The Michigan Wolverines lost to Maryland Thursday night, 64-58, picking up their eighth loss of the year and their third loss in conference play.
They couldn’t get stops, they didn’t rebound well, and they couldn’t create offense when it mattered. Sound familiar?
After beating Minnesota on Dec. 8, Michigan is 0-4 when playing away from the Crisler Center, with three of those being true road games against Big Ten opponents. That victory over the Golden Gophers is their only true road win of the season, which does not bode well for this team’s tournament hopes.
Here are some takeaways from the loss.
An ugly first half, but 3-point shooting saves Michigan
In that first half, the same issues that have plagued Michigan all year long reared their ugly head.
Michigan has struggled to rebound all year long, especially against teams it is much bigger then. The Wolverines got outrebounded in the OT win over Ohio and in the loss to Central Michigan. They got outrebounded by the Terps (20-15) in that first half, with Maryland grabbing 10 offensive rebounds and Maryland scoring 11 second-chance points.
Combine that with sloppy play against Maryland’s zone, Michigan’s poor shot selection and poor transition defense, and the Wolverines were down 9-13 points for most of the first half. That poor defensive play continued into the second half, and was ultimately a catalyst for the loss.
For as bad as Michigan looked in the opening 20 minutes, their solid three-point shooting made sure they were only trailing by two at the half (34-32). They shot 6-of-13 from deep, with Jett Howard (13 points, 3-of-12 from three) and Hunter Dickinson (19 points, 10 rebounds, 3-of-5 from three) combining to make five threes in the half.
Michigan’s offense is broken, especially late in games
The blueprint is out for how to stop Michigan’s offense: double-team Dickinson and make the rest of the team generate offense against you.
That’s the strategy Northwestern went with, and it stalled Michigan’s offense for long periods on Sunday. Maryland did the same thing, and its uber-aggressvie defense combined with Michigan’s inability to take care of the ball led to 12 turnovers (twice as many as the Terps) and very little success offensively.
Dickinson has thrived shooting from mid-range and from three in the last few games, but this offense gets even more clogged if he starts missing those shots. Without Dickinson as an interior threat, Michigan is forced to run ball-screen after ball-screen and jack up threes, and as we’ve seen that’s not always a recipe for success from the Wolverines.
Jett Howard is great in spurts and as a catch-and-shoot guy but if he’s asked to run the offense, it doesn’t always go well. Kobe Bufkin, someone who has been a consistent second-half bucket getter, struggled in this one (two points, 1-for-6 from the field) and didn’t see the floor in the final few minutes. And point guard Dug McDaniel very much looked like a freshman guard on the road, only scoring four points while turning the ball over three times and playing lackluster defense, especially in the second half.
No one else on this roster can really be trusted to create their own look on a consistent basis. Late in games, they can’t generate reliable looks, which is a big reason why they have eight losses already this season.
The next few weeks are crucial for Michigan’s tournament resume, which is currently lacking considering Michigan’s lack of Quad 1 wins and road victories.
After facing Minnesota at home (Jan. 22, 1 p.m. tip-off), the Wolverines face No. 3 Purdue at home (Jan. 26, 9 p.m.) before traveling to Penn State (Jan. 29, noon) and Northwestern (Feb. 2, 7 p.m.).
Based on the NET rankings as of Jan. 19, those last three games will be Quad 1 wins if Michigan can come away victorious.
With how bad this team looked for stretches, that’s a pretty big if for this young squad.