Take a deep breath. It was ugly, but it’s only December.
They Michigan Wolverines suffered their third loss of the season in Chapel Hill Wednesday night, losing handily to the North Carolina Tar Heels, 72-52.
UNC is a good basketball team, as solid showings from Caleb Love, Dawson Garcia, Armando Bacot and Brady Manek propelled the Tar Heels to the victory.
Michigan had a tough test on the road Wednesday night, and pretty much failed it thanks to an inability to take care of the ball, foul trouble and way too many offensive lapses.
Here are three takeaways from the loss.
Michigan fails to take care of the basketball way too much
Say what you want about John Beilien, but a testament of his teams was their ability to take care of the little things in their control, including making free throws and protecting the basketball.
The 2021-22 Wolverines are struggling in both those categories. They only make 66.9 percent of their free throws and turn the ball over way too often for their own good.
Turnovers plagued the Wolverines all night long, as giving up the ball 13 times led to a few big buckets from the Tar Heels that turned a winnable game into a blowout.
Basketball experts keep mentioning Michigan missing last year’s guards from a scoring perspective, as Michigan lost four of their top six scorers from a season ago with Franz Wagner, Isaiah Livers, Chaundee Brown and Mike Smith all now playing professional basketball. In losing all those pieces, the Wolverines lost a lot of guys who could not only score on their own, but also did a good job of taking care of the ball and staying composed in stressful environments.
This year’s Wolverines are a young team, and they seemed overwhelmed for big portions of this game, especially in the final 20 minutes, when they turned over the ball a lot while shooting a pitiful 3-for-13 from the field to start the second half.
If turnovers continue to plague the Wolverines like they did in this game, they can kiss their Big Ten title hopes goodbye and will face an uphill battle to even make the NCAA Tournament.
Solid showings from the freshmen
While Moussa Diabate, Caleb Houstan and Frankie Collins combined to turn the ball over four times and forced a few shots, all three of them showed flashes to prove they can be top options for the Wolverines this year and next.
Diabate started the game out on fire. And he wasn’t getting easy buckets either; he showed off a solid hook shot, got great post positioning and hit a three for a quick seven points in the first six and a half minutes. He mixed in a few nice turnaround jumpers from midrange as well, providing Michigan with an offensive spark to keep the game close in the first half.
Diabate and Houstan, who had all of his eight points in solid four-minute stretch halfway through the first half, were the main reason Michigan had the lead for a good part of the first 20 minutes.
Collins didn’t really fill up the stat sheet and missed a few defensive rotations, but he did show he is capable of pushing the pace and running the offense when he needs to.
All three freshman made some key mistakes in the second half, but it’s nice to see them look good for stretches in road games like this. It can only do good things for their confidence long-term.
We got to see what the Michigan offense looks like when Dickinson & Brooks both aren’t playing great, and it was UGLY
As I’ve written about in previous takeaway pieces, Michigan’s offense tends to look stagnant when Dickinson and Brooks aren’t scoring.
Brooks made his first shot of the game, but then went cold for a good part of the first half after that. He ended up with 11 points, but was far from the consistent scoring threat he has been in past games this season. Dickinson struggled to get a rhythm going all game long. He struggled with foul trouble, getting his fourth foul early in the second half, and finished with nearly as many turnovers (three) as points (four).
Aside from a nice hook shot with five minutes left in the first half, Bacot dominated him on both sides. Dickinson has shown an ability to be a very good passer, but he was a bit of a black hole in this game and seemed to force a few shots to try to get himself going.
Michigan badly needed someone to step up with these two being bad for stretches. Diabate stepped up the scoring in the first half, but no one else could make shots consistently.
Michigan has been very reliant on Brooks and Dickinson to create offense and get a bucket when others are struggling, but when they both aren’t playing great, this offense looks ugly.
They weren’t the only ones to blame for Michigan’s offensive struggles. As Scotty White mentioned in his recap, DeVante’ Jones and Brandon Johns Jr. struggled to score, and you can never expect to win when you have seven more turnovers then the other team.
This loss made it painfully clear Michigan needs a reliable third scorer; it has counted on Brooks and Dickinson way too much in tight situations.
If the Wolverines don’t fix their offensive woes and cut that turnover margin down, Michigan could be in for a long year.