a runner in the lane to tie the game up on the next possession with 14 seconds left, and Michigan called a timeout to draw up a play.  Whatever that play was, the key was to get Manny the ball, and that is exactly what happened.  Manny made a nice fade-away jumper with only 2.2 seconds left on the clock, and suddenly Michigan appeared to be in position to pull off the shocking upset.  What happened next?  Well, as described above, Evan Turner happened and gave Ohio State a 69-68 victory.

Michigan played very inconsistent and allowed Ohio State to go on runs far too often, but this team fought and fought until the very end.  Manny Harris showed just how good he can be and absolutely took over this game in the final 10 minutes.  If it weren’t for Evan Turner and his buzzer beater, the story of this game would have been Manny’s clutch play at the end of the game along with Stu Douglass’ great shooting from three-point land.  Stu went 5-8 from behind the arc, and Manny put up good numbers as well, going 3-5 from three-point land.  The rest of the team didn’t hit a single three-pointer, but Stu and Manny made up for everybody else and helped Michigan to a three-point percentage of 38.1, a number that could have been a lot worse.

Scoring-wise, Manny led the team with 26 points.  Stu scored 16 points, as did DeShawn Sims, who shot the ball pretty well (7-13 from the field).  Zack Novak scored 8 points even though he went 0-2 from behind the arc, and Zack Gibson was the only other player to score, netting 2 points on 1-2 shooting in 10 minutes.  Darius Morris played 18 minutes and missed the only shot he took, and Laval Lucas-Perry went 0-3 in 19 minutes of action.  Anthony Wright got in for less than a minute and turned the ball over and committed a foul.  After that he went back to the bench and didn’t see the floor again.

Unless the NIT selection committee gives Michigan a bid solely based on the goodness of their hearts, the Wolverines’ season is over.  It’s a tough way to go out, especially when you consider that an upset of Ohio State would have put Michigan only two wins away from a Big Ten tournament title and a berth to the NCAA tournament.  Not only that, but Ohio State beat Illinois in double overtime on Saturday and gets to face Minnesota in the finals today.  Yes, the team that Michigan just destroyed earlier this month is one win away from a Big Ten tournament title.

Just like the final play of the Ohio State game, looking back on the entire season brings out a lot of ifs.  Michigan lost quite a few close games, but it also underachieved far too often.  There were occasional glimpses of greatness like against Minnesota earlier this month, but the usual feeling after a game was something along the lines of if Michigan would have done this or if Michigan would have done that.  Really this season was one of missed opportunities.  Michigan probably wasn’t going to live up to its preseason ranking no matter what, but to miss the tournament and the NIT is just embarrassing and disappointing.  More than anything, it’s tough to see the program take a step back after such a great 2008-09 season.

Going forward, the key storyline in the next few months will be what Manny Harris decides to do.  I don’t see how he could go pro just based on how much his stock has dropped, but him coming back is far from a guarantee.  Considering that, it probably is way too early to look ahead to next season.  Even so, what we do know is that DeShawn Sims, Zack Gibson, and Anthony Wright are gone.  Sims is obviously the biggest loss considering he was Michigan’s best player more often than not this season, but losing a bench player like Gibson and his height will be tough with the lack of height left on the roster as it is.

Michigan currently has two recruits — Evan Smotrycz and Tim Hardaway Jr. — set to join the team next season.  The hope is for that number to grow with Trey Zeigler and/or Jon Horford, but neither has made a decision yet.  Adding Horford would help Michigan’s lack of height, and adding Zeigler would give the Wolverines a playmaker and a potential replacement for Manny Harris for whenever he leaves.

For me, it’s tough to even place expectations on next season.  Like the football team, there are so many question marks that nothing would really be too surprising.  For example, the loss of a player like DeShawn Sims leaves a big void in the lineup, but perhaps another year in John Beilein’s system will offset that with the development of other players.  I just don’t really know what will happen at this point, but more than anything I hope this team shows improvement and at least gets back to being over .500.  It sucks that that is the hope when a year ago we were all gearing up for Selection Sunday, but then again, the 2008-09 team came out of nowhere and surprised everybody.  Maybe something similar will happen next season.  Although expectations won’t be very high, at the very least we can hope for a better season in 2010-11.

