Michigan rode into Dallas with a chance to earn what arguably would have been its best non-conference true road win in nine seasons under John Beilein. Instead, #19 SMU (7-0) put its hand in the Wolverines' (6-3) face and shoved them out of Moody Arena in an 82-58 blowout. It's the third time that Michigan has faced a top-25 team and the third time it ended in a double-digit loss.
Michigan led, 11-7, after the first seven minutes, but, after that, very little went right.
The absence of Derrick Walton, who missed his second straight game with a sprained left ankle, was noticeable, particularly in the first half. SMU's defense has lots of length and excels at preventing penetration, which caused Michigan to pass the ball around the perimeter until it was forced to run isolation at the end of the shot clock. Caris LeVert, who usually performs admirably in such situations and had played like one of the best players in the country before tonight, was uncharacteristically awful in this game, missing his first 11 shots before finishing with five points on 1-of-13 shooting. He never looked comfortable on the court as SMU forced him into bad spots and contested most of his shots. The only players that could get going offensively were Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Duncan Robinson, who each had 15 points, but that wasn't nearly enough.
Why? Because Michigan was exposed on the defensive end in too many areas. The Wolverines' perimeter defenders could not stay in front of SMU's guards, especially shifty 5-foot-9 point guard Nic Moore, who had 15 points and seven assists, and permitted too much penetration. Michigan's rotations behind them were slow, which often led to the Mustangs' big men -- like Jordan Tolbert and his 23 points and nine rebounds -- receiving simple passes down low for countless dunks and rebounding a whole bunch of misses (53.8 OR%). And, when Michigan tried to go zone, whether it was a 2-3 or an extended 1-3-1, Moore shredded them and found his teammates for alley-oops.
It was a mess, and that's not even including that SMU made eight of its first 11 threes.
With everything breaking down on both ends for Michigan near the end of the first half, SMU closed on a terror, using a 15-4 run in the final four minutes to take a 36-22 lead into the intermission. Then, Michigan's offense began to heat up a bit to open the second frame as Robinson found his stroke from downtown and Zak Irvin dribbled into the lane to create looks for others (nine assists), but Michigan simply couldn't rectify its defensive woes and never made it interesting in the second half. The Mustangs continued to score at will, led by double digits most of the half, and finished with 82 points and 1.224 PPP.
This was a brutal loss for Michigan. The good news is that Michigan will be able to lick its wounds for the rest of the month as its remaining four non-conference foes are outside the KenPom top 250. The bad news is that Michigan has not looked competitive in any of its games against top-25 teams. And that doesn't bode well for Big Ten play.