In a season full of frustrating and embarrassing losses, this one might have been the worst.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers went on a massive first half run, and unlike the Michigan Wolverines, they actually played with a sense of urgency. U-M got demolished on the road, 79-59, losing to Nebraska for the first time since 2018. They have now lost two-thirds of their games this season (8-16) and fall to a pathetic 3-10 record in conference play.
Coming off the win over No. 11 Wisconsin, the Wolverines faced a second team in a row that’s currently projected to make the NCAA Tournament. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has the Cornhuskers as one of the last four bye teams in. After being cellar dwellers in the Big Ten for years, Nebraska has been a surprise team in the Big Ten, firmly in the middle of the pack in the conference standings with solid wins over No. 2 Purdue, Wisconsin, and Michigan State.
Whatever confidence the Wolverines appeared to gain from that win has been squandered. The worst part about a performance like this is it isn’t very surprising; we’ve have seen the same issues from this team all season long, but with seven games to play before the Big Ten Tournament, it feels like the wheels have completely come off.
The Wolverines gave up in this one, which at the end of the day is more frustrating than losing on a buzzer-beater, because that requires a certain level of effort.
Welcome to rock bottom, Michigan men’s basketball fans. Here are some takeaways from the shameful loss.
An embarrassment from an effort standpoint
We saw the Wolverines waive the white flag in this one before the first half was even over.
The Cornhuskers played with the urgency a team on the bubble should. They had six offensive rebounds in the first 11:40 of game play and jumped out to a 30-10 lead. The Cornhuskers went on a lengthy, 34-9 run in that first half that spanned over 12 minutes of game time, and that point, the Wolverines were down 26 and this one was over. The Wolverines cut the lead to 15 with just under five minutes to play, but at that point, it was too little, too late.
The effort level from the Wolverines simply wasn’t there. You could see it in their body language during that lengthy run and for most of the second half; Michigan gave up. It was embarrassing.
This team can’t survive offensively without McDaniel
Most offenses in college basketball take a step back when the leading scorer is unavailable, but that’s especially the case for the Wolverines.
Michigan is a much different team with McDaniel unavailable (stats from Big Ten Network) pic.twitter.com/iDn3QhTp5A— Kellen Voss (@Kellen__Voss) February 10, 2024
Without McDaniel, Michigan struggled to get open looks or any sort of separation on shots. Dribble penetration is a crucial part of what McDaniel brings, and no other guard on this roster can provide that consistently.
The offensive struggles in this one combined with poor defense yet again helped Nebraska go on that big run and jump out to a 15-point lead before the midway point of the first half. When Michigan isn’t scoring, a double-digit lead is hard to dig into, especially when the Wolverines could not get stops.
One thing that grinds my gears is that without their leading scorer, Michigan doesn’t do anything different. The Wolverines run the same sets they’ve ran all year. There’s no major changes to the offense schematically, despite this year’s struggles and the change in personnel, with McDaniel still unavailable for road games.
It appears to be an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach, when in fact, it is broke.
Some sad statistics regarding this loss
-The Wolverines went on an 8-0 run to close the first half and still went into the break trailing by 20.
-Michigan had 25 points in the first half. That’s tied for the second-fewest in a first half by the Wolverines this season; they had 25 at the half in the 32-point Purdue loss, and 21 in the lethargic 16-point loss to Texas Tech the day after Thanksgiving.
-The Wolverines only made 32.1 percent of their shots in the first half and 32.3 percent of their shots in the game. Nebraska shot the ball much better (48.6 percent in the first half, 44.8 percent in the game. The Cornhuskers didn’t exactly shoot the lights out, but they didn’t have to with how poorly the Wolverines played.
-Rebounding is an effort stat, and the Wolverines got beat on the boards, 43-39.
The Wolverines have a rematch with the Fighting Illini in a few days, and they’ll be without Dug McDaniel for another road matchup. That game on Tuesday, Feb. 13, is set to tip-off at 7 p.m. EST on Peacock.