Despite Inconsistent Play, Michigan Beats Iowa 59-52

By · Friday, March 12, 2010 · 3:01 AM |  Share | Leave a Comment 

Michigan’s game with Iowa yesterday was plagued with inconsistency, which is nothing new for this season’s team.  The Wolverines opened the game up with a nice showing, leading 24-8 at one point in the first half.  Michigan appeared to be well on its way to a blowout victory reminiscent of the first meeting of the season with Iowa.  That would have been too easy, though, so Michigan made it interesting like they usually do.

Over the course of the rest of the game, Michigan’s went from leading by 16, to only being up by 9 at halftime, to going on a six-minute scoring drought at the beginning of the second half, allowing Iowa to cut the lead down to 4.  Zack Novak ended the scoring drought with a three-pointer, and suddenly Michigan started to increase its lead again, eventually going up by 16 with four minutes to play.  Michigan finished the afternoon with another scoring drought, though, once again allowing Iowa to get back in the game.  Thankfully Iowa played like, well, Iowa, and missed 4 straight shots on one of their last possessions.  The Hawkeyes could have cut the lead down to 2 or 3 points, but Iowa missed every shot and eventually Manny Harris ended up with the ball and nailed a pair of free throws.  The scoring drought was over, and so were Iowa’s chances of a comeback.  Michigan managed to hang on for the 59-52 victory.

Despite playing well at times, Michigan’s stats weren’t impressive.  The Wolverines shot the ball 38% from the field (19-50) and 24% from three-point land (6-25), and both of those stats were actually just worse than what Iowa did on Thursday.  The difference in this game was at the free throw line, where Michigan went 15-18 and Iowa only went 3-4.  Looking at the shooting statistics, it’s amazing to think that Michigan was blowing out Iowa at various points during this game before the Hawkeyes made a comeback, but that difference at the free throw line was where Michigan was the big winner.

Manny Harris led Michigan in scoring with 22 points, and he added 9 rebounds to almost record a double-double.  DeShawn Sims scored 14 points, and that was essentially it for big scoring contributions.  Every other player scored in single digits or had 0 points, not that that was necessarily a bad thing since there was a healthy distribution of scoring that included bench players.  Zack Gibson, for example, played for 11 minutes off the bench and scored 7 points.  Laval Lucas-Perry played for 16 minutes and scored 5 points.  Finally, Anthony Wright was on the floor for 9 minutes and made a three-pointer.  As for the starting lineup outside of Manny and Peedi, Stu Douglass scored 5 points, Zack Novak scored 3 points, and Darius Morris missed the only shot and only free throw he attempted.

Michigan’s next opponent is Ohio State in a rematch of a game played nearly two weeks ago.  The Buckeyes were victorious in Columbus that day against Michigan en route to a Big Ten title and the top seed in the Big Ten tournament.  To say Michigan is an underdog today is an understatement.  Michigan did have its chances to make things interesting in Columbus, but as bad as OSU played at times, the Wolverines were just that much worse.  To put it bluntly, Michigan better bring its “A” game and hope Ohio State takes some time to shake off the rust.  Tip off is set for noon ET on ESPN.

Michigan Embarrassed by Michigan State in 64-48 Loss

By · Monday, March 8, 2010 · 3:27 AM |  Share | 2 Comments 

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.

Michigan Sends Seniors Off with 83-55 Blowout of Minnesota

By · Wednesday, March 3, 2010 · 2:45 AM |  Share | Leave a Comment 

In two of Michigan’s last three home games before last night, the Wolverines only scored 44 total points.  Tuesday night against Minnesota, Michigan passed that number 30 seconds into the second half.  In the other of those three home games Michigan only managed to put up 51 points.  Against Minnesota that number was surpassed less than four minutes into the second half.  If that doesn’t give you an idea of how well the Wolverines played on Tuesday then maybe this will: Michigan shot the ball 60.4% from the field (32-53) and 42.1% from three-point land (8-19).  It was without a doubt Michigan’s most sound game of the season offensively and led to a runaway on senior night.  The Wolverines won 83-55, and this game was really over by halftime.

