It was one of the season’s most exciting games, as Michigan and Michigan State went back and forth for the majority of the 40 minutes on Sunday. Unfortunately, it was the visitors who made more plays when they needed to, and the Wolverines now face an uphill battle to earn even a share of the conference title.
Though the offense went cold in the second half, Michigan’s 1.12 PPP was its best mark since taking out Rutgers at the beginning of the month. However, it was a completely different story on the other end of the court. Michigan State dominated with 1.23 PPP, easily the worst performance by Michigan’s defense this season. It was a frustrating afternoon, but the better team came out victorious.
Out of sorts
The tempo did not favor the Wolverines, and eventually it caught up to them. Both teams played frantically in the first half, with Michigan somehow able to keep pace. Part of this was due to above-average three-point shooting (41.7 percent) and offensive rebounding (10) that were uncharacteristic boosts in the first 20 minutes.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, both of these areas dried up in the second half. Michigan remembered who it really was and went an embarrassing 14.3 percent from deep, and the Wolverines collected just three offensive boards in the second frame. While the home team shot 50 percent from two, it was not enough to keep pace with the Spartans.
Michigan State has a good offense, but no one should be racking up a 55.2 percent eFG against the Wolverines. Countless times the Michigan defense was late or out of place, and teams like the Spartans will take advantage of that every time. The visitors shot almost 70 percent from two; not too many teams will lose with a mark like that.
It sure seemed like Michigan State had a much stronger game plan than the home team. Michigan settled for dozens of poor jumpers and failed to attack on mismatches. Meanwhile, the Spartans successfully wove through tons of screens and had players consistently open from behind the arc. With a coach as brilliant as John Beilein, odds are the issue was execution more so than preparation, but either way, it was not even.
Blame all around
First, the positives. Zavier Simpson led the way with 19 points and a decent effort on offense. He may not have won the point guard battle, but he is not the reason Michigan lost. Ignas Brazdeikis provided a huge boost out of halftime, and he ended with 16 points on the day. And while it was not the best afternoon from Jordan Poole, he did tally 15 points and a couple assists.
These facts are outweighed by the negatives. All three struggled from deep, as usual. Simpson was 2-for-7, Brazdeikis 1-for-4, and Poole 2-for-8. Despite a big effort from Poole last time out, it is looking more and more like his three-point shot is gone. This significantly reduces his value, and against Michigan State it showed how big of an issue that could be. Poole consistently took bad shots instead of feeding Jon Teske on mismatches in the paint, and his defense was horrid. He will still get plenty of looks in the offense, but his ceiling seems to be falling.
Brazdeikis showed his youth, especially in the first half. He was beaten out multiple times for rebounds and added a couple turnovers as well. Yes, he does have the ability to take it to the basket, but in the Michigan lineup it is his duty to be stronger defensively and more careful with the ball. The defensive issues are more on the team than individuals, but with Poole and Brazdeikis struggling and Simpson unable to lock it down, there were too many hurdles.