The Wolverine

February 2024

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 43 of 67

44 THE WOLVERINE ❱ FEBRUARY 2024 BY CHRIS BALAS P undits picked Michigan to finish 11th in the Big Ten this year due to a depleted roster and a reboot with several new players. The returnees and new additions didn't take kindly to it, promising to shock the world and exceed expectations. They got off to a solid start with impressive wins in their first three games, including an 89-73 victory over St. John's that wasn't as close as the final score. After his team's loss, Red Storm coach Rick Pitino cred- ited the Wolverines and pre- dicted there wouldn't be many in the Big Ten better than head coach Juwan Howard's fifth team. But the fun wouldn't last, and defense was the biggest reason why. The Wolverines gave up 94 points to Long Beach State in their first loss, a 94-86 setback Nov. 17 that would prove a sign of things to come. They stood 7-11 overall, 2-5 and last in the Big Ten as of Jan. 22 with the toughest part of the conference slate yet to come. Per, Michigan ranked 136th in adjusted defensive efficiency (points allowed over 100 possessions, adjusted for opponent) at that point, one of the worst in the Big Ten. The poor play on that end was on display again in an 88-73 home loss to Illinois Jan. 18, a game U-M trailed 37-36 at halftime. "Overall, defensively, we didn't show any type of presence or physicality in the second half like we did in the first half," Howard said in the postgame. "We al- lowed this team to score 51 points in the second half and 42 points in the paint, as well as 16 second-chance points and 13 offensive rebounds. This league is a very physical league, and that's tough when you give up that amount of points in the second half. "Overall, I would just say defensively we didn't do a good job in the second half like we did in the first half." That's been a theme much of the year, and there doesn't seem to be any relief in sight. The Wolverines played well in a 73-65 win over Ohio State Jan. 15 to end a five-game losing streak, but they were exposed again in their matchup with the Illini, who took the ball to the rim and were much more physical than the Wolverines for most of the second half. On one late possession, assistant Saddi Washington was so frustrated on a blown rotation that he could be seen pacing the sideline before plopping in his seat with his head in his hands. "The effort was there," Howard in- sisted. "There were just mental mis- takes at times, whether it was fatigue or a lack of communication … I would say both. There was a three by [Illinois for- ward] Coleman Hawkins in transition where we had two guys that didn't commu- nicate and allowed an open three, and that was one of the big buckets that keyed their run … and then there were finishes in the paint, whether it was by Ty Rod- gers or by Marcus Domask that ignited their confidence. Their 17-2 run was deflating to the group." The offense hadn't been perfect — efficiency on that side of the ball ranked 45th nationally — but there was enough to win more games had the defense not been abysmal so often. Sopho- more Tarris Reed Jr. said what most felt after watch- ing the collapse against the Illini. "We gave up 51 points in the second half on the de- fensive side. No team in the country is going to win if you give up 50-plus points in the second half," the big center explained. "We have to stay solid, stay disciplined and trust the process. "I feel like it's our identity. Some players might not know who they are guarding at certain points in the game. We've just got to be more disciplined. "That's the biggest thing. Discipline. We work on it every day. I feel like we're not all trusting Coach [Howard] right now, but I know we're going to turn it around. We've just got to ask ourselves and look at the man in the mirror and figure it out from there. We've got to find our identity as individuals and as a team. … We've got a lot of players that can switch on the ball one through five, and I feel like we have to take advantage of that more." The sooner, the better if they're going to salvage the season. ❑ ❱  MICHIGAN BASKETBALL Defense Has Been Michigan's Undoing In Disappointing Start Sophomore point guard Dug McDaniel returned to the lineup Jan. 15, scoring 15 points with 4 assists in the Wolverines' 73-65 win at home over Ohio State. He continues to serve a six-game academic suspension for road games only. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Wolverine - February 2024