Minnesota did lead for a bit early on and was only down by a few points until there were about nine minutes left in the first half.  At that point Michigan went off and missed shots became a rarity.  It was a glimpse of just how good this offense can be when all cylinders are firing.  Michigan was getting inside frequently, allowing for easy baskets, and three-pointers were shot much more selectively, leading to a higher percentage from behind the arc.  This big run to close out the first half gave Michigan a 41-29 lead with only a few seconds remaining, and Darius Morris made an awesome move followed by a pass to DeShawn Sims right under the hoop for an easy basket right before the buzzer sounded, making the halftime score 43-29.

The second half was no different than the last nine minutes of the first.  Michigan’s offense was running smoothly, and its defense was doing a great job of making stops that led directly to points the other way.  The lead kept growing and growing and got up to as many as 30 points.  In the end Michigan won by 28 points and John Beilein was able to take seniors DeShawn Sims, Zack Gibson, and Anthony Wright off the floor one at a time to properly honor each of them as their final regular season game at Crisler Arena came to a close.

As is usually the case when Michigan plays well and wins, DeShawn Sims and Manny Harris led the team in scoring.  Sims scored 23 points and grabbed 6 boards in 30 minutes of action.  Harris scored 22 points, grabbed 2 rebounds, dished out 3 assists, and had 3 steals.  On top of that, Harris shot the ball extremely well, going 8-12 from the field and 2-2 from behind the arc.

The rest of the starting lineup was very productive as well.  Stu Douglass scored 10 points and had 3 assists.  Zack Novak’s favorite number last night was 6, as he scored 6 points, grabbed 6 rebounds, and dished out 6 assists.  Darius Morris also dished out 6 assists to go along with his 7 points and 3 rebounds, and more than anything he looked very comfortable running the offense and was making some great plays that led to easy points in the paint.

Coming off the bench, Zack Gibson got the most playing time with 14 minutes of action.  He scored 7 points during that 14 minutes and had 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, and 1 block.  Anthony Wright got 6 minutes of playing time and made a three-pointer in the first half.  Right before he came out of the game at the end another three rimmed out, and you could tell by the bench’s reaction that they were hoping it was going to fall.  Also coming off the bench were Matt Vogrich, Laval Lucas-Perry, and Corey Person.  Vogrich and LLP both played for 5 minutes each, and Vogrich scored 5 points on a three-pointer and a layup.  LLP went scoreless at home yet again after taking no shots and missing a pair of free throws.  (His only contribution was 3 fouls.)  Person only played for a couple minutes at the end and didn’t record any stats.

When Michigan beat Minnesota on the road a few weeks ago I thought it was the team’s best game of the season.  From start to finish the offense and defense looked good en route to a solid road victory.  Well, that was the case again on Tuesday, except the offense looked even better.  It was probably the team’s best offensive performance since senior night a year ago when Michigan absolutely ran over Purdue, scoring 87 points and shooting 63% from the field.  I don’t know why these hot shooting nights have become so rare, but it’s definitely fun to watch when the team is on its game.

Michigan wraps up the regular season on Sunday at Michigan State (4 p.m. on CBS).  Assuming MSU doesn’t stumble against Penn State on Thursday, the Spartans will be playing for a share of the Big Ten title in their seniors’ final home game.  You can bet MSU will bring it, so here’s to hoping some momentum from the Minnesota game carries over to Sunday, because it will take a close to perfect effort to knock off the Spartans at the Breslin Center.

Michigan Tries to Keep It Close But Loses to Ohio State 66-55

By · Sunday, February 28, 2010 · 2:17 AM |  Share | Leave a Comment 

Saturday’s game at Ohio State included a great 10-minute stretch that was bookended by some awful basketball by Michigan.  The Wolverines managed to take a lead into halftime after finishing the first half strong, and in the first five or so minutes of the second half Michigan was able to keep Ohio State from pulling away.  The Buckeyes eventually did manage to pull away, however, and went on to win the game by a score of 66-55.  OSU gave Michigan plenty of chances to make a run, but like the beginning of the game, Michigan didn’t seem too interested in playing good basketball.

