The Michigan Wolverines won the Battle 4 Atlantis the last time they participated in 2019, but four years later, they’ve already been knocked out in the opening round, falling to Memphis, 71-67.
Michigan turned the ball over way too much in this one. They did come back from a 16-point deficit in the second half to make it a one-possession game, with a Dug McDaniel jumper at the six-minute mark making it 58-57. Michigan didn’t make another field goal until there was 37 seconds left, and the comeback attempt at the end was too little, too late.
Memphis is probably the best team the Wolverines have played so far; they were picked to finish second in the AAC in the preseason coaches poll, and with 159 votes, they got more votes than any unranked team in college basketball in the last AP Poll.
Penny Hardaway’s squad is right on the edge of being ranked themselves and was very beatable in this one, but Michigan couldn’t make shots when it mattered most.
Here are some takeaways from the loss.
More late-game struggles
Not making shots late in game’s was Michigan’s Achilles’ heel last season, and it’s still an issue this season.
Michigan played some good basketball in the second half of this one, outscoring Memphis from 16:33 to 7:33 by 13 (21-8) and utilizing a 2/3 zone to claw back into this one. They dug themselves out of the hole they put themselves in, but all that doesn’t really matter after they went without a made field goal for almost five and a half game minutes (6:00 to 0:37).
It didn’t help that the Wolverines shot 64.7 percent from the free throw line, including three misses in a row from Dug McDaniel late in this one. Nkamhoua led the team in points (18), but him fouling out with just under three minutes to play certainly didn’t help the late game struggles.
McDaniel struggled on both ends
After getting off to a hot start offensively, McDaniel had his worst game of the season.
He shot 5-of-15 from the field and had a season-low 13 points. While he did grab seven boards and had a good assist-to-turnover ratio (three-to-1), Memphis attacked him on drives and he struggled until the Wolverines went into a zone.
After that great start, McDaniel was due for a bad shooting night. Aside from that burst from Burnett in the first half (13 points, 16 in the game), no one really stepped up in the point guard’s place offensively.
WAY too many turnovers
Not being able to take care of the ball was the downfall for the Wolverines in this one.
They got off to a very sloppy start, turning the ball over 13 times in the first half and 18 times in the game as a whole, a new season-high. In that first half alone, they turned the ball over the same amount of times as they did in the win over St. John’s and just three less times than they did in the loss to Long Beach State.
After getting off the hot start offensively to start this season, the offense looked as clunky as it did all last season. It didn’t help that McDaniel picked up his second foul with 3:55 left in that first half either; Memphis went on a 10-4 run after that, and outscored Michigan 17-6 over the last 8:55 of the half.
This offense badly needs another point guard; we’re not sure when Jaelin Llewellyn is going to come back, but we also can’t count on him to be a complete solution to these turnover problems. If the Wolverines want to keep playing at a quick pace, they have to take care of the ball better.
This team still needs to improve defensively, but the 2/3 zone was a huge help
There’s so much wrong with this Michigan defense: they don’t communicate well, they don’t rotate well, and they have way too many flat-footed close-outs.
The Wolverines haven’t played very good on-ball defense all season long, with Olivier Nkamhoua hitting the deck on this slick move from Caleb Mills in that first half.
What Caleb Mills did at :15 is illegal in the United States. pic.twitter.com/3P6ElvHKVs— The Field of 68 (@TheFieldOf68) November 22, 2023
The Wolverines utilized a 2/3 zone for a good portion of that second half, turning the Tigers into a jump shooting team. Michigan forced some tough shots that Memphis didn’t make, and a 6-0 three-minute run around the 13-minute mark of the second half helped the Wolverines claw back into this one.
The zone working as well as it did was a pleasant surprise, but Michigan has to get better playing man-to-man.
Juwan on the bench
The program tweeted out minute’s before tonight’s game that Juwan Howard chose to watch the game from the team’s bench, with Phil Martelli still serving as the team’s interim coach.
“It was exciting to be out there with our young men and staff,” Howard said via a team spokesperson after the game. “They have been so supportive and caring. I truly feel blessed. Today was just another step forward. I am looking forward to making a full return.”
The fact that Howard made the trip with the team is encouraging for his health, being that he’s been recovering from heart surgery since mid-September. It’s unclear at this time when exactly he will return, but we will be sure to keep you updated.
Michigan will face Stanford in the consolation side of the bracket on Thanksgiving Day. That game is set to tip-off around 7:30 p.m. EST, following the semi-final game that Memphis plays in.