Juwan Howard and the Michigan Wolverines fell to 1-1 in Big Ten conference play on Wednesday night in a 71-62 loss to Illinois on the road, which was another outing where they were doomed by their outside shooting away from the friendly confines of Michigan fans.
The Wolverines went 2-for-12 from beyond the arc in this game and finished the night 3-for-18 overall. In a lot of ways, it was nearly a carbon copy of the recipe that led to the loss in the only other true road game they have played so far this season last week at No. 1 Louisville.
“(In) the first half, I thought we took too many quick shots,” Howard said after the game. “What we’re really good at is moving the basketball and making the defense work. Second half, we had some good looks and the ball just didn’t fall in.”
Perhaps more concerning than the offense — as that tends to come and go throughout the rigors of a season — is Michigan’s interior defense and rebounding, which has been a bit of a trend and concern through the first 10 games.
Nearly any time the Wolverines were fighting to get back into the game, all that the Illini had to do was work to get a post touch. That strategy worked out, as Illinois outscored Michigan 44-26 in the paint. They were also outrebounded by a margin of 44-28 with 15 of those coming on the offensive glass for Illinois.
“We’re a better defensive team than that,” Howard said. “If we want to battle and compete in the Big Ten and have a chance to raise a trophy, we can’t allow a team to score 44 points on us in the paint and then also have 16 second-chance points and 15 offensive rebounds. That’s a recipe for a loss.”
Michigan has shown in two true road games that it needs to improve in all of the above areas. This is very much a work in progress still despite people’s expectations going through the roof after the week that they had in the Bahamas over Thanksgiving. The good news is that the next opportunity provides another measuring stick challenge for them, as No. 10 Oregon comes to Crisler Center on Saturday for a 12 p.m. tipoff against the Wolverines.