A 53-point second-half performance Wednesday night helped Michigan into the Legends Classic final against Arizona State. However, Michigan lost all of its mojo somewhere in that 24-hour span. The Wolverines were uncharacteristically tied Thursday night and Arizona State jumped all over Juwan Howard’s team to hand Michigan its first loss of the season in what will be a game Michigan fans hope to forget.
Here are three takeaways from one of the worst Michigan basketball games in recent memory.
There are five appetizers for a reason
Coby Bufkin scored a career-high 14 points in Michigan’s first-round win over Pittsburgh, but the sophomore was essentially a non-factor in the first half against Arizona State. The 6-foot-6 guard posted a blank stat line, with the exception of one assist. He shot 0-5 from the floor and couldn’t string together two good nights. He came alive a bit in the second half, but finished with just five points on 1-9 shooting.
Terrance Williams was also absent in the first half. The youngster finished the first 20 minutes with an empty stat line. He shot the ball once, missed and didn’t record a single rebound, assist, block or steal. The 6-foot-7 forward was getting his cardio in, but that was it Thursday night. He finished with four points on 2-5 shooting.
Jaelin Llewellyn also underperformed at point guard. The Princeton transfer has had a rough transition from the Ivy League to the Big Ten, and it certainly didn’t get any smoother Thursday night. The 6-foot-2 guard was 2-6 from the floor, 0-3 from distance and scored five points on the night.
The three aforementioned starters combined for 14 points on the night. Dickinson and Howard shouldered the bulk of the workload on the night, but fielding five starters and having the three play almost no role in the game is not a recipe for success.
It was rather surprising to see such an innocent exit from the team’s leaders on Thursday after such an onslaught on Wednesday night against Pittsburgh.
The defense needs to improve
Arizona State scored 46 points in the first half. That should pretty much be said as a takeaway from this game. Sure, the Sun Devils seemingly couldn’t lose in the first half, and they did pretty well in the second half, but Michigan’s defense was an area of concern Thursday night.
The Sun Devils shot 60.4% from the floor and 57.9% from deep. They had a remarkable night of shooting, and that’s what happens. However, Michigan came out flat and it showed. Arizona State jumped out to a 10-point lead less than five minutes into the game and never looked back.
The Wolverines looked sluggish on the perimeter and couldn’t find a defensive rhythm. Even when the man-to-man wasn’t working and Juwan Howard made the switch in zone, the Sun Devils were still able to cut through Michigan’s defense.
Arizona State played lights out tonight, but they are not a college basketball powerhouse. Michigan will get a bit of a break as it hosts Ohio State and Jackson State, but if the Wolverines want to compete in the Big Ten and make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, it will need to clean up its defense against teams. with even minimal talent.
Poor free throw shooting continues to haunt
Michigan stepped up in the second half, but poor free throw shooting continues to haunt this basketball team. The Wolverines shot 8-15 from the charity stripe in the first half and finished the game 14-22 (63.6%) from the free throw line. Meanwhile, Arizona State missed just one of its 12 attempts, good for a 91.7 percent clip.
Apparently, the game was not called at the free throw line. Even if Michigan had made all of its free throws and Arizona State had missed its share, this game still wouldn’t have been close. However, free throw shooting is a major area of concern right now for Michigan. Below is a complete breakdown of Michigan’s shots through four games this season.
Purdue Fort Wayne: 6-9 (66.6%)
Eastern Michigan: 25-40 (62.5%)
Pittsburgh: 12-18 (66.6%)
Arizona State: 16-24 (66.6%)
Michigan has yet to shoot better than 70% from the free throw line as a team this season. Poor free throw shooting can come back to haunt the Wolverines late in tight games. It almost cost them against Eastern Michigan, but there will no doubt be many tough games throughout the rest of the season.
Discuss this article with our community on the premium message boards
Not a Maize & Blue Review subscriber? Sign up today to get access to the latest Michigan Intel M&BR has to offer
Subscribe to our podcasts: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify
Check out the Maize & Blue Review video content on YouTube
Follow Maize & Blue Review on social media: Facebook, TwitterTikTok and Instagram