Thanksgiving Eve might generally be a relaxed affair for many, but for Michigan Wolverines basketball it was business as usual.
In a game that will largely be viewed on it’s bookends, the Wolverines started slow, flexed their muscle in the middle and got a bit too easy going at the end.
Here are some takeaways from the 78-68 victory:
Riding out a slow start is a risky game to be playing
Disclaimer: it’s November. Many, many teams are still buffing out the kinks and getting into a groove. The problem for Michigan though isn’t that it’s taking too long outside of the games, but rather inside to warm up to each other.
While it hasn’t affected them too harshly, they are 5-1 after all, there have been multiple games this season that never quite felt comfortable because of how the Wolverines started them. In addition, it’d be fair to say the snowball affect of a slow start was what led to the one loss to Arizona State to become such a blowout.
Time will tell just how much of their current struggles are early season jitters vs. an actual problem. But with teams like Virginia, Kentucky and North Carolina rapidly approaching, Michigan doesn’t have the time they’d probably like to have.
The Wolverines have to space out their three-point attempts more
This point and the last one somewhat go hand in hand, but I feel the need to specifically point it out because of how stark the difference was in three-point shooting from the first to second halves. In the first half of Wednesday’s game, the Wolverines shot 33% on 16 attempts from three. In the second, they improved dramatically; shooting 50% on 14 attempts.
In his postgame press conference, head coach Juwan Howard was supportive of his team’s three-point volume, saying “if they shot 30 threes, I’m okay with 30 threes.” What my response would be to that statement is this — it’s not the volume of three-point shots that’s the problem, it’s the pacing. Of Michigan’s first 13 shots, 10 were three pointers — and only 3 went in. This undoubtedly contributed to the back and forth affair the rest of the first half shaped up to be, and it will continue to guide that momentum in the future if it isn’t adjusted.
The defense was...better?
Admittedly, I wouldn’t put too much stock in how the defense looked in this one. The plain and simple truth is Jackson State played an offensive style that can most generously be described as unpredictable — finishing 35% from the field and a dismal 22% from beyond the three-point line on some very questionable shot choices.
The biggest thing that looked improved from the Wolverines was their ability to keep the game in front of them. In previous games — Arizona State most notably but also in the EMU and Ohio victories — Michigan allowed opponents to take sizeable leads when its offense went cold. On Wednesday, Jackson State was only ever able to amass a three-point cushion when it had the hot hand.
It’s still not quite what you’d want to see from the Wolverines’ defense, but it’s an important progression that in theory should lead to a more wholesale effort in games to come.