The start of this game went about as poorly as possible.  Ohio State jumped out to a 9-0 lead and Michigan looked just like it did against Illinois earlier this week and Penn State before that.  Shots weren’t falling at all, and in general the offense was completely lost.  Even as Michigan started to play a bit better the lead stayed around 9 points until around 7 minutes were left in the half.  That is when Michigan seemed to wake up and went on a 12-2 run to take the lead.  OSU looked shocked at what was happening, and though the Buckeyes quickly took the lead back, Michigan answered and led 33-32 at halftime.

The second half opened with OSU taking the lead and Michigan keeping things very close.  That all changed around 5 minutes in, however.  Michigan completely fell apart for a 3-minute stretch and allowed OSU to go on a 10-0 run.  The Wolverines managed to stop the bleeding and limit the damage before they actually started to chip away at the lead later on in the half, but unfortunately it was all just too late.  At one point Michigan did only trail by 7 and had Manny Harris at the line for a 1-and-1, but Harris missed the front end and Ohio State followed the mistake up with a basket by Evan Turner.  That was pretty much all she wrote, as Ohio State eventually extended the lead to 13 points and ultimately ended up winning 66-55.

Usually balanced scoring is a good thing in basketball, but in this case it was the difference between a respectable loss and a potential upset.  Michigan’s starting five all scored either 11 or 10 points, but the fact that neither Manny Harris nor DeShawn Sims played to their usual level and put up big numbers was really why Michigan lost.  Unlike the first meeting with OSU where Harris and Sims combined for 52 points, in this game they only managed 10 and 11 points, respectively.  Harris’ 10 points came mainly from free throws, as he shot a dismal 1-8 from the field.  Sims struggled as well, going 4-12 from the field.

As for the rest of the starting lineup, scoring-wise it was much better than usual.  Zack Novak scored 11 points, as did Darius Morris.  Stu Douglass played a solid game and scored 10 points on 4-6 shooting (2-4 from three-point land).  That was essentially it, though.  Zack Gibson was the only other player to score for Michigan, and he only had one basket at that.  Laval Lucas-Perry got 14 minutes of playing time, went 0-3 from the field, and didn’t get to the free throw line.  Matt Vogrich played 5 minutes and didn’t do anything, and the same goes for Anthony Wright, who came in at the very end of the game and played for only a minute or so.

The main cause for Michigan’s offensive woes was once again cold shooting.  Part of it stemmed from good defense by Ohio State, which over and over forced Michigan into bad looks with the shot clock running down.  At the same time, Michigan’s offense was just inept in general.  Shots weren’t falling during extended stretches of the game, and even in the end when Michigan tried to make a comeback most of its points came from the free throw line.  For the game Michigan shot 36.2% from the field and 29.4% from behind the arc (5-17).  At one point I believe Michigan was 5-11 from three-point land before everything went downhill and the ultra-cool shooting returned.

Michigan has two games left in the regular season.  Minnesota comes to Crisler Arena on Tuesday and Michigan heads to East Lansing on Sunday.  Tuesday’s game is a 7 p.m. start on the Big Ten Network and is the second meeting between the Wolverines and Golden Gophers.  The first meeting was at Minnesota a little more than two weeks ago and was one of Michigan’s best games all season.  Michigan won 71-63 and looked great from start to finish.  Hopefully we will see a similar effort on Tuesday, but if how Michigan has played at home lately is any indication, it could be an ugly send off for the seniors.

Michigan Takes Cold Shooting to New Level in 51-44 Loss to Illinois

By · Wednesday, February 24, 2010 · 3:36 AM |  Share | Leave a Comment 

The Penn State game on Saturday was awful because not only did Michigan lose to the worst team in the conference, but also because its shooting percentages were downright ugly.  Well, that was nothing compared to Michigan’s performance against Illinois last night.  Michigan was awful from start to finish and shot the ball worse than I can ever remember, going 24.6% from the field (16-65) in a 51-44 loss to Illinois.  The Fighting Illini struggled to shoot the ball well also, but Michigan was on a level of bad all by itself.

