First, you tip your cap.
NJIT came to play. Five-foot-11 Damon Lynn shot over everyone en route to 6 of 10 from outside. Ky Howard and Winfield Willis took 16 shots between themselves and only missed one each. The Highlanders assisted on 16 of 27 baskets. Michigan managed just 8 assists. And every time down the stretch that Michigan made a push, NJIT was there to hit a big shot and maintain control.
Michigan was better in three of the four factors, holding a double digit advantage in OR%, better turnover numbers, and a slight lead in FTA/FGA. But Michigan just couldn't stop a slashing, hot shooting Highlander team that played much better than it record or stat profile forecasted. I figured the 21 point expected victory was kind to NJIT.
Of course, this game isn't played in a vacuum. Michigan's issues were more a confluence of poor performances: Zak Irvin goes ice cold from three, hitting just one of eight. Kam Chatman and Ricky Doyle both struggled offensively. Spike had foul trouble and eventually fouled out.
Meanwhile, on the other end, Michigan's defensive issues were apparent against a fast cutting, backdoor passing Highlander offense that swarmed Michigan's defense and found lanes behind failed defensive rotations.
Still, Michigan was within a possession in the end, despite the fact that Michigan got absolutely nothing out of the majority of its roster in the second half. Spike Abrecht hit one jumper in the second half and Kam Chatman hit a free throw with seconds left.
But there was Caris. The junior played what might be his most impressive offensive half of basketball. Over the second half Caris hit three of his five two point shots and five of his six threes and all four free throws to put up 25 points and drag Michigan through 20 minutes when almost nothing else worked. LeVert finished with 32 points, six rebounds, four steals, and one assist. Derrick Walton also played well in the second half, scoring 10 of his 16 points.
Despite a solid run of victories in the past few games, Michigan hasn't looked great wire to wire. The Wolverines are still prone to defensive breakdowns and cold streaks — same story as years past, but exacerbated by the concentration of youth in the front court this year — but usually the offense is enough to overcome that.
In this one, Murphy's Law took over, Michigan bumbled away too many opportunities, and NJIT was all to happy to pick them up and capitalize the other way.
Now isn't the time to panic. This is still a good team (remember Charlotte last year? PSU the year before?). It's just a young one too.