- Adam Glanzman/Daily
By Neal Rothschild, Daily Sports Editor
Published December 4, 2013
If it wasn’t so painful, it might have just been called odd.
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The No. 22 Michigan men’s basketball team’s offensive performance in Tuesday night’s 79-69 loss to Duke was by far the worst of the season, never mind that the Wolverines have also lost games scoring 70 and 61 points.
With 119 seconds remaining, Michigan trailed 68-50. To that point, it had shot 18-for-46 and only 1-for-9 on 3-pointers.
Down 18 with two minutes to play, Michigan (5-3) got a layup from sophomore forward Mitch McGary, and then the hacking commenced. The Wolverines fouled the Blue Devils to send them to the line, prolonging a contest that was well out of hand.
Michigan fouled nine times in the final two minutes to manufacture nine more possessions, in which the Wolverines drained two 3-pointers and scored 19 points to bring the score totals to a respectable level. Those 19 points accounted for 28 percent of Michigan’s scoring.
McGary led the garbage-time parade, padding his stats with eight points and three rebounds to complete a seemingly impressive 15-point, 14-rebound game.
Ultimately, the Wolverines boosted their field-goal percentage from 39 percent to 45 percent and their 3-point rate from 11 percent to 23 percent in that span. Though the outcome was never threatened, Michigan cut the deficit to 10 by game’s end.
“We didn’t get some threes until the end,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “Maybe we should have run our late-game offense the whole time, and we could have scored some points.”
Beilein’s teams have traditionally been prolific at perimeter shooting, so Duke’s game plan to limit opportunities in transition — and from sophomore guard Nik Stauskas in particular — put the Wolverines in an untenable situation.
“You gotta go two at a time, and you gotta get stops at the other end,” Beilein said about adjusting to the 3-pointer being taken away. “And then you gotta make runs coming out of that, but we weren’t able to do that. But (overcoming) 12 points anywhere is hard to get.”
The only player able to carry the scoring burden was sophomore guard Caris LeVert. After he scored just four points in the first half, LeVert went off for 20 in the second half, almost strictly on dribble penetration and almost strictly to the left side.
“They were having a hard time scoring, and LeVert just kind of put them on his back and was terrific,” said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.“We kept telling (the Duke players), he goes left more than right, but he went left real hard, and he’s very good.”
Try as they might, the other Wolverines were unable to generate anything. Drive attempts were forced off balance, and the shots were off target. Until the final 119 seconds, aside from LeVert, the rest of the Wolverines scored just 13 points in the second half. The first 20 minutes were even worse, with the Blue Devils heading into halftime with a 32-22 lead. For Michigan’s starters, the points on the first-half score sheet read: four, three, five, three, four.
“We dialed (LeVert) up like crazy in the second half,” Beilein said. “We played through him the whole second half. That was something that we saw from the game, and we just went with him. Knowing that they were going to deny Nik as much as they can, we went in a different direction and it worked. Unfortunately we already buried ourselves in a hole.”