For nearly the first eleven minutes of this game Michigan only had 6 points, and all 6 of those points were off of Zack Novak three-pointers.  Simply making shots was a struggle, which is why Michigan only had 18 points at halftime.  The good news was that the Fighting Illini only scored 26 points in the first half as a result of some shooting problems of their own.  Illinois did lead by as many as 11 points in the first half, but at halftime Michigan trailed only by 8.

Michigan played its best basketball in this game at the start of the second half.  Illinois went scoreless during the first five minutes of the second half, and during that time Michigan made a run to take a 27-26 lead.  6 of Michigan’s points came from Manny Harris (including an awesome dunk after an Illinois turnover), and the other 3 came from Zack Novak.

Illinois quickly regained the lead and never trailed again during the rest of the game.  Michigan managed to keep it close until there were less than nine minutes left, at which point Illinois took a 41-33 lead.  Michigan tried to battle back in the final four minutes and got within 4 at one point, but it just couldn’t capitalize on mistakes Illinois made.  A perfect example of this was when Michigan played great defense and forced Illinois to heave a three-pointer at the basket because the shot clock was running down.  The shot clanked off the rim and Illinois managed to grab the rebound.  The Illini quickly turned the offensive rebound into an alley-oop to increase the lead to 6 points with about a minute left.  That was basically the nail in the coffin since Michigan’s hard work defensively was all for naught because it couldn’t get a rebound.  I will say that it looked like an Illinois player traveled a few seconds before the desperation three, but the refs were so awful during the second half that it’s no surprise the call was missed.

After shooting 20.7% from the field in the first half, things didn’t get much better in the final 20 minutes.  As I already mentioned, Michigan shot 24.6% from the field in this game, which is just unbelievably bad.  From behind the arc Michigan went 6-31, good for an even worse number of 19.4%.  Similar to Manny Harris in the Penn State game, Zack Novak went 4-10 from three-point land against Illinois.  If you don’t include his numbers and look at what the rest of the team did, the three-point percentage drops to an astounding 9.5 (2-21).

It’s not surprising how bad the team was shooting-wise when you look at the stat lines for players like Stu Douglass and Laval Lucas-Perry.  Douglass went 0-8 from the field and 0-5 from behind the arc.  LLP continued to just flat out suck at Crisler Arena, going 0-3 from the field (all of his shots were threes).  Those stat lines stand out because of the lack of made shots, but the rest of the team was just as bad.  Darius Morris went 1-7 from the field and scored only 3 points.  DeShawn Sims struggled big time, going 3-12 from the field and ending up with only 7 points.  Although Manny Harris led Michigan in scoring with 15 points, he went 5-17 from the field and 1-5 from three-point land.  Zack Novak had 12 points and was 4-11 from the field (only one shot he attempted was not a three).  Matt Vogrich played only two minutes and didn’t even come close on his only shot (a three-pointer) of the game.  Pretty much the only person who played remotely well was Zack Gibson.  He got 20 minutes of playing time and scored 7 points and shot the ball 50% from the field (3-6).

It’s hard to believe after how bad some of the games were earlier this season that Michigan could actually be regressing, but that is exactly what has happened in the last two games.  Michigan went from winning two games in a row on the road to having the offense disappear in two losses at home.  Actually, if you go back to the Wisconsin game earlier this month, the offense has disappeared in the last three home games.  Michigan put up only 44 points in two of those games, and in the other one it only scored 51 points.  I don’t know why this team has had such issues shooting the ball at home lately, but maybe it’s a good thing that Michigan’s next game is at Ohio State.  I still think Michigan will get destroyed in Columbus on Saturday (12:00 p.m. on ESPN), but hopefully the change in scenery will help them get out of this ice cold slump they’re in right now.

