The best Michigan basketball news tonight came far from Ann Arbor as 2016 commit Xavier Simpson dropped a Lima Senior High-record 65 points and single-handedly outscored his opponent by 11 in Northwest Ohio. In Southeast Michigan, though, #22 Indiana (19-4, 9-1 Big Ten) steamrolled Michigan (17-6, 7-3 Big Ten), 80-67.
The final score was prettier than it looked, and how it looked seemed improbable after Michigan's hot start. After Indiana scored the first bucket, Michigan went on a 10-0 run and then extended its lead to 15-4 when Derrick Walton, Jr. drilled a three-pointer after the first media timeout. With the Crisler Center crowd behind them, it seemed that the Wolverines were on their way to an exciting win. Instead, the excitement would dissipate in flash as the Hoosiers outscored Michigan, 41-9, the rest of the first half and closed the frame on a 25-0 run, ending this game before the final buzzer.
The first half was difficult to watch in every facet. Teddy Valentine and his crew treated the viewers to some vintage Big Ten officiating, but that ultimately wouldn’t matter. Indiana was just too fast, slicing through Michigan's defense for easy two after easy two, and Michigan was too cold from deep to stay in it as IU went into the locker room up 21.
Michigan was more competitive in the second half, though the damage was long done by then. I'd normally spotlight some individual performances here, but I'll save everyone some time. Indiana looked like the '96 Bulls and Michigan the Grosse Ile High Freshmen Red Devils. If you need to know, Yogi Ferrell finished with 17-2-9, Robert Johnson with 16 points and 6 rebounds, and Zak Irvin with a 16-4-4. That's my hockey-style three stars, but there was no shortage of deserving Hoosier candidates.
In years past, the "live by the three, die by the three" mantra that is perpetually assigned to John Beilein’s teams was sometimes a bit of a misnomer. This year, especially without Caris LeVert, it is not. A team that gets 42% of its field goal attempts from deep must hit more than 30% of them like they did tonight. Maybe it’s tired legs, maybe it’s dumb luck, but it has to be addressed.
This is no mortal blow to Michigan’s season, but it certainly casts serious doubt. Caris LeVert is still out, and the Wolverines’ three-point shooting is becoming a legitimate concern. Saturday against Michigan State may prove to be a statement game regardless of the outcome. Tonight was ugly, but Michigan has a chance to get off the mat against their in-state rival this weekend in a game they need in the worst way.