In order to avoid a fourth consecutive loss, something had to change.
Unfortunately, it was more of the same for the struggling Wolverines. Michigan shot 35 percent from the field and took a 30-27 deficit into the break. Coming out of the break, Michigan turned it over immediately, a useful illustrator of where this team is right now. Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton started a combined 1-for-10 from the field. Zak Irvin's shot came back, sort of, as he went 5-for-10 in the first half, but a very mortal 2-for-6 from downtown.
There was a bizarre stretch of when the two squads seemed to be in transition for two minutes straight; with the crowd making little to no noise, it all seemed like a dream, with the Wolverines just going perfunctorily through the motions in a summer league pickup game.
By the under-16 TV timeout, the Wolverines trailed 39-29, but not for long. Caris LeVert's first field goal of the night, a pair of Irvin free throws and a very tough elbow jumper by Mark Donnal cut the deficit to four, with the crowd getting into it for the first time.
Speaking of first times for things, Donnal ripped down a strong rebound and finished through heavy contact for a traditional three-point play, showing some serious emotion in the process. Not long after that, Donnal battled SMU's bigs, drawing a 1-and-1 at the line after winning the battle for an offensive board.
A Walton triple gave Michigan the lead for the first time since the game's early stages -- but with 10 minutes left, there was still plenty of basketball to play. Walton stuck another three a few minutes later; although Michigan continued to struggle to defend the paint, Walton's sharpshooting kept Michigan ahead for the time being.
But, an 8-0 SMU run quickly put Michigan in trouble. Michigan found itself down 57-48 with 2:30 left, but the Wolverines just missed bunnies, turned it over and missed the three-point looks it needed to make down the stretch.
Nothing comes easily for this team anymore. Yes, much of this is the result of an extended slump from beyond the arc -- Michigan probably won't continue to shoot this poorly from three-point land, but it's not the only thing between them and a comeback.
Everything looks difficult for this team right now, and unfortunately the Wolverines haven't been doing much of anything consistently well. This is a shooting team that has been shooting poorly, continues to get dominated on the boards (44-28 in SMU's favor today) and gets almost nothing in terms of paint scoring. I was hesitant to say that this is undoubtedly a bad team (even after the EMU loss), but when a team does so few things well, that just might be the case. Things won't get any easier in the Big Ten -- an NIT berth is looking increasingly likely.
Michigan has a meeting with the 1-9 Coppin State Eagles on Monday, their last nonconference tilt of the season before the Big Ten opener against Illinois Dec. 30. The sad thing is, I'm not even sure if that game can be considered an easy win.