That’s all the the Michigan Wolverines needed to earn a crucial win over Indiana at Crisler Arena on Saturday night. But Michigan went the final five minutes of the game without scoring a single point, and the Hoosiers prevailed 62-61.
The Wolverines led for most of the contest, including an 11-point bulge with six minutes remaining in the first half. But every time it seemed like Michigan was poised to take over, they made a crucial mistake. It was an ill-advised no-look pass from Dug McDaniel. Or a Terrance Williams spin move to nowhere. Or an early clock heat check three from Jett Howard.
Meanwhile, Indiana relentlessly attacked Michigan down low. The Hoosiers only attempted six three pointers on the night, but it didn’t matter. Their two-headed, two-named monster of Trayce Jackson-Davis and Jalen Hood-Schifino combined for 49 points, 15 rebounds, and eight assists. They made plays down the stretch, and the Wolverines could not.
Hunter Dickinson led UM with 16 points and seven rebounds, but he didn’t even touch the ball on the final possession. Michigan had the ball with eight seconds remaining and a chance to take the lead. But Kobe Bufkin dribbled for a bit before passing to Jett Howard, who then missed a wild, off-balance three pointer at the buzzer.
Here are three takeaways from the Michigan loss:
Same Old Song
This was Michigan’s fourth game against a top-25 opponent this season. The Wolverines are 0-4 in those games, losing by a combined total of 12 points. And that’s not counting a four-point loss to North Carolina, six-point losses to Maryland and Michigan State, and a nine-point overtime loss to Iowa.
Those are all top-50 teams in the Kenpom rankings. For whatever reason, when Michigan gets a chance to land a signature win, they just can’t capitalize. The Wolverines are now 14-11 on the season, and 8-6 in Big Ten Play. They have six big games remaining, but they likely have to win at least four to even be on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament. That would mean taking two of their remaining four road games, which include trips to Wisconsin, Rutgers, Illinois, and Indiana.
That 70s Show
Saturday night’s loss continued a season-long trend. When the Wolverines score, they usually win. That’s not a great revelation for any team, but the dividing line is rather stark. When Michigan scores 70 or more points this season their record is 12-3. When they score fewer than 70 points their record is 2-8.
The tough part about Saturday’s loss is that UM appeared to be headed to a comfortable 70-80 points. They had 37 points at halftime and were shooting 51.7% from the field. But they went just 8-for-25 (32%) in the second half, including 1-for-7 from three. Michigan’s big three combined for 30 points in the first half, but then two of those players basically disappeared.
Gotta Be Bufkin Kidding
Michigan sophomore guard Kobe Bufkin has been a terrific all-around player for most of the season. He’s the Wolverines’ best perimeter defender, and over his previous three games he had been averaging 14 points, nine rebounds, and six assists a game. It’s been enough for some to suggest NBA scouts are scrambling to see more of him.
And Bufkin looked to be well on his way to another outstanding contest on Saturday. He was called on to score more, and he did, seemingly getting to the basket at will in the first half. He nailed a three with 2:30 remaining in the first half to give him 14 points and push Michigan’s lead to 37-28.
But he never scored again. Bufkin went 0-for-4 in the second half, and finished with one rebound and zero assists. And Jett Howard wasn’t much better. He’s a projected lottery pick, but after scoring nine points on 4-of-8 shooting in the first half, he went just 1-for-6 for three points in the second half. Michigan simply can’t win when their two best NBA prospects don’t produce.
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