For Michigan, too much of their 83-73 loss to Indiana was just a replay of their loss to Ohio State. Once again, a loss on the road to a highly ranked conference foe will cost Michigan the no. 1 spot in the country.
The similarities between the two games are haunting for Michigan. Indiana ran out to a 20-7 lead at the start of the game, much like when Ohio State started on a 26-8 run three weeks ago. Michigan looked frazzled early on, running choppy offense and tentative defense. Meanwhile Indiana made their first six shots, including four 3-pointers.
Michigan would eventually make their way back in to the game, slowly but surely, before a Trey Burke fade away three just before the halftime buzzer made it a 4 point Indiana lead. For Michigan, that was more or less as close as the game would get. Indiana would stretch the lead out to double digits and the Wolverines would get it back to about four. They did tie it at 40, two minutes in to the second half, but that was followed by an 11-0 run by Indiana.
At the end, Michigan was not able to keep up with Indiana’s firepower. Burke was superb, carrying the team on his back for long stretches. He scored 25 points, with eight assists and five rebounds. However, Michigan did not have good enough flow on offense, too often ending possessions with a contested Burke jumper.
Tim Hardaway Jr. and Mitch McGary were the only other Wolverines to really play well. Hardaway hit 8-16 shots on his way to 18 points, while McGary added 10 points and 7 rebounds off the bench.
The problem for Michigan was the poor play of just about everyone else. Freshmen standouts Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III combined for just seven points in the first 38 minutes of play. Robinson did not score until he made a transition dunk in the final minutes, after the game was essentially decided. Stauskas was just 1-5 form the three point line, with his make coming in garbage time also.
Just like in the loss to Ohio State, Michigan’s star freshmen (Stauskas and Robinson) were horrendous. Robinson specifically, is not a guy with plays drawn up for on offense. He excels by creating his own shots, with offensive rebounds, back cuts and scoring in transition. He was invisible for most of the game, standing still in the corner on offense, instead of forcing the issue. Michigan is such a young team, and they depend on their freshmen to play well. They are not a luxury if they perform beyond their age, they are depended on to do that.
Finally, Michigan had no answer for Cody Zeller. The big man had 19 points and 10 rebounds in the game. His biggest impact was on the offensive glass, where Michigan refused to box him out several times, resulting in easy put-backs. Whether or not Jordan Morgan would have done any better if he was healthy and playing is not certain. But, Michigan really could not handle the standout Zeller.
Oh yeah, Victor Oladipo is still incredible and almost broke the internet with what would have been one of the greatest alley-oops ever in the second half. He is so much fun to watch, especially when he was guarding Burke or really doing anything involving basketball.
At the end of the day, Michigan lost to a really good Indiana team, in one of the toughest road venues in the country. Despite being ranked no. 1 in the country, Michigan was an underdog coming in to this game. The disappointing aspect for Michigan is that this was the same story as the Ohio State loss. Despite how outplayed they were to start the game, Michigan still stuck around and was within two possessions for much of the second half. It makes one wonder, if they had gotten ANY contribution from Robinson and better play from Stauskas, would this have ended differently?
We will never know. But, boy did Michigan’s time at no. 1 go quickly? In this Big Ten, though, they have no time to dwell over this loss, as no. 11 Ohio State comes to Ann Arbor on Tuesday. With the way things are going this season, Michigan will likely have another shot at reclaiming the top spot soon. For now though, it is back to work, following a disappointing performance. But, as Burke said this week, all that matters is who’s no. 1 at the end of the season, not early February.