The Michigan Wolverines (11-5, 2-3 B1G) are still trying to find their way after a hot start to the season, losing their fifth game in the last nine outings on Sunday in a 75-67 loss at Minnesota (9-7, 3-3 B1G).
A dominant post performance from an opponent was a continuing plot thread for Michgian in this one, as Minnesota’s Daniel Oturu went off for 30 points and seven rebounds. The Wolverines were once again without Isaiah Livers, who missed his fourth-straight game with a groin injury.
Zavier Simpson led the Wolverines with 19 points, nine assists and six rebounds. Franz Wagner was the second-leading scorer with 17 points on the afternoon.
Michigan came out of the gates relatively hot early on and lead by as much as 11 in the first half at 30-19, but allowed Minnesota to close out the first 20 minutes of play on an 11-1 run to trim the deficit to 31-30 in favor of the Wolverines heading into the locker room. Oturu at that point would have 20 of his teams 30 points and was really the only Gopher doing much of anything offensively.
It was back-and-forth throughout much of the second half, but the Wolverines again would struggle to make enough plays on either end of the floor and Minnesota would close out the final 20 minutes on another run. An Eli Brooks three-pointer with 3:22 to play gave Michigan a 65-64 lead before the Gophers rattled off the next 11 points of the game. Simpson would score on a layup with a few seconds to go, trimming the Minnesota lead to eight and putting the final score at 75-67.
- This was a disappointing loss for Michigan because this game was right there for them to win. The other road games were uphill battles throughout, but the Wolverines did not make enough plays on either end of the floor and let Minnesota go on an 11-2 run to end this one. It’s been a rough year for road teams in the Big Ten (5-32), but sometimes there just is not much of an excuse when you have a better basketball team, Livers or not.
- Juwan Howard has proven himself to be a more than competent head coach in his first few months on the job, but resumes get built when people start to pick up on what you do and how you adjust. After admitting the other night that his stubbornness was the reason that bigs were having huge days against them, Michigan once again did not do much of anything to adjust to Oturu and he had 20 of Minnesota’s 30 points in the half. He single-handedly kept them in the game until his teammates picked it up a bit. Howard and his staff simply need to try something different down there, whether it be sending a double team or throwing a different defensive look at them. More on this in a moment.
- It might also be time to switch up the distribution of minutes. David DeJulius should be playing in more than half of a basketball game, as he finished with 21 minutes on the night compared to Brooks’ 32. It might not be a bad idea to start evening that out a bit because these two guys have been trending in different directions. It’s nice that they can get them on the court at the same time and that look is working in the smaller lineup, but DeJulius is more potent offensively and has far more stretches where you notice him on the floor. In addition to that, one has to wonder if Adrien Nunez’s minutes (he only played four in this game) might be more beneficial to Cole Bajema, who did not play.
- Michigan’s defensive scheme down low is not great right now and has to be adjusted, but they need a bit more out of Jon Teske (9 points, 4 rebounds). He was one of the best defensive players in the conference last season and his play on that side of the floor can be better, scheme or not. When it’s one on one in the paint with a man in front of you, he just has to win that battle more than he has as a senior leader on this team. If they can scheme some help for him down there, perhaps the confidence will come back.
- If you’re looking for bright spots in this game, Simpson played well, though could have been a bit more efficient offensively (a nitpick from this game), but Wagner’s performance was solid, as well. With each passing game, you’re starting to see him more and more look like a college basketball player and less like a true freshman. Wagner continuing his emergence along with a healthy Livers here soon could be some nice fuel for this group to really hit its stride in the home stretch of the season.
- Big Ten officials stink. Across the board. End transmission.
Next up for Michigan is a rematch with Iowa, who they beat 103-91 at Crisler Center on Dec. 6. However, they will head back on the road, where they are 0-4 this season, and take on a player in Luka Garza who put up 44 points on them in that game.