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A slow start was not enough to keep Michigan from win No. 11

Nothing seemed to fall for the Wolverines during the first half on Saturday.

NCAA Basketball: Western Michigan at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

It might seem like an overreaction to call Michigan’s current form a slump, but the Maize and Blue has looked less than sharp over the past few outings. Thankfully, the team has been able to continue its undefeated start to the season, with Western Michigan being the latest victim.

The Wolverines started off ice cold, taking a slim two-point lead into halftime, which only existed thanks to a late run right before the break. Michigan went 1-for-8 from deep and 5-for-13 from the line in the first half, keeping the Broncos in the game. The contest was far too competitive against a visiting team ranked outside the top 200.

Shooting woes again

The final numbers look better than reality, as the first half was painful to watch for Michigan fans. A 38.9 percent three-point effort has become the norm this season, and it was frustrating to see so many possessions end with missed opportunities. The culprits were plentiful, but Isaiah Livers in particular struggled with an 0-for-4 outing from deep.

While many of the attempts from behind the arc were at least good decisions, there is no excusing this team’s consistent struggles at the free throw line. Michigan hit just 60 percent of its foul shots, showing its biggest weakness will not go away. It has been said plenty of times before, but this simply cannot continue for a team that has championship aspirations.

Finding offense from defense

Michigan was staring at an eight-point deficit with three minutes to go in the first half but ripped off an impressive 10-0 run to completely swing the momentum. This stretch was fueled by four straight Broncos’ turnovers, as the Wolverines were uber aggressive defensively, collecting 10 steals on the day for just the third time this season.

Everyone was getting involved, as four different players logged a steal during the final stretch of the half. With the offense struggling to hit open shots, these turnovers led to easy baskets at the rim going the other direction. Michigan kept the visitors to 0.93 points per possession, though it ceded a 52.2 percent effective field goal rate, the second-highest allowed by the Wolverines this year.

Odds and ends

  • Zavier Simpson’s woes behind the arc at Northwestern were widely publicized, but he did not show any fear when given an open look on Saturday. In addition to his tenacious defense, the point guard went 3-of-4 from deep.
  • It was a poor game from Ignas Brazdeikis with a season-low four points. Shrug. A lot of players struggled early, but enough Wolverines scored in the second half to make up for the freshman’s rare off game.
  • Charles Matthews took over the game in a way few others on this team can. His 33.9 percent usage rate was a season-high and his 25 points matched his best from this year as well. Matthews recorded 16 free throw attempts, showing his ability to attack the rim and get to the line, something this team must continue to do.
  • Two more threes for Jordan Poole. He has hit over 61 percent over his last six games.