Michigan’s Shooting Goes Ice Cold in 55-51 Loss to Penn State

By · Monday, February 22, 2010 · 2:18 AM |  Share | Leave a Comment 

Inconsistency has plagued Michigan sports in this academic year, and the basketball team exemplified that on Saturday.  After winning two straight road games, Michigan returned to Crisler Arena for a matchup with Penn State, the worst team in the Big Ten.  This was a matchup that favored Michigan big time, and the expectation was for Michigan to extend its winning streak to three games.  What ended up happening instead?  In typical Michigan fashion, the Wolverines struggled mightily and despite the fact that Penn State only scored 4 points — yes 4 points — in the final 9:57 of the game, the Nittany Lions ended up winning 55-51.

This game got off to a slow start, but Michigan jumped out to a 9-point lead multiple times.  The problem was Penn State battled back each time, once from a score of 15-6 and once from a score of 27-18.  The first comeback culminated with Penn State taking the lead after it went on a 10-0 run.  Michigan came right back and went on a 12-2 run thanks to 2 threes by Manny Harris, 1 by Zack Novak, and a three-point play by Stu Douglass (he actually went to the hoop for a change) to take a 27-18 lead.  Keeping with the tone of this being a half of runs, though, Penn State countered by outscoring Michigan 11-2 to finish the half, tying the game at 29.

In the second half, things were pretty even for the first five or so minutes of play, but Penn State changed that with a 7-0 run to go up 48-41.  5 points of that run came right after Zombie Nation was played and “We Own Penn State” was chanted despite the fact that Michigan was losing at the time.  It wasn’t exactly the greatest timing for that song to be played (the same goes for Temptation and the “You Suck” chant  when Michigan was down in the final part of the game), especially considering PSU eventually managed to extend its lead to 9 points with 7:50 left on the clock.

At this point Penn State led 53-44, and the Nittany Lions only ended up scoring 2 more points in the rest of the game.  This gave Michigan a chance to make a comeback, and the Wolverines Manny Harris did just that, hitting a three and a two and eventually following that up with a steal and an uncontested dunk.  Manny’s 7-0 run brought Michigan within 2 points of Penn State, but it just couldn’t close that gap.  Penn State continued to miss shots and give Michigan plenty of opportunities to tie the game, but the Wolverines couldn’t make anything either.  PSU finally did make a shot with 14 seconds left to extend the lead to 4 points, and Michigan’s debacle of a finish came to an end with Manny Harris missing a three and the front end of a 1-and-1.

Considering Manny Harris was the only Michigan player to score any points in the final 11 or so minutes of the game, it’s no surprise he led the team in scoring with 20 points.  DeShawn Sims was the only other player to score in double digits, ending the game with 10 points.  Stu Douglass and Zack Novak both went 1-6 from three-point land in this game.  Douglass had 8 points and Novak finished with 7.  Darius Morris had 5 points, and the only other Michigan player to score was Zack Gibson, who made a free throw in 4 minutes of action.  Laval Lucas-Perry played 19 minutes and continued to stink it up at Crisler Arena, missing all 5 shots he took (they were all three-pointers).  I don’t know what it is about Crisler Arena, but LLP just does not shoot the ball well at home.

Shooting problems obviously weren’t just limited to LLP.  The entire team was awful on Saturday, shooting a dismal 35.8% from the field (19-53) and an even more dismal 21.4% from behind the arc (6-28).  Outside of Manny Harris, who went 4-10 from three-point land, the rest of the team shot an embarrassing 11.1% from behind the arc (2-18). Penn State didn’t exactly shoot the ball all that well either, but it most definitely did compared to Michigan, which was just ice cold all game long.

Michigan has four games left in the regular season, and an NIT bid is looking more and more like a long shot after what happened against Penn State.  Illinois comes to Crisler Arena on Tuesday (7 p.m. on ESPN), and Michigan travels to Columbus to play Ohio State on Saturday.  The Buckeyes just beat Michigan State in East Lansing on Sunday and are 11-3 since losing to Michigan (without Evan Turner) on January 3.  After that Michigan will play Minnesota in its final regular season home game on March 2 and wrap up the regular season at Michigan State on March 7.

