If Saturday afternoon’s road contest against top ranked UCLA was an early season barometer for the Michigan Wolverines, the mercury has now dipped a little too low for their liking. On the strength of a senior-laden starting line-up and the confidence garnered from an 11-1 start, many believed the Maize & Blue at least had the ingredients to present a formidable challenge to Ben the Bruins. After all, the two teams had split the previous four meetings, and each game was decided by seven or fewer points. Unfortunately for Wolverines, history did not foretell this story. The intense defensive pressure UCLA unleashed on the Tommy Amaker’s club was disruptive from the opening possession.
The Bruins came out of the gates on fire and built an early 8-0 lead, thanks to two consecutive three-pointers from Arron Afflalo. Meanwhile, Michigan turned the ball over four times in the opening four minutes, and didn’t hit their first field goal until the 15:53 mark. That, however, was enough to cut the deficit to 10-4. The Wolverines managed to slice another point off the lead minutes later when Lester Abram hit a lay-up to make the score 13-8, but that’s as close as they would get. A 13-5 UCLA run over the next nine minutes pushed the home team’s lead to double figures (26-13), and they would never look back.
Turnovers plagued Wolverines all afternoon, as they gave it away 15 times in the first half alone. Courtney Sims, in facing his stiffest test of the season, was stymied in much the same way he was last year when he was held to only six points and three rebounds on two shot attempts. The double team again nullified his effectiveness, forcing him into three first half turnovers and limiting him to two points and three rebounds on two shot attempts. Deshawn Sims entered the game late in the half and scored five quick points to provide a spark down low, but the Maize & Blue still went into the half down 36-23.
On the perimeter, the ball pressure often pushed point guard Dion Harris out to the half court line and prevented him from getting clear looks at the basket. Harris was scoreless at the intermission his backcourt-mate, Abram, had six. On the other side, the duo of Afflalo and Darren Collison headed to the locker room having scored a combined 19 points (10 and nine respectively).
When the two teams emerged from the locker room, things got worse for the Wolverines in a hurry. Their very first possession of the stanza ended in a Dion Harris turnover and they were outscored 10-2 in the opening three minutes to go down 46-25.
Courtney Sims scored the next nine Wolverine points, often taking advantage of one-on-one opportunities that he didn’t see in the first half, but it was too little to late. By that point the score was 53-34 and the UCLA closed the contest by outscoring the Michigan 39-21 (despite the last starters being pulled with over six minutes to go), to close out an emphatic 92-55 victory.
"We didn't play as capably as I thought we could,” Amaker said afterward. "I think we were a little nervous. Our older guys were trying to make things happen, and I felt we were pressing a little bit. The main thing is, you have to take care of the ball on the road."
Michigan finished the game with as many turnovers as they had field goals (23). They also had only nine assists. Courtney Sims led the Wolverines with the 13 points, five blocks, two rebounds, and four turnovers. The Bruins had four players in double figures and were led by Josh Shipp with 18, and Afflalo with 17.
To view the boxscore, click here.
The Wolverines will look to recover in a Thursday night match-up with Army
at Crisler Arena. Tip-off is scheduled for 8PM. The Maize and Blue will then
hit the hardwood again on Saturday in a pivotal match-up with the Georgetown