Michigan Basketball: Michigan Wolverines at Indiana Hoosiers — Wrapped Up — Michigan Loses To Indiana
As mentioned in the preview, Assembly Hall can be an electrifying and intimidating place for an opponent to play. The “good old days” of Indiana basketball are back and so is the enthusiasm of the Hoosier fans.
Indiana clearly is a top-notch team, and the view here is Indiana can make a serious run at the national title. Simply put, the Hoosiers have as good a chance as any other team in the country. Do not discount Florida, Duke, or always tournament tough, big team Kansas from consideration. And like it or not, the ultra-athletic OSU team is getting better offensively.Indiana played well and only poor ball control by the Hoosiers, many times pushing the ball at a fast pace, kept Michigan in the game. Without the Indiana turnovers, Michigan would have been blown out. Every facet of statistics, except turnovers for opposition points, favored Indiana. The three-point differential in the first half was notable. Indiana started out four in a row and Michigan missed, if memory is correct, the first nine attempts, and went only 2-11 in the first half. This is a persistent theme that Michigan’s opponents have a banner night shooting threes against the Wolverine defense.
In the second half Indiana cooled down (typical in a physical, run and gun game). For the game Indiana shot 40% and Michigan shot 30% from behind the three-point line. Forty percent is a little over the baseline for a successful night shooting three’s. Two close calls on Michigan three-point shots were judged to be only two-pointers.
This leads to a second point of discussion, Michigan getting smacked in the mouth by top ten teams coming out of the gate. The first ten minutes belonged solely to Indiana. No attempt is made to minimize how well Indiana played in that stretch, but again the scenario was somewhat same old, same old, story. Michigan was not aggressive and did not defend well in said manner on the perimeter.On the other end of the court, Indiana played very aggressive defense and forced Michigan into several very questionable shots. Indiana successfully shut down Michigan’s offensive options of guards driving to the basket and baseline cuts. Burke and Stauskas had little luck down the middle, as Indiana’s defense was well prepared.
This left Michigan with difficult shots on the perimeter that were guarded well but pretty much became the last resort of an offense. A few times Michigan worked the ball inside and had mixed success. As the game played on Michigan picked up the intensity. But if the Wolverines do not play tough for 40 minutes against the league’s elite, especially on the defensive end, losses against OSU, MSU, and Indiana will be the norm. Michigan has a chance to even the score at home, but is now basically down 0-2 against the contenders.
Michigan’s best success was running after turnovers or long misses. There are few teams in the nation that can match Michigan on true fast break performance when the opportunity arises.
The preview detailed how tough it is to play the first time in Assembly Hall against a premium Indiana team. This effect is compounded when a player is a contributing freshman. All the freshmen had Assembly Hall moments, and maybe it is best just to not detail specifics with the associated players. What happened was easily observed and obvious.
However, of note though was Spike Albrecht acting very confused and practically begging for an explanation of the proceedings from Coach Beilein, a bad sign. Spike needs to give Trey Burke rest against every opponent, whether it is Penn State, or whether it be Indiana. Glenn Robinson III was clearly frustrated and at times was just running up and down the floor. Indiana took his options on offense away and this reality may or may not have resulted in some standing around on the defensive end. Stauskas, according to Coach Beilein’s press conference, had the flu. It is miserable but possible to play with the flu. In the second half Nik looked like a guy that was getting a little sick of getting kicked around and he played better at both ends.As mentioned in the preview, Indiana is very athletic. Victor Oladipo is a taller, and maybe more athletic version of Rajon Rondo. His cutting and overall speed is at the top level. Yogi Ferrill, Jeremy Hollowell, and Christian Watford are pretty impressive athletes as well. Cody Zeller is very athletic for a player of his size. His overall play puts him at the top of the league in player effectiveness. Cody rebounds, scores, is active, and demands constant attention to keep him off of the offensive boards. Mitch McGary several times made the mistake of looking for the ball on rebounds and not finding Zeller to body him out, a common mistake for Michigan rebounders that became amplified by Zeller’s skills. The results were a few baskets that helped seal the victory for Indiana.
The Hoosiers, as stated, are also a very good rebounding team, and the margin showed about a ten-rebound difference. But by and large Michigan scraped and got a little tougher on the boards, excepting Zeller’s easy dunks on failures to block out. When a team misses 40 shots, the other team has ample opportunity to pile up more rebounds.
McGary, despite his errors, played hard and played pretty well. Michigan must accelerate his inside play, and coach Beilein has mentioned this abundantly in recent discussions. Zeller is what Michigan hopes McGary becomes. Zeller is more mobile and is much accelerated in his offensive game compared to McGary. But few big men play like Zeller did as a freshman. Both play with high intensity, and McGary did was not intimidated.
