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Turnovers and interior struggles doom Michigan in first loss of season

The Wolverines tied their season-worst mark with 20 turnovers.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Minnesota Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

After routing Minnesota at the Crisler Center just 10 days ago, the Michigan men’s basketball team’s trip to Minneapolis ended in another blowout on Saturday. But this time, the seventh-ranked Wolverines found themselves on the wrong side.

Michigan fell to No. 23 Minnesota, 75-57, in its first loss of the season. It was just the second time this season the Wolverines scored fewer than 80 points, and it was their first time posting a total under 60. After opening up a double-digit lead in each of its first six Big Ten games, Michigan didn’t lead at any point on Saturday.

Much of the Wolverines’ struggles stemmed from their own mistakes. Errant passes, charges, travels — you name it, Michigan did it. The Wolverines recorded five turnovers in the game’s first five minutes, and it didn’t stop there. They ultimately finished with more first-half turnovers (11) than made field goals (10), and the self-inflicted wounds kept them from staging a comeback when they needed it most.

At the other end of the floor, the Gophers turned Michigan’s miscues into points. Minnesota won the points off turnovers battle convincingly, outscoring the Wolverines by 15 in that department.

By the end of the game, Michigan tied its season-worst mark with 20 turnovers. The Wolverines have exceeded that number only once during Juwan Howard’s 43-game tenure as head coach.

“I have never been on a team that had 20 turnovers and won the game, especially on the road,” senior forward Isaiah Livers said. “That’s definitely something we had to clean up. … We weren’t ready. They came out and hit us first defensively. We were turning the ball over, we were careless in gaps. They had a great game plan. They were ready so I credit that Minnesota team. They played really hard tonight.”

Howard echoed that sentiment, crediting Minnesota’s defense for forcing his team into errors. Compared to last week’s meeting, the Gophers noticeably dialed up their perimeter ball pressure and overall intensity on defense.

Another aspect of Minnesota’s altered approach came around the rim, where the Gophers double-teamed freshman center, Hunter Dickinson. After scoring a career-high 28 points in the first bout with Minnesota, Dickinson was held to nine points on Saturday.

The key to stopping Dickinson proved to be the pressure. The Gophers didn’t force him into misses or bad shots — the 7-foot-1 freshman actually made four of his five attempts. Instead, the double-teams prevented Dickinson from settling in around the rim and getting to his spots for easy hook shots and drop-steps. In doing so, he attempted more than a few wild passes and turned the ball over four times in the first half alone.

“(Dickinson) has probably never been in that frustration spot,” Livers said. “He’s always been the dominator, the centerpiece, the guy who has the most points, rebounds, blocks, guy who’s been the focal point. Today it was tough. … (Minnesota) gave him different looks, double teams. Bothered the hell out of him.”

For the Wolverines, Saturday was a valuable glimpse into how quickly things can enter a downward spiral without ball security or effective post play. It challenged their offensive identity, and the result was telling.