Upon Further Review: Michigan

A close game for 34 minutes, Michigan used a 21-2 game-ending run to blow out the Hoosiers 69-45 Thursday night in Ann Arbor. Hoosier Nation looks back at Indiana's 24-point loss to Michigan and talks about what we found to be most impressive, surprising and concerning about the contest. We also name our game MVP…

Game MVP - Christian Watford. After going scoreless for the game's first 11 minutes, Watford finished with 16 points and eight rebounds (five offensive) in 34 minutes. Offensively, he was aggressive attacking the rim, particularly in the second half. He attacked off the dribble and found ways to finish against the Wolverines inside. On the glass, he answered Coach Tom Crean's commands for better production with his eight-rebound effort. The eight rebounds was the most Watford has had since he pulled down nine against Bryant, while the five offensive rebounds was a season-high. After the game, Crean said he'd like to move Watford around a little more, which likely means he'd like to occasionally put him at the ‘3' instead of the ‘4'. For that to happen, though, Indiana will need to get better production from the other frontline players, none of whom came close to matching Watford's effort Thursday night.

Biggest Surprise… Indiana's 1-of-15 effort from behind the 3-point arc. Jordan Hulls connected on a 3-pointer three minutes into the game to give IU its last lead of the game at 5-4, and IU proceeded to miss its final 13 3-point attempts. The loss was of Maurice Creek was certainly a tough one when it comes to Indiana's ability to score from behind the 3-point arc, but there are still capable shooters in Jordan Hulls and Devan Dumes in particular and Christian Watford and Verdell Jones on occasion. None of them were able to find the range Thursday. That's particularly tough to accept since a 3-pointer or two could have changed the direction of the game. Despite IU's shooting woes, it trailed by only five with 6 ½ minutes to go. If IU's 3-point shooting had been only mediocre – as opposed to anemic – the outcome could have very easily been different.

What I Found Most Impressive… For 34 minutes, Indiana was clearly good enough defensively to win a Big Ten road game despite some terrible struggles shooting the ball. Other than Christian Watford, Indiana had no one who was effective offensively, yet still managed to play well enough on the defensive end to stay in the game - for 34 minutes. Up until Michigan's late flurry (which included seven straight made field goals to end the game), Michigan was just 17-of-45 (37.8 percent) shooting. Indiana deserves a great deal of credit for that. For a second straight game, Indiana came out and played with an intensity and resolve on the defensive end that gave Tom Crean's team a chance. That all went out the window late, but before a team can win games down the stretch, it first has to put itself in a position to have a chance to do that in the first ¾ of the game. Indiana did that in Ann Arbor.

What I Found Most Concerning… The Hoosiers' struggles down the stretch. Trailing 48-43 with 6:32 remaining, Indiana was outscored 21-2 to close out the game, resulting in a deceiving lopsided 69-45 final result. Michigan scored on 10 straight trips to finish off the Hoosiers in Crisler Arena, with nine of those points coming from Manny Harris. This late-game collapse comes on the heels of Saturday's 66-60 loss to Illinois, when the Illini outscored Indiana 18-3 over the final 8:02 to overcome a nine-point Hoosier lead. Illinois was nearly as perfect with its possessions during that late run, scoring on 11 of 13 offensive trips. As we've mentioned before, Indiana probably can't expect to blowout too many Big Ten foes this season, so it's going to have to execute down the stretch to win conference games. That's what it did in the opener against Michigan, but what it's failed to do badly in its last two contests.

Turning Point: While the late Michigan run decided the contest, my turning point was when Manny Harris scored three baskets during a 1:08 stretch midway through the second half to get untracked. Before those makes, Harris was 0-of-5 from the floor, had turned the ball over three times, and had sat for a nearly five-minute stretch early in the second half. But Harris broke loose midway through the half with a layup, wide open 17-footer from the wing, and then a fastbreak layup following a Derek Elston turnover. Harris' flurry enabled Michigan to keep Indiana at a distance at the half's midway point, and then set the stage for his teammates to go to him during the final minutes when the game got out of hand from Indiana's perspective.

"At the end of the day, two of the better players in the country, two of the very best players in this league were too much for us to handle." – Tom Crean

"As good as we played individually and team defense-wise at times, especially until the 6 ½ minute then it all came unglued because we couldn't keep those guys from doing what they do best, which is get to the basket." – Crean

"(Manny Harris) is a textbook example of what we're trying to get our guys to understand as we go down the road, what we want to recruit to, and what I want guys like Maurice Creek and some of our younger guards to aspire to because the man plays with great efficiency. You'd never know he didn't have a field goal…he never got himself rattled. That's maturity." – Crean

"We kind of came unglued at the end after playing a very, very strong game for so long and never letting ourselves get rattled. But we did get rattled at the end." – Crean

"This was one game, on the defensive end, both halves, we bought in, 100 percent, what it takes to win." – Michigan Coach John Beilein

"They have a young team, and when you're on the road it's very difficult to win, and now a team makes a couple shots and a 10-point lead can turn into a 20 very quickly. As they gain more experience and we gain more experience, that could happen to us as well. You know you're down 10 with four minutes to go it's not over, as we saw at Purdue the other day." – Beilein

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