Vanderbilt Hands Michigan First Loss

The Wolverines knew the trip to Nashville was going be a stiff test. It proved to be a little more than the young team was ready for, as they were routed 83-63.

The game against Vanderbilt was one that the Michigan coaching staff had circled as a contest that would be particularly difficult. Unfortunately for Wolverine fans, that became overwhelmingly evident Saturday night. Memorial Arena is known to be one of the more hostile venues in the SEC for visiting teams. That may explain some of the offensive woes a young Michigan team had in Nashville this evening. They got off to a quick 4-0 start with a jumper from Bernard Robinson Jr. and a dunk from Courtney Sims. However, the Commodores would answer with an 11-0 run, fueled by gritty play from 6-9 244-lb. sophomore forward Julian Terrell. The Wolverines gave considerable attention to hindering the offense of Vanderbilt’s leading scorer, 6-10 249-lb. senior Matt Freije. Freije can score inside and out and the Michigan players made sure that they hounded him in every offensive position. Their efforts seemed to work early on the pre-season conference player of the year candidate, but his teammates more than picked up the slack.

Terrell scored 9 points in the first 10 minutes to compensate for Freije’s struggles. Then Freije converted his first bucket at the 9:40 mark and Vandy went up 28-18. They would increase it to 31-18, and then the Wolverines would suffer a big blow with 7:39 remaining in the half. Point guard Daniel Horton went down writhing in pain when he bumped knees with another player. He had to be helped from the court and iced his knee the rest of the half. In his absence, Bernard Robinson Jr., Lester Abram, and Dion Harris began to attack the basket and got the Wolverines back in the game. Michigan cut into the 11 point lead when Dion Harris nailed a jumper at the 5:30 mark, then stole the ball and midcourt and fed it to Bernard Robinson Jr. on his way to the bucket for the lay-up. Lester Abram followed that up with a jumper with 4:20 to go, and the Wolverines were down 5, 34-29. The three players were responsible for 13 of Michigan’s last 15 points, and the Maize & Blue went into the locker room down 40-33. Though they were able to claw back into it, one very telling stat in the first half was the 21-9 rebounding deficit…a stat that would not get any better in the second half.

Freije, who had scored 10 points in the last 9:40 of the first stanza, must have found his rhythm prior to going into the lockerroom because he came out on fire…scoring eight points in the first five minutes. He and the rest of the big men also did an excellent job of passing out of Michigan’s double down on ball screens. They got a number of backdoor baskets as a result. Horton returned in the second half, but wasn’t able to find his range and went scoreless in the period. He finished with only 5 points. To compound matters, the drives to the basket weren’t as fruitful as they had been at the end of the 1st half and Robinson Jr. was held to only 2 points in the latter 20 minutes. That in combination with the growing rebounding edge proved too much for the Wolverines to overcome. Vanderbilt blew the game open with a 16-3 run in a 5.5 minute stint (ending at 8:20). The Commodores won the contest 83-63, led by Freije’s 22 points and 6 rebounds. Robinson Jr. led the Wolverines with 14 points and 4 assists. For more game notes, including the boxscore, click the following links. (Boxscore, Postgame Notes)

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