This basketball team has been so frustrating to watch. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Michigan Wolverines couldn’t execute offensively late in a close game. They fell to the Florida Gators in double overtime, 106-101, as the Wolverines fall to 6-6.
The Gators entered this game 7-3, including winning their last three games. Florida was picked to finish eighth out of 14 SEC teams in the media preseason poll.
This was a game that both teams needed heading into the New Year, and Michigan had so many chances to win this one. Offensive lapses in this tight contest and mediocre rebounding cost U-M the game.
Here are some takeaways from a loss that will make Michigan fans want to pull their hair out.
Execution late was solid in regulation, but not good enough in overtime
This was a back-and-forth game, but the Gators took command of this one in the second half, when Michigan had a 4+ minute-stretch (9:36 to 5:25) without a made field goal.
This was yet another close game for the Wolverines, who have struggled to finish late in one or two possession games since the start of last season. For what it’s worth, I thought they executed well towards the end of regulation, with Tarris Reed Jr. scoring off a short roll and Nimari Burnett collecting his own blocked shot before finishing it from 15-feet away, and Olivier Nkamhoua dunking a Dug McDaniel miss in the closing seconds.
They really stepped defensively in the first overtime, too, with Burnett and Nkamhoua making big plays to halt the Florida offense. It actually looked like Michigan had turned a corner on both ends, but they crumbled offensively in the overtime periods, and a 13-4 run by the Gators to open 2OT sealed the win for the Gators.
Despite decent execution at the end of regulations, the Wolverines — for what feels like the 50th time over the last three seasons — crumbled in a close game offensively. I don’t understand how these late game issues still haven’t been fixed.
McDaniel shines again
Much like we saw in the loss to Oregon, Dug McDaniel was feeling it in this one. He had 33 points in this one, including 15 points in that first half.
He shot the three ball well, and really dictated the pace of the game, playing at the lightning-quick pace he’s been thriving in all season long. He was especially good off Florida's makes in the second half, getting to the rim and not allowing the Gators to gain momentum. We always knew he could shoot threes, but he’s gotten much better at taking what the defense gives, playing quickly while also being under control, and finishing in the teeth of the defense.
This was the sixth game this season where we’ve seen McDaniel score 20 points or more. He’s been the straw that stirs the drink offensively and has been more fun to watch with every game. That said, Florida focused all their defensive attention on him late in this one, and Michigan couldn’t score consistently when he was shut down.
The game plan is out on the Wolverines; as long as you stop McDaniel late in games, their offense comes to an abrupt start.
Not a great game on the glass
The Gators won the battle on the glass in this one, grabbing 54 rebounds to Michigan’s 43 while also nabbing 21 offensive rebounds. Florida’s bigs did a good job on the boards, and did a good job scoring inside; I was especially impressed by Seton Hall transfer Tyrese Samuel, who had a solid game with 21 points and 11 boards.
Michigan’s defended well enough at the end of regulation and in the first overtime to win this one, but they couldn’t grab a board when they needed it most. They have to be better on the boards in Big Ten play.
Michigan’s still making threes, but where’s the ball movement late in games?
The Wolverines entered this game making 37.8 percent of their threes, a mark that ranked 42nd in the entire country. They’ve shot well from the beyond the arc well all year long, including in this one.
Michigan made six of their first 10 attempts from three, with three of those makes coming from McDaniel. They made 50 percent of their threes in that first half, and 45.5 percent of their threes in the game. Much like we saw in the Eastern Michigan game, good ball movement led to wide-open threes that the Wolverines were able to capitalize on.
As good as this offense was at executing for the first 80 percent of the game, they completely forget their identity late in games; everything is stagnant, the defense is entirely focused on McDaniel or Nkamhoua, and they are really easy to guard with a lack of ball movement, both by the ball handler and by players without the ball.
This is a team that appears to lack a clear plan late in games, and that transition three that Burnett took towards the end of the first overtime is a huge example of that.
Each one of these close losses gets more and more frustrating, and it doesn’t feel like the coaching staff is making any sort of adjustment to alleviate these late-game struggles.
The Wolverines have a week and a half before their final game of the calendar year, as they host Will Wade and McNeese on Friday, Dec. 29. That game is set to tip-off at 7 p.m., and will be broadcast on B1G+.