Michigan traveled to Champaign, Illinois attempting to win their first road game of the season. The Wolverines and Fighting Illini went back and forth for most of the first half and it looked like it could be a good game. Then a 17-2 Illinois run ended the half and the game was all but over after that. Illinois caught fire offensively before the break and then came out without the slightest drop-off. Just about everything went right for the Illini and the Wolverines could never even make it a game, leading to an 85-69 Michigan loss.
Where’s the defense?
Illinois couldn’t seem to miss, but that wasn’t the only reason that they scored 85 points. Michigan’s defense was abysmal. Time and time again, the Illini would take it right at Michigan players under the hoop (namely Mo Wagner and DJ Wilson) and couldn’t be stopped. They were also hot from three, making nine of their fourteen shots from behind the arc. Michigan was able to hold Malcom Hill to just fifteen points, but other opposing players had great games and Illinois had even scoring, with six players in double digits. Finally, Michigan has never been much of a rebounding team, but they were crushed on the glass, collecting just seventeen, while giving up 30 to Illinois, including eight offensive rebounds.
The energy that Michigan and Illinois each brought to the game looked vastly different. Illinois was attacking the entire game, never content with their lead. Their game plan was obviously to go right at Michigan’s bigs and force them into fouls or getting shots around the rim. Michigan normally commits few fouls, but had fifteen tonight. Once Michigan gave up the run to Illinois, it looked like the team packed it in. It was as if they had already decided they had lost and didn’t want to expend any energy to get back into the game. Illinois is a team that Michigan has owned recently, but there was none of that tonight.
With everyone struggling on defense and most players having off nights, at least Wilson continued in the right direction. DJ led the Wolverines with nineteen points, while Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman added fourteen as well. Abdur-Rahkman started the game off well in the first half, with ten quick points within the first eight minutes. However, despite his aggressiveness, the rest of the Wolverines couldn’t pull their share of the load.
Michigan drops to 1-3 in the Big Ten and are a big rally at home against Penn State from being winless in the conference. It doesn’t look good right now. Michigan’s offense has really stalled since they have entered conference play, while their defense has taken a major step back as well. They have not had a strong game yet and still have the meat of their schedule coming up: Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Indian twice, Purdue, Minnesota… The list goes on and right now every team in the Big Ten (other than Rutgers) looks formidable. Michigan has struggled mightily on the road so far this season and they still have seven road games left. They may be lucky if they finish over .500 in the conference at this rate.
The Wolverines have Nebraska coming to Crisler this Saturday at 2 PM. It will also air on the Big Ten Network. Like I said after the last game, Nebraska has had a few surprising road wins already within the conference and can definitely not be taken lightly. With how Michigan has been playing, this may be a must win game, to at the very least turn their season around.
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