Thursday, January 1, 2009

UM-Wisco: Humble Pie

Yesterday's game at Crisler was not pleasant.  Michigan's offense (like the weather outside) had dropped below freezing and those who had turned out for the game were disappointed to see their Wolverines drop the Big Ten opener 73-61.  Wisconsin got off to a hot start, shooting 65% in the first half.  When shown the box score to the first half, one fan in front of our seats told us "Wow... I thought they were shooting a lot higher than that."  Wisconsin had killed the Wolverines momentum, taking the shot clock down to about 3 second on at least 4 possesions and then nailing a three with only a second to spare.  Just to give you an idea of how badly things had gotten: Much of the discussion between reporters/broadcasters centered on how much each of us would give to be covering Michigan Women's Gymnastics in Cancun this week (One person offered their first-born child in exchange for a ticket).  It was one of those games.

Anyways, here are the slices to this post of "Humble Pie"...

Not so Fresh:  Manny Harris struggled mightily all day long, going 3-13 for 9 pts and 6 rebs.  It was very reminiscent of last year's game in the B10 tournament when  Harris had only 4 points and 3 rebounds in a 51-34 Wisconsin blow-out.  Ryan made the necessary adjustments on Harris after he lit-up the Badgers for 26 pts in Madison  early last year. I said it during our broadcast and I'll say it again: Bo Ryan's meticulous coaching style and attention to defense/rebounding are the reasons why he has taken his team to 7 straight tournament appearances.  His teams are always well-disciplined and defend extremely well.  Ryan seemed to have plenty of pins placed in the Manny Harris Voodoo doll yesterday.  It's just a good thing the Wolverines won't see the Badgers again until March.

A Herd without a Shepherd:  I talked to a lot of Michigan students who attended or watched at home last night and 90% of these people asked me the same question: What happened to Jevohn Shepherd?  After starting every game since Duke, Shepherd was taken out of the starting rotation in favor of Zack Novak.  Yes, Novak had a big game... but why not take Douglass out of the line-up in favor of Novak and keep Shepherd (arguably this team's best wing defender)?  UM has been undefeated and has been winning games comfortably (sans Savannah St.) since Shepherd has been a starter.  Shepherd had the quickness to stay with Landry (16 points) and the size to play with Jon Leuer (12 points).   Stay with what works! 

On the other hand, Douglass played 20 minutes for ZERO POINTS, ZERO REBOUNDS, two turnovers and went 0-3 from beyond the arc.  Shepherd played 4 minutes, didn't see the ball, and barely had enough time to break a sweat.  I think this game showed the Twine Twins are better used as interchangable parts than players that can play alongside each other.  This line-up might've worked better if the Twins were two years older, but they are too big of a defensive liablity right now. 

Too little Too late?  I couldn't figure out why Coach Beilein decided to keep Manny Harris AND DeShawn Sims out of the game with just over two minutes left down by 11 points.  It makes perfect sense to take them out if Beilein was going to foul.... but he didn't foul anyone until Michigan 1:37 left in the 2nd!!! Not only that, but down by 11 with two minutes left, Beilein subbed in Stu Douglass and Zack Gibson for LLP and Sims.  Wait...What?!?  What are you doing?!?! This move didn't make much sense, inserting two scorless players for your second and third leading scorers (niether of whom are in any danger of fouling out).  By the way, Douglass is now 3-13 over his last 3 games from 3pt-range, yet has started every game.  I have no idea why he continues to average 20 minutes a game. 

To make things even weirder, Coach Beilein left LLP (the second leading scorer) on the bench until 54 seconds left.  Perry was one of only four players to make a 3 pointer the entire game for Michigan.  Yet, he rides the bench in crunch time in favor of Douglass (who didn't score a single point!), who proceded to turn the ball over and committ a foul in that time.  I don't tend to question Michigan coaches who start 10-2 to begin a season and beat Duke... but what gives?!?Did they believe the game was too far out of hand?  Does Beilein owe Douglass money or something?  I just didn't get understand why some of those coaching moves were made throughout the game.  A lot of that didn't make sense to myself, or five other people sitting with us in press row. 

Attendance was listed as 11,000 but it'll be interesting to see how many people keep coming if Michigan drops the next game to Illinois on Sunday.  Michigan's ticket department was giving a free tickets to the OSU game later this year for every Wisco ticket purchased, so maybe that had something to do with the inflated numbers.  

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