Coming off of two close home wins over Northwestern and Minnesota last week, Michigan took their game on the road to play the Wildcats for the second time in an eight day span. The game started out well, with Michigan establishing their offense early and jumping out to a quick ten point lead. Northwestern would claw back to within three points at halftime and then outclassed the Wolverines in the second half. Michigan would score just 20 points after the break and fell 61-52. The loss drops them to 8-5 in the Big Ten and 19-7 overall.
Michigan has uncharacteristically struggled from the charity stripe this season. Against Minnesota last time out, the Wolverines made just 12 of their 28 attempts. Tonight, they were able to make 13 of their 19 attempts, although most of those misses came down the stretch when Michigan could ill afford to have empty possessions. Michigan’s 68.4% free throw shooting today was actually a smidge better than their season average of 64.2%. If Michigan hopes to compete in close meaningful games late in the season, their free throw percentage is going to need to drastically improve.
As stated above, the Wolverines had a tough time scoring in the second half. For one ten minute stretch, Michigan was held to zero makes from the field. Michigan has shown that they are capable of pouring in points, but have also shown a maddening penchant for falling into scoring droughts for long stretches of the game. Time and again, Michigan players will disappear during a game and have very little impact. Charles Matthews struggled with fouls today and barely made a wrinkle in the score sheet. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman is one such player who sometimes gets too passive. Michigan’s senior guard didn’t even attempt a shot in the second half until there was less than four minutes to play in the game. As one of Michigan’s leaders and their third highest scorer, Abdur-Rahkman needs to take it upon himself to get points when the rest of Michigan’s team is struggling.
Today, Moe Wagner was able to find his shot, scoring 20 points and coming a rebound shy of another double-double. Unfortunately, Michigan got very little production elsewhere. Abdur-Rahkman scored 11 points, but the next highest was Zavier Simpson with just 6 points. What really hurt was Michigan’s poor shooting from beyond the arc tonight. The Wolverines would make just 5 of their 22 attempts. Duncan Robinson was 1-4, Jordan Poole went 1-5, and Simpson was 0-4. When three players are shooting that poorly, it will be hard for Michigan to win.
With just five games left for the Wolverines in conference play, the season is quickly winding down. Due to a middling Big Ten, there is just one more opportunity for Michigan to grab a signature win, when they host Ohio State in just under two weeks. However, road games against Wisconsin and Maryland will surely be tests for Michigan. Penn State has been playing well lately and Iowa always gives Michigan trouble too. Despite not looking like good match-ups on paper, Michigan has their work cut out for them. The Wolverines can’t look past any of their opponents and probably need to win at least three to avoid any real bubble drama. First up is a trip to Wisconsin on Sunday. The game will air at 1PM on CBS.
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