Coach Beilein is taking the patient approach, his style, and has not and likely will not overreact to his team’s shortcomings. Tom Crean, on the other hand, is a demanding coach that values intensity and quick improvement. Beilein has always favored offense and Crean, like Matta and Tom Izzo, favor intensity, toughness, and defense, not to say the three do not value offense, points win games after all.
It may be impossible for Michigan to win the league title unless the defensive intensity is stepped up. Again, the pressure on the perimeter was not near that of the other contenders. Several times, Michigan defenders were running to guard the three-point shooters, far too late, or did not put a hand in the face. Fortunately, Indiana turned cold in the second half, but the shots the Hoosiers made were uncontested. This observation includes Michigan’s star players.
In the first half, Indiana drove to the lane while several Wolverines stood flat-footed and watched. As mentioned in the preview, there would be times that Michigan may have to foul and severely contest such shots. Michigan’s strategy of not fouling, especially in the first half, is very sound against lesser teams. But against top competition letting an opponent have freebies can be devastating. Indiana, on the other hand, builds the offense to use the quickness to get to the foul line, early and often, as in the Knight era. Michigan was at a slight disadvantage losing some potential fouls from Jordan Morgan.Related to defensive pressure is mental toughness. Mental toughness is fighting back from adversity. Michigan has done this twice, but the lack of initial mental toughness at game’s start (not preparation problems) may have caused the big deficits. Mental toughness is also overtaking an opponent when the opportunity presents itself. Duke is outstanding regarding this quality. Twice, Michigan has had opportunities late in the game to overtake high quality teams, and twice the effort has fizzled.
Mental toughness is not giving up on the offense when a good defense shuts down some options. Coaching leadership and direction is a must to prevent such occurrences. Against Indiana, Michigan gave up on the dribble-drive option because of early Hoosier defensive success. Michigan let fly bad shots with time to still move the ball for a better shot. When Michigan tried to move the ball dribbling on the perimeter, Indiana forced Michigan’s players further out, like several teams have done this year. This pressure is related to toughness, intensity, and will power as much as good technique.
As mentioned Michigan does best when the athletes can run, and appears to do the worst against tough defensive teams that make life tough in the half-court game. This is problematic as Michigan now plays Ohio State and Wisconsin. Wisconsin does not have the quickness on the perimeter, as does Ohio State, or Indiana, but has the system, and like Indiana will attempt to shut down Michigan’s offense via sound system defense.
So, Michigan’s two qualities that really need to improve quickly are toughness of both types and defensive pressure. This is a league that boasts of toughness and has been ruled by physically and mentally tough teams with talent versus teams with just talent.Some are praising Trey Burke’s 25-point effort and some are railing that he gunned the ball. The truth is Trey went 9-24 and only 4-12 from three-point range. This is by normal standards a bad night. But he is the team leader and point guard. Sometimes his low percentage shot was the last option available and one option is better than none. It comes with the territory.
Robinson was neutralized and Stauskas started off ice cold. Hardaway hit a few shots, but essentially Michigan’s offense was reduced to Burke and Hardaway hitting what shots they could through personal creation and not team structure. Indiana could accomplish this feat through tough defensive principles and high-level athletes.
This game could cause Michigan to slump, or it could serve as some severe motivation. It would be a mistake to subscribe to the theory that the team played very well against a great team on the road and that this was a big positive. The deficiencies of Michigan were again identified and exploited. Indiana may have superior athletes, but Michigan has plenty of athletic talent.
There is little time to dwell on the outcome, but maybe some time to again point out the continued deficiencies that have not changed, and youth is only a part of the deficiencies that linger. Patience is a nice virtue, but this bunch needs some demanding behavior to turn the corner and get to the top. Ohio State comes to town, playing better, and Michigan needs to come back twice as tough from the two league losses. The way Indiana is currently playing, a bad strategy would be to sit around and wait for the Hoosiers to cool down.
The prediction in the preview was a four-point loss if Michigan played better and a 7-10 point loss if the Wolverines faltered somewhat. This game was about a five point game, inflated somewhat to nine points by Indiana’s great foul shooting run down the stretch. Home court is assigned a three-point advantage in most cases. So, in theory, Michigan is still about six points behind perhaps the nation’s best team. That sounds about right. But with work and improvement this gap can be narrowed.
Warriors will be needed on Tuesday when the nuts visit Crisler Center.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff
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