Sunday, January 13, 2013

Michigan’s undefeated season ends in heartbreaker in Columbus

Quick Recap: The Wolverines lost a heartbreaker in Columbus in a game featuring many ups and downs from both teams. The 56-53 defeat at the hands of the Buckeyes is Michigan’s first loss of the season. This loss strikes especially hard at the hearts of the Michigan fans with the #1 ranking in the country in sight, as #1 Duke was taken down in Raleigh by NC State yesterday.

A Game of Runs: This game was truly a game of mega-runs, as Ohio State jumped out to a 29-8 lead in the first 14 minutes. Michigan methodically clawed their way back engineering a 38-17 run to tie the game at 46 with 5:58 left in the game. Ohio State outworked the Wolverines over the final stretch, as Michigan only managed two field goals, settling for 8 three-pointers, only one of which was converted.

What Went Wrong: The execution to begin the game was horrific. Michigan, averaging just over 9 turnovers per game, committed 8 in the first 10 minutes. Trey Burke struggled early on defense against Aaron Craft. He also struggled moving the ball and running the offense for much of the game, as he appeared to be forcing his own offense a little too hard against a top-tier perimeter defender in Craft. Nik Stauskas was an absolute no-show in his first true road test, scoring zero points on 0-3 shooting. Tim Hardaway also struggled on both ends of the court, shooting 5-15 for 12 points.

What We Learned: Spike Albrecht was the key player that stopped the Ohio State run to start the game. His 7 points mid-way through the first half were key in switching momentum. His defense on Aaron Craft halted OSU’s easy-flowing offense that catalyzed the early run. In addition Mitch McGary is becoming the superior option at center compared to Jordan Morgan. It’s been obvious throughout the year that McGary is a better defender. However, his presence on offense in the pick-and-roll is having more of a positive impact because McGary’s ability to finish at the rim has improved as he’s become more comfortable with the offense. Finally, Michigan played its best 25-minute stretch of defense of the year, holding Ohio State to 27 minutes in that stretch, allowing for the comeback.

Big Picture: On the whole, Michigan probably outplayed Ohio State for most of the game. To come back from a 21-point road deficit against a top-15 team nationally takes resiliency, mental toughness, a steady coach, and high-quality execution under pressure in difficult conditions. Michigan displayed all of these in coming back from that deficit, even while shooting under 40% overall. While the execution down the stretch of this winnable game was poor, Michigan lost this game in the first 10 minutes, not the last 10. This was the first true tough road test the Wolverines faced and Michigan was simply not ready for it. I would expect a better effort out of the gate at The Barn on Thursday. This was definitely a tough one to swallow for Michigan fans. But before the fan base panics, road losses are going to be common in the Big Ten this year, and at 16-1, Michigan is sitting very pretty and their ceiling is still sky-high.

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