Despite holding a 12-point lead at the half, the shorthanded Michigan Wolverines did not make a single three-pointer in the second half, losing in ugly fashion to the Maryland Terrapins, 64-57. With the loss, the Wolverines fall to 6-10 and 1-4 in Big Ten play.
Maryland, who just improved to 10-6 on the year and 2-3 in conference play, is also towards the bottom of the Big Ten standings. After making it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season, the Terrapins only scored 40 points in a loss in their only game against a ranked opponent this season (Villanova, ranked No. 21 at the time). Maryland ranked 81st in KenPom before this game, 10 spots lower than Michigan, and their only Big Ten win came against Penn State, who Michigan lost to this past weekend, 79-73.
Michigan led by double-digits at the half in that Penn State game too. But no lead is safe for a Wolverines team who can’t seem to get out of their own way.
Here are some takeaways from the loss.
No Dug McDaniel or Tray Jackson, and Michigan’s offense suffers
This was Michigan’s first game without Dug McDaniel, as he will not be traveling with the team for road games until further notice, with head coach Juwan Howard saying in a statement Wednesday night that while they are away from Ann Arbor, the sophomore point guard “will work towards meeting several academic goals he has set and needs to meet.”
He will still play in home games, but Michigan was without their leading scorer in this one, along with one of their first players off the bench in forward Tray Jackson, who a Michigan spokesperson said is in concussion protocol.
Despite being shorthanded, the Wolverines were able to take a 12-point lead into the half, largely thanks to them making five of their first nine attempts from three and going on a 12-0 run (7:02-4:51) to establish a cushion. That lead slowly went away, with the Terps tying it up midway through the second half.
Once the game was close again, Michigan had no flow offensively and the Wolverines couldn’t consistently score with the Terrapins. Which is embarrassing, considering entering this game, Maryland had scored fewer points than any team in the Big Ten except Rutgers.
Living and dying by the three
While there’s a lot to be frustrated about with the Michigan men’s basketball team, they’ve usually hit the three-ball well for most of the season. That wasn’t the case in the second half, a big reason why the Wolverines lost for the 10th time this season.
While Michigan rotated relatively well and played good defense for large portions of this game, the Wolverines gave up some key threes to the Terrapins. Some of them were tough shots with a hand up, but the Terps knocked down six of their 10 threes in the second half. That was the difference for two struggling offenses.
Milestone for Olivier Nkamhoua
Midway through the second half, grad student Olivier Nkamhoua scored his 1,000th career point on his signature mid-range jumper out of a post-up.
Nkamhoua led the Wolverines with 18 points and seven rebounds in this one, being the one consistent source of scoring for a team in desperate need of it. As poorly as this season has gone, he’s been a bright spot with his mid-range jumpers, rim-rattling dunks and energy on both ends.
A solid showing from Jaelin Llewellyn
With McDaniel unavailable, Jaelin Llewellyn made his first start of the season and looked pretty good. He led the Wolverines with 8 points at the half, and played limited minutes in the second half, ending this one with a season-high nine points, four rebounds and three assists.
The Princeton transfer has never been the quickest player on the floor, and he’s been playing limited minutes while recovering from a torn ACL, but his craftiness with the ball in his hands is through the roof. He did a great job taking what the defense gave him on the possession below, drawing out the ball screen and heading towards the rim as soon as Donta Scott steps away from him.
This is really good pacing on the screen by LLewellyn. Draws out Scott on the flat hedge and keeps creating space from Young. Once Scott retreats, he speeds up to get downhill and a good finish over Reese pic.twitter.com/v2039DExqy— Joe Jackson (@joejacksonCBB) January 12, 2024
This is the kind of play that veteran guards make. That recognition takes reps to learn, and with 90 games of college basketball under his belt, Llewellyn certainly has that experience.
While he did struggle to break Maryland’s press a few times, he was excellent in the half court. He doesn’t have the speed or shooting ability of McDaniel, but he’s incredibly savvy with the ball in his hands and he moved the ball well.
Michigan didn’t play him late in this one, but the grad student has played limited minutes all year long and clearly doesn’t look to be at 100 percent. I wonder if he was under a minutes restriction, because Michigan could have used him in the final few possession of this close one.
The Wolverines head back home for a special matinee game on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, as they host the 12-4 Ohio State Buckeyes. That game is set to tip-off at noon on Monday, Jan. 15, and will be broadcast on FOX.