The Michigan men’s basketball team has hit rock bottom, losing to a bad Penn State team at The Palestra, 79-73. They fall to 6-9 on the season, 1-3 in Big Ten play, and as of Jan. 7, they’re the only team in the conference with a losing overall record.
This was a battle between the two Big Ten teams that had the worst overall record heading into this game. It’s safe to say they both needed a win, with Michigan just losing to Minnesota and Penn State getting blown out, with the Michigan State Spartans beating them by 31 earlier this week. In the battle of the Big Ten basement dwellars, the Nittany Lions prevailed.
Here are the takeaways from what might be the most frustrating loss of the season for the Wolverines.
Michigan blows their double-digit lead
The Wolverines capitalized on the Nittany Lions missing nine of their first 10 shots in this game. Michigan jumped out to a 12-13 point lead for a large portion of the first half, but they let Penn State hang around in the first half, as the Nittany Lions cut it to a 10-point advantage at the half.
Penn State started the half on a 9-2 run, and that lead evaporated on another 13-2 run from the 14:57 mark to the 10:13 mark that completely swung the momentum of the game. The Wolverines were outscored in the second half, 52-36.
You could read the body language on the Wolverines during these runs, and it was not pretty; heads were down, spirits were very down, and no one stepped up to help Michigan climb out of the hole they dug themselves in.
Michigan’s defense is pathetic
I’ve talked about it in these takeaways pieces all season long, but Michigan’s defense is comically inconsistent.
Issues that have plagued the Wolverines all season long are still there; on-ball defense is still poor, rotations are still late, and late in this one, it looked like there was simply a lack of effort in the paint. You can’t expect to win any games when you allow a team to shoot 55.2 percent from the field and 50 percent from three in the second half.
You have to play good defense to come back in games, and the Wolverines haven’t really played good defense all season long. Michigan went down after that Penn State run, and you could see them simply give up on certain possessions. It was pathetic.
Turnovers are still a concern
Per the BTN broadcast, the Michigan Wolverines have turned the ball over more than any other team in the Big Ten this season.
They had the lead for most of this one, but turnovers prevented this from becoming a blowout. Michigan turned the ball over 10 times in the first half, and 19 times in the game overall. The Wolverines were sloppy with the ball, especially when Dug McDaniel wasn’t on the floor.
Turning the ball over has been one of Michigan’s biggest issues this season, and it bit them in the butt in this one. If anything, the turnover problems Michigan has experienced all season long have gotten worse.
A few positive takeaways
-Terrance Williams played really well in this one. He led Michigan with a career-high 24 points on 8/14 shooting, and was the only reliable source of offense for the Wolverines for most of this one. Looks like he’s shaken off the confidence issues he had last year.
-Tray Jackson had the play of the game for the Wolverines. The Seton Hall transfer came off the bench and made an impact instantly, knocking down a corner three before slamming down the Dunk of the Year for the Wolverines.
Jackson finished this one with five points and four rebounds, providing a nice spark off the bench. He didn’t do much in the second half after getting elbowed in the face.
Phil Martelli serves as head coach
Per a U-M Spokesperson, Juwan Howard chose to have Phil Martelli serve as head coach at the historic venue in his hometown.
While it’s unusual to have a head coach hand over duties to someone else on the staff, I thought it was nice gesture by Howard, considering the circumstances. That said, switching up who the head coach was didn’t magically fix the issues Michigan has had all season long. The persisting issues not being fixed have to fall on the coaching staff in some capacity.
This basketball team is so frustrating. At least there’s an important football game on tomorrow.
The Michigan Wolverines only have one game in the next seven days. They take on the Maryland Terrapins in College Park on Thursday, Jan. 11. That game is set to tip-off at 7 p.m., and will be broadcast on FS1.