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February 16, 2014

Defense a concern for U-M after loss to Wisconsin

There has been plenty of criticism of the Michigan men's basketball team's offensive play in recent weeks, and for good reason.

In Sunday's 75-62 loss to Wisconsin in Crisler Arena, the Wolverines shot 40.0 percent in the game and struggled mightily in the first half, making just 7-of-22 shots, registering zero assists and scoring a season-low 19 points.

The offense has stumbled here and there, shooting poorly against Indiana and posting too many turnovers against Iowa.

But the Wolverines' biggest concern, right now, may be on the defensive end.

Teams are scoring at will, it seems, against the Wolverines.

This is a breakdown of Michigan opponents' effective field goal percentage in the last five games (for those who don't know, effective field goal percentage is calculated by giving 50 percent more weight to three-point makes):

  • Wisconsin - 57.8 percent

  • Ohio State - 47.1 percent

  • Iowa - 55.7 percent

  • Nebraska - 39.8 percent

  • Indiana - 62.8 percent

    For comparison's sake, Creighton is No. 1 nationally in effective field goal percent (58.1 percent).

    In the last five games, every team except Nebraska has posted much higher effective field goal percentages against the Wolverines than on the season as a whole. The Badgers are averaging 53.2 percent; Ohio State, 51.1 percent); Iowa, 51.8 percent; Indiana, 49.5 percent.

    "We have saved ourselves a number of times this year, just because we were playing well offensively, but we realize to be champions - Big Ten Champions - we are going to have to rely on our defense at times," sophomore guard Nik Stauskas said. "We know shots aren't always going to drop. A game like today, you really see, if we're struggling offensively and defensively, it is not going to go well for us.

    "It was tough. We didn't want to go zone today, because we know how many shooters they have out there. That was something we were thinking about, but everything we were doing defensively wasn't working today."

    The Badgers found success from nearly every spot on the floor. They shot 41.2 percent from three-point range (7-of-17); outscored the Wolverines 32-14 in the paint; and grabbed 10 offensive rebounds.

    Big man Frank Kaminsky perplexed the Wolverines all day, shooting 11-of-16 from the field and finishing with a double-double (25 points, 11 rebounds).

    "Sometimes, a team is playing really well, and things swing their way," redshirt junior forward Jon Horford said. "It was one of those games. Credit to Wisconsin. They played excellent.

    "It something you have to force out of yourself sometimes. They energy isn't always going to be there. You're going to have days where you just don't feel it. If you can't produce that energy for yourself, then produce it for your teammates. If you're not coming our with that energy and putting in that effort, you're letting people down."

    But Horford says the Wolverines have nothing to get down on themselves about.

    "There is no reason to be disappointed," he said. "It is what it is. What's done is done. We have to move on, and we have to realize when it gets addressed early in the future, we have to make changes instead of being upset about it."

    The Wolverines, who have lost back-to-back games just twice in the last three years, have the next week off, not playing again until Michigan State comes to town next Sunday.

    With the Spartans' loss Sunday afternoon, the lead for the Big Ten will be on the line between the two teams.

    "It's huge to have some time off, especially for our really high-minute guys," Horford said. "They really need to take a couple days off, rest and get their energy back. They can heal up their bodies a little bit and get ready for this push.

    "That always benefits us. Our coaching staff is so good at preparing the scouting reporting and getting us ready to play. To have a week to prepare for a team is something that is definitely an advantage to us."

    "It will be really important," added sophomore Caris LeVert. "We will learn from today a lot. We will rest our bodies a little bit. We have had a lot of games in the last couple of weeks. We will get some rest and be ready for the game."

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