There’s no sugarcoating it: the Michigan Wolverines suffered their most embarassing loss of the season Thursday night, as they fell at home to a Central Michigan team that was 4-8 entering the game.
Team captain Jace Howard spoke to the media after the game, saying the Wolverines beat themselves in this one.
“This one is definitely the toughest, because we definitely thought we could have beat this team,” Howard said. “Obviously we shot ourselves in the foot a lot, I think, throughout the game and it’s been a trend now. Especially these home games, I feel like we’ve been shooting ourselves in the foot and we’ve been able to sneak out of them. Let’s call it what it is: we’re down in the last five minutes of each one I’m pretty sure, and now it bit us in the butt. There’s nowhere to go from here, it’s the lowest you can get.”
Howard is exactly right when speaking about these home games against teams Michigan should be blowing out. We saw it against Ohio, with the Bobcats up by six with four minutes and forcing OT. We saw it against Lipscomb, with the Bisons up four with 4:27 left before Michigan pulled away.
And with CMU, sloppy play and poor effort finally came to bite the Wolverines in the butt. Howard mentioned the Chippewas’ zone took them by surprise, with poor effort and bad offensive execution late in this one causing the loss.
“They came out in a zone and we weren’t expected much of a zone, but I still feel like we executed well aside from those two or three possessions we had down the stretch,” Howard said. “It’s defense, it’s rebounding, it’s the little that you think is simple. But when it gets down to it, it’s obviously something that we’re really bad at right now.”
Rebounding has been an issue for the Wolverines all season long. They’ve been out-rebounded in four of their five losses, with CMU beating them on the boards, 44-32.
“They beat us on the offensive glass; 17 offensive rebounds, that cannot happen,” said head coach Juwan Howard. “That’s all built on effort and toughness. We did not show up in that category. It’s tough to win against any team when you allow a team to have 23 second-chance points and 17 offensive rebounds.”
As Jace Howard went in-depth on in the presser, rebounding isn’t as much of a skill as it is effort.
“Rebounding is simple — it’s technique, but it’s also wanting it more,” Howard said. “I feel like we’re not doing that, obviously, we’re doing it really badly. This is basketball. A lot of other sports, talent can separate the two (teams) but anybody can win on any game day, and today shows that.
“They played better than us, they played harder, they out-rebounded us, they played better defensively, and they were a more connected team.”
Hopefully this loss is a wake-up call for the Wolverines. They have the talent to get themselves a few quad wins and get back into the NCAA Tournament picture, but right now they haven’t shown enough effort, they haven’t gotten stops consistently and they haven’t been able to find a good flow on offense.
Michigan needs to figure it out, as the gauntlet that is Big Ten play picks up in the next few days. The next three games are against Maryland (Jan. 1), Penn State (Jan. 4) and Michigan State (Jan. 7).
The season is far from over. The Wolverines still have 19 regular season games and the Big Ten Tournament to earn some quality wins and get back on track. It’s really easy to boost your tournament resume playing in the Big Ten.
That said, the Wolverines have to find solutions to these problems and find them fast. If they don’t, more losses like this will pile up.
“Season’s not over, got a lot of basketball to be played, which gives me hope with how connected we are and how much we want it,” Jace Howard said. “But we’re not playing like it — something’s got to change and it will change.
“The only way to go is up and that’s what we got to do. I feel like at this point you either run from it our you embrace it. It’s the make-or-break of our season right now. You could sulk, you could do all the bad things that are just not going to help us get over the hump, which we need to get to and we will get to.”