Jerret Smith Taken to Hospital Following Collision
In all honesty, for Michigan to be down just 7 points at the break was nothing short of a miracle. They'd thrown the ball away 12 times. They'd taken just 2 threes, despite shooting near 40 in that last two games. No one had a clue how to get to the foul line, but they were more than willing to help Wisconsin get there, getting doubled up from the line. Everyone managed to get in early foul trouble.
Yet there they were. Down only 7. Alando Tucker picked up a slew of early fouls and even though Wisconsin withstood Michigan's early run, they weren't able to pull away. Maybe Michigan has a chance after all, no?
Wisconsin roared out of the break and quickly put Michigan away, going up by as much as 23 before the final buzzer. Adding injury to insult was Jerret Smith being taken to the hospital during the second half following a nasty collision with Wisconsin's Marcus Landry. The reports from the game indicate that it was a clean screen that Smith ran straight into. Smith remained down for several minutes occasionally kicking his legs in pain. He was eventually helped off the court and taken to the hospital for evaluation. Alando Tucker had this to say after the game: "That guy should be jumping on his teammates' case. You have to let your teammates know if a screen is coming." Sadly, I couldn't agree more. No word yet on Smith's condition. Keep your fingers crossed for a speedy recovery. At the time of his injury Jerret had 4 assists and 2 turnovers (1 being a travel call). It stinks for Smith because he was playing his best ball since arriving at Michigan. Now it's up to his teammates to do on Saturday what they couldn't do Wednesday. Pick him up.
Michigan's players spent the last week talking about defense and how important it was. They said how driven a group this was and how they weren't going to make the same mistakes they made last year. Apparently all they were doing was talking to the press. Because Smith's injury indicates that no one is talking on the floor.
During the game Michigan's interior defense was abysmal. Michigan was lit up by large white-boy center Brian Butch. He used Sims and Udoh as toothpicks before dunking in their faces. When he wasn't easily pushing Sims away from the basket with his little finger he was schooling Petway and Udoh with the proper use of the up-and-under.
Courtney Sims' defense continues to be non-existent. Where he was surprisingly effecting against undersized Carl Landry last week, he was useless trying to defend Butch or plugging the lane. Wisconsin drove to the lane and to the foul line as if they had a pass to the Autobahn. Wisconsin had 18 layups, 36 effing points on layups and that's not counting the foul shots that accompanied some of them. This wasn't an up and down game. It was painfully slow and headgear ugly. 18 layups in Big Ten play is inexcusable when you have two players who are 6-11 and a shot blocking Machine in Petway. There is no way Michigan can advance in the Big Ten Tournament, much less to the NCAAs, if they can't defend the rim.
After the break Michigan didn't seem to have a clue what to do defensively. During the first half Michigan kept it close by forcing Wisconsin into some stupid mistakes and getting Tucker into foul trouble. It wasn't until the second half that Tucker became a factor. Petway originally drew the task of defending him and did a somewhat admirable job (like I'd hoped), but ended up picking up a bunch of (BS) fouls and eventually getting T'd up and the boot. After that it was usher by committee for Tucker. Tucker ended up being guarded by Lester Abram more times than I care to think about and it's apparent Coleman couldn't can't carry the defensive load if we gave him a forklift. Despite being a non-factor early, Tucker finished with 16 points.
On the offensive side of the ball the Badgers did an excellent job of defending the three point line. This forced Abram and Harris into bad outside positioning and bad passes when the outside shots weren't there. Instead of driving the lane, Abram and Harris flung the ball into traffic or waited until they were airborne to make a pass. Harris never went to the line. Never. Abram only made two trips. The lack of open shots that Michigan has lived on recently forced Michigan to go inside. Ugh. Inside to Sims. Sims did put in 5-8 shooting and went 6-7 from the charity stripe, but trying to get the ball to him ended up costing Michigan a lot more than it benefited them.
Namely, turnovers. 19 of them. 7 by Courtney Sims. No assists. Just 7 turnovers. I really don't care that he scored 16 points (especially because he scored most of them when the game was over). By turning the ball over 7 times he effectively negated any offensive production he supplied. Harris and Abram had 4 a piece. Add it up. That's 15 turnovers from our leaders and best players. It still puzzles me how three seniors haven't figured out that ball control is a crucial part of the game.
Despite the disgust welling within me for the way Michigan played, you have to give the Badgers credit. They are, after all, #2 in the country. And when you think about it, this is somewhat of an improvement over the near-40 point beat down we took from UCLA. Wisconsin took away the things Michigan has been doing well the last few games and made them play to their weakness, the inside. This is a very good, very rounded team that doesn't need its superstar to win games. And it's not as though Michigan is the only team they've roughed up. Wisconsin pounded then #2 Pittsburgh not too long ago.
The the grand scheme of this Basketball season, Michigan's loss in Madison means very little. They still have 10 games left, and realistically, going 5-5 gets them into the Dance. Even at 4-6 over the next 10, a win in the Big Ten Tournament should be enough. Hell, even Sports Illustrated says so.
The real test comes on Saturday against Indiana. If Michigan can win that game, which they have a legitimate shot at (with Indiana losing to Illinois), Michigan can start filling out a dance card. Lose and Michigan is in trouble.