It was a tough tough loss for the young Wolverines last night at Crisler Arena. It was a game that they could have won… or at the very least, one that should have been much closer than the final score (77-64).
Michigan had only three turnovers in the first half… an indication of Coach Beilein’s emphasis on getting his club to protect the ball. The Wolverines also shot 50% from three (5/10) before the break. Executing those two keys to the game laid out by headman John Beilein heading into the contest allowed the Wolverines to go into the half trailing only by one (34-33). Unfortunately, things would break down in the second half.
Michigan’s backcourt could not slow down Tyrese Rice. They seemed to contain him somewhat when they were in the 1-3-1 zone, but he always seemed to find a way to make plays for his team regardless of the defensive strategy. Even so, the Maize & Blue was still in the game. They jostled for the lead until a decisive Boston College run starting at the 8:02 mark.
Michigan trailed 54-52 when a Rice jumper sparked a 12-0 spurt that made the score 66-52 with 6:00 left in the game. The Wolverines had done enough to win for 32 minutes and then it just all went bad. Here are three points that could have contributed to the Wolverines having a chance to win down the stretch:
Ekpe Udoh - This was game that further demonstrated the importance of Ekpe Udoh. It has been clear in recent days that when Udoh is on his game, he gives the Wolverines their best shot at success. That is not to say that Zach Gibson should not be playing. What it does say, however, is that Udoh is more of a presence on BOTH ends of the floor. Against physical teams, Udoh makes more of an impact with the way he plays. When he is on defense, opponents hesitate before going inside against him (he notched another three blocks last night). He is a defensive presence and this team needs that. Offensively, injury set Udoh back to start the season and Gibson has done a good job of picking things up and showing some nice face-up skills. But the Boston College interior players had their way with Gibson when it came to muscling him around the paint on both ends of the floor. Meanwhile Udoh continued to show flashes of more consistency in his face-up game. He knocked down a few 15-18 footers and delivered a beautiful backdoor pass for a DeShawn Sims dunk as well. All that said, it wasn’t all roses for Udoh. In 23 minutes of play he grabbed only two rebounds. Gibson, on the other hand, grabbed six boards in 17 minutes. I truly believe that the more minutes Udoh gets the better it is for Michigan, but he has to deliver in all phases when given that opportunity.
Pay attention to detail- Michigan did not pay attention to detail last night and it cost them dearly. With the game still close, Boston College was shooting free throws when on separate occasions an Eagle player rebounded the ball after a miss. That is unacceptable because what that says is the other guy out worked you for the ball… and that is exactly what happened. This team also has to take advantage of their opportunities. They cannot be as inefficient at they were at the free throw line as they were last night. Shooting 52.9% (9-17) done not help your cause. I am quite sure Coach Beilein will call for a wealth of free throw shots in the next practice.
The long bench – Coach Beilein went very deep into his bench playing all but two players. Nine played double digit minutes. At one point during the latter part of the 12-0 run (when the lead went from eight to fourteen), Michigan had the lineup of Coleman, Morris, Grady, Gibson, and Wright on the court. They struggled at both ends. It was a lineup that was hard to understand at the time, but it’s clear that Coach Beilein is still finding things out about his club… who can do what and when. Suffice it to say that things are obviously still being worked out with the rotation, but don’t be surprised if things are shortened up a bit in the future. Barring foul trouble (which Sims was in at the time, having picked up his fourth), the quartet of Grady, Harris, Udoh, and Sims with one of the remaining forwards stepping in at the fifth spot is Michigan’s most talented lineup. As the season progresses, that will probably be the crunch time group.
Things that made me go “Hmmm” at the game last night.
- I was wondering where was Jerret Smith during yesterday’s game. He
played 20 plus minutes in the last two games and but only three in the first
half and none in the second half. Is he the team’s third PG or was it
just a case of a poor defensive match-up with Rice? Hmmmm…
- Why is it at Crisler Arena that when things are still undecided late in
games that fans start leaving. Can someone please explain that because it
makes no sense to me. Hmmmm...
- I’m wondering why Josh Southern out of Saginaw high, who now plays for Boston College, didn’t get ANY playing time last night. Hmmmm...