Michigan Wolverines Basketball: What They're Saying After Minnesota Win
After Michigan’s narrow victory at home against Minnesota, here’s a look around the Internet about what they’re saying about the Wolverines:
For much of the night, and particularly in the waning moments of Michigan’s game against Minnesota on Tuesday night, John Beilein didn’t like what he saw.
But in the end, all that really mattered was what he heard, after Charles Matthews picked up a loose ball along the baseline, took one dribble and released a high-arching shot over the Gophers’ Jordan Murphy as time expired.
“I trust my ears,” Michigan's head coach explained later. I saw the ball leave his hand and I heard a buzzer go off. And that’s usually a good sign.”
It was, eventually, though obviously the best sign was that the ball actually went through the hoop on a night where that was hardly commonplace for the fifth-ranked Wolverines.
And after a lengthy review to confirm Matthews had released it prior to the Crisler Center shot clock expired, the officials made their ruling. The basket counted, the crowd erupted once more, and Michigan — coming off its first loss of the season Saturday at Wisconsin — had escaped, 59-57, despite blowing a double-digit lead in the final 5 minutes of regulation.
“That could’ve gone the other way,” Beilein said. “I mean, that would’ve been a devastating loss.”
Instead, it was a fortunate win, though when a reporter referenced an “ugly” victory in the postgame media scrum, Matthews furrowed his brow and noted he’s “not a huge fan” of that description. A win is a win in the Big Ten, even when they look like this.
Or sound like this, as Beilein surveyed the stat sheet and rattled off some of the unpleasant numbers Tuesday night. Michigan shot 33.9 percent from the field, went just 3-for-22 from the three-point line, missed eight of 22 free throws, and managed just seven assists all game — only two in the second half.
The Wolverines played well offensively for about 12 minutes in the second half, and it seemed like that would be enough. Then they went five minutes without scoring before Matthews’ heroics, missed some switches on defense, missed free throws and everything else and were forced to escape.
Much of what had worked so well in the first 17 games has been missing in the last two, including sophomore Jordan Poole’s three ball … and his resolve. The sophomore is taking bad shots, and he’s letting his misses affect his play in other areas.
There were times it looked like he was playing a game at the YMCA Tuesday night, and he was brought to the bench for a few … well, stern ‘talking-tos’ from Beilein.
He even missed two free throws that could have helped put the game away late, finished 0-for-3 from three-point range and without a single rebound.
Matthews scored only five other points in addition to his game winner, and junior point guard Zavier Simpson was held without an assist, in part because his teammates couldn’t make anything.
The transition game, too, was lacking, and it was their own fault, a frustrated Beilein said.
There will be nights like this again. When the shooting guard can’t shoot, and the small forward can’t attack, and the offense sinks into mud.
And it won’t matter. Because Michigan plays defense.
Oh, and hits buzzer beaters, too. As Charles Matthews did Tuesday night when he hit a baseline jumper after a rebound to lift the Wolverines over Minnesota, 59-57, and to keep U-M from losing consecutive games for the first time in two years.
But, back to the offense …
Before the season started, before the 17-0 start and the No. 2 ranking, this is what worried John Beilein and his staff. That his team didn’t have enough offense, which is was easy to forget as the Wolverines found buckets up and down its roster as it rampaged through the first half of its schedule.
Well, U-M has struggled to score in its last two games — and hasn’t shot well from deep since league play began. It’s tempting to think this is water returning to its level.
But I’d resist that temptation for now. Wisconsin is one of the best defensive teams in the game. And while Minnesota isn’t a top-shelf defensive unit, its size and muscle underneath can clog a lane and obstruct the rim.
Besides, the Wolverines missed plenty of open shots. Shots they’ve made for most of the season, even if their attack has slowed in league play.
Beilein’s teams often find themselves during this time of the season. This year, that isn’t an issue defensively, which is why they won Tuesday night.
And while it’s an issue on offense as of late, the playmakers and shotmakers are still there. Give them time. History suggests they will figure it out.
For the second straight game, Michigan limped to the finish line. On Saturday at Wisconsin, it resulted in the first loss of the season. Against Minnesota on Tuesday, a last-second lunge allowed Michigan to escape victorious.
The Wolverines were 3-for-22 from 3 and tallied just seven assists on Tuesday, both low marks for the season. They missed eight foul shots (a 64 percent success rate). And they went scoreless for most of the final five minutes, allowing Minnesota to close on a 10-0 run before Charles Matthews beat the buzzer to give Michigan a 59-57 win.
"I'm really disappointed in how we handled ourselves in the closing minutes," Michigan head coach John Beilein said. "We've got to work at it going forward, because our shot selection and our decision-making wasn't great at that time."
Even the hero, Matthews, wasn't taking a victory lap. "I'm happy," he said. "But I don't feel like we played that well today."
Michigan trailed 6-0 and 19-10. It took its first lead a few minutes after halftime and seemed to pull away, getting up by as many as 13 halfway through the second half.
"We all have a saying when we come out in the second half: 'Let's run them out of the gym,'" Matthews said. "And we usually put our foot on their neck and touch it to the floor."
It didn't happen Tuesday. Minnesota hung around and finished with a flurry. Three baskets, a free throw, and a 3-pointer tied the game. Michigan did not score after Jon Teske's short jumper with 4:51 left until Matthews' buzzer beater.
The final sequence had Beilein frustrated, talking about the same shortcomings, for the second game in a row. There were missed layups. Michigan's most reliable foul shooter missed two free throws. Beilein thought a couple of the shots were rushed; that Michigan could have gotten better looks. Compounding matters, the Wolverines often didn't sprint back on defense, allowing Minnesota to score before Michigan was set.
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