The Michigan Wolverines lost to Rutgers 62-50
Michigan trailed Rutgers 40-39 with 10:45 remaining in the second half. Scarlet Knights freshman guard Derek Simpson was on the free throw line.
He made his first free throw to push the lead to two, but his second shot clanked off the rim. Michigan failed to block out Simpson, or go after the rebound. He corralled his own miss, converted a simple layup, and Michigan never got close again.
Game over. Season over.
Michigan held a 28-25 lead at the half thanks to a Joey Baker three as time expired. It was an ugly game, with UM committing seven turnovers and Rutgers shooting just 29.4% from the floor. But it felt like the Wolverines had a good chance to win, if they just cleaned up a few things in the second half.
Instead, in a true must-win game, Michigan played its worst half of basketball all year. Rutgers certainly deserves credit for some of that, with stifling defense and opportunistic buckets.
But the Michigan Wolverines will not be going to the NCAA Tournament this year, and they only have themselves to blame.
Perhaps it’s for the best. On Thursday they looked like a team that didn’t feel like playing any more basketball this season.
Michigan’s star center Hunter Dickinson has one more year of eligibility, but his future remains in question. NBA scouts don’t seem to think he’s a fit for their league, but anyone with his combination of size and skill can likely carve out a long career overseas.
If it was Dickinson’s final game for the Maize and Blue, he acquitted himself fairly well. He finished with 24 points, going 8-for-14 from two and adding a pair of threes. He also chipped in seven rebounds and three blocks. Michigan clearly made him the focus of its offense. But Rutgers also doubled him frequently in the second half, and it proved to be a winning strategy.
The Wolverines found a lot of interesting ways to lose this season. But Thursday’s game might take the cake. Michigan hit just ONE field goal in the first 19 minutes of the second half. That’s not a misprint.
Michigan missed its first four shots from the floor in the second half. Dickinson broke the drought at the 15:10 mark with a three pointer, but then they bricked 11 consecutive shots. Dickinson made another three with one minute remaining, but by that point the game was over. The Wolverines shot 4-for-21 in the second half. Their previous low for made field goals in a half this year was seven.
Not Quite Ready
Michigan guards Jett Howard and Kobe Bufkin have been projected as potential first-round picks ($). But on Thursday they both showed significant holes in their game. Bufkin flashed his well-rounded skills, with nine points, seven rebounds, five assists, two blocks, and two steals. But he’ll probably need to be a point guard at the next level, and his seven turnovers suggest that could be a struggle.
Meanwhile, Jett Howard continued to show zero interest in defense or rebounding. When he’s not making shots — and on Thursday he was just 2-for-8 — he doesn’t affect the game in any positive ways. He played 36 minutes and recorded just three rebounds and one steal.
For Rutgers, it’s a matchup with top seed Purdue. For Michigan? Nothing much.
The Wolverines certainly aren’t going to the NCAA Tournament now. They will likely be offered a spot in the NIT, but Michigan may turn it down and simply choose to end their very disappointing season.
Photo Credit: Alex Martin/Journal and Courier / USA TODAY NETWORK