Illinois is on a 2-game losing streak after back-to-back wins over Michigan State and Wisconsin, but those losses came to Purdue and Ohio State.  Not that this isn’t already obvious, but Michigan is going to have to bring its “A” game to get a win on Tuesday.  The Minnesota game is probably Michigan’s best chance for a win coming down the homestretch, because the Illinois game will be tough and I certainly don’t see the Wolverines winning at Ohio State or at Michigan State.  Then again, this team is so inconsistent that it could pull off an upset on the road and drop the home game against Minnesota, so who knows.

DeShawn Sims Leads Michigan to 80-78 Overtime Victory at Iowa

By · Thursday, February 18, 2010 · 12:30 AM |  Share | Leave a Comment 

DeShawn Sims hit a game-tying three-pointer with 6.1 seconds left in regulation to send Tuesday night’s game against Iowa into overtime.  In the extra session, Sims and company battled back and forth with the Hawkeyes and eventually pulled away thanks in part to a long-distance three by Stu Douglass.  That three gave Michigan the lead and propelled the Wolverines to an eventual 5-point advantage with 31 seconds to play.  Michigan did leave the door open for Iowa to come back just like the Wolverines did at the end of the second half because of a bad foul and a missed free throw, but the Hawkeyes were unable to make up the deficit and ended up losing 80-78.

This game was a virtual deadlock all night except for five or six minutes in the middle of the first half.  Michigan caught fire from behind the arc and jumped out to a 10-point lead, making this seem a little like the first meeting with Iowa that was a blowout.  The Hawkeyes battled back, however, and by halftime the game was all tied up.

In the second half, it was more back and forth basketball.  Neither team could pull away, though Iowa looked to be in good shape in the final minutes.  Down 61-57, DeShawn Sims made a layup, was fouled, and then nailed the free throw to make it a 1-point game.  Iowa countered with a layup, and after a miss by Sims, the Hawkeyes hit a pair of free throws to take a 5-point lead with only 22 seconds left in the half.  Just like when Michigan was down 4, Sims made a layup and was fouled, and he once again made the free throw.  Trailing by 2 points, Michigan quickly fouled and put Cully Payne on the line.  Payne missed the first shot and made the second, giving Michigan a chance to extend the game.  That is exactly what Sims did, hitting a three with 6.1 seconds to play.  It looked like Sims was fouled on the shot, but the refs didn’t make the call, meaning this game was going to OT after Sims blocked a shot as time expired.

Manny Harris started overtime with a big three-pointer, but Iowa answered with an old-fashioned three-point play to quickly tie things up.  Iowa took the lead after that, but with 1:45 left in overtime, Stu Douglass hit a long three to put Michigan on top.  There was no looking back after that big shot.  Michigan tightened up its defense and went up by 5 on multiple occasions before the final buzzer sounded (Iowa hit a three at the buzzer to lose by only 2 points) en route to its overtime victory.

DeShawn Sims finished with 27 points (he went 10-25 from the field) and 10 rebounds.  Manny Harris scored 20 points (he went 4-7 from three-point land), grabbed 10 boards, and dished out 7 assists.  Laval Lucas-Perry scored 13 points off the bench mainly thanks to hitting three straight shots from behind the arc during Michigan’s run in the first half.  Stu Douglass and Zack Novak both scored 9 points, and the only other scorer was Zack Gibson, who made his only shot (a two-pointer) during the 12 minutes he played.  Overall Michigan shot the ball quite well, as did Iowa, which was a big reason why this was such a close game.

Next up for Michigan is Penn State, which actually just won its first Big Ten game of the season on Wednesday night at Northwestern (say adios to the Wildcats’ tournament hopes).  The Nittany Lions blew a big lead and lost to Michigan at home earlier in the year.  That loss was part of a 12-game losing streak that was snapped only last night.  Hopefully Michigan can help Penn State begin a new losing streak at Crisler Arena on Saturday (6:00 p.m. on the BTN)

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