The Michigan basketball team trailed by 15 points to the UCLA Bruins at home Saturday afternoon with less than 15 minutes to play.
Luckily for Michigan, the Bruins had more turnovers than your local bakery, giving the Wolverines chance after chance to make the their comeback win.
Michigan did just that, coming back from 15 points down to shock the Bruins in overtime 78-69.
The biggest reason for that 15-point margin was due to the team’s poor free-throw shooting. The Wolverines were 8-for-22 from the line, and one player had eight of those 14 misses — transfer guard Charles Matthews.
“I just gotta shoot the ball confidently like I shoot my jump-shots,” Matthews said after the overtime victory Saturday. “I’m too good of a shooter to miss free throws.
“I just gotta keep shooting it.”
And he’s right; he’s way too good of a shooter to miss 80 percent (!) of his free-throws. He hit two of his three 3-point shots and was 8-of-11 from the field. He showed off his shooting abilities yesterday, but could not find consistency from the line.
After yesterday, Matthews is now 21-of-44 (47.7 percent) from the free-throw line in 2017, and the team is 104-of-166 (62.7 percent). That’s simply not good enough, and will truly be the outcome of games when it comes time to playing Michigan State and the rest of the Big Ten.
The team hit 77.9 percent of its free-throws last season and was led by free-throw wizard Derrick Walton Jr. When it came to free-throw shooting last year, Michigan fans could, for the most part, sit back and not worry if they would be made or not.
Yesterday’s performance was about as bad as I’ve ever seen from the free-throw line out of any team. Michigan has a long way to go to get to where the team’s free-throw shooting was at last year.
Matthews, however, isn’t the only player struggling to find some rhythm in an aspect of the game.
Duncan Robinson is struggling on his 3-point shot right now. Robinson is 23-of-71 (32.4 percent) on his 3-pointers and 37-of-98 (37.8 percent) on his field goals this season. However, Robinson has missed just one of his nine free-throw attempts this season.
Robinson has also had breakdowns on defense. He gave the Bruins, from what I can remember, at least two and-one opportunities, and they were not good fouls whatsoever.
Michigan head coach John Beilein earlier this season said the freshmen are not getting more minutes because of their defense, but Robinson has been perhaps the biggest defensive liability on the team. Robinson showed some potential last season to play good defense, but it just hasn’t been there this year. With his 3-point shooting off at the moment, Robinson really needs to hone in on the defensive side of the game.
Robinson and Matthews are going through two completely different rough patches at this point. I’m sure Beilein would rather have these players struggle now than in February or March, but they are struggles that need to be fixed nonetheless.
That is easier said than done, but these guys can make it happen. The challenge will be making it happen in time for Tuesday night’s big road test against Texas.