Michigan Basketball Must Learn from Ugly South Carolina Loss

After a hot start, the Michigan basketball got a rude awakening against South Carolina Wednesday night. The Wolverines also got handed their first loss of the season.

Well that was an inauspicious beginning to a big sports weekend. Michigan basketball fell to South Carolina 61-46 in Columbia for its first loss of the season.

The Gamecocks came into the contest ranked 56th over at KenPom and project to be a tournament team, but they’re not nearly as good as Michigan basketball helped them look Wednesday. I don’t recall an offensive performance as futile and ugly as today’s under John Beilein.

I’m gonna list all of the following stats twice to allow you to process them: the Wolverines shot 19.2% from the field (the Wolverines shot 19.2% from the field). They were 2-26 from three point range (they were 2-26 from three point range).

Two of their baskets were assisted on (two of their baskets were assisted on). Derrick Walton Jr. led the team with three field goals and shot the ball fourteen times (Derrick Walton Jr. led the team with three field goals and shot the ball fourteen times). Zak Irvin had more turnovers than points (Zak Irvin had more turnovers than points).

Ok, that’s enough, but you get the idea: this was an abject failure from everyone. The team came out of the gate totally flat and lethargic. South Carolina’s length and quickness caught Michigan basketbal off guard somehow.

The ascendant DJ Wilson had two points and four boards while he and Moritz Wagner got roasted by Chris Silva and Matt Kostar down low.

The Wolverines also had no answer for Sindarius Thornwell, who went for 21 and 10, a shade over his season averages. Michigan’s size has been a huge asset this season, but the guys down low got exposed today and the perimeter players didn’t do them any favors.

Walton Jr, senior leader that he is, tried to get something going continually, but ended up forcing shots and passes, leading to an ugly statline: 3/14 from the field, 0/4 from three, and no assists.

Irvin went 2/13 from the field, 0/4 from three, and had eight (!) turnovers. Even if the rest of the team were clicking, Michigan just isn’t going to win games when their senior leaders play the way they did today.

This team is going to struggle against teams that have rangy, bigger players on the perimeter and they need to handle those situations better than they did today. Once it became clear that USC was going to pressure the ball and anyone outside the three point line, no one knew what the hell to do.

The first thing to go was spacing: once the initial sets got disrupted by the USC ball pressure, players ran towards the ball, leading to clusters in the corners that in turn led to rushed shots and errant passes. The Gamecocks played well and had a good plan to throw Michigan off its game, but Walton and company did a lot to help them out. It’s a long season, and one bad loss away from home does not a season make, but damned if that game wasn’t disheartening.

Wagner and Wilson both still have some work to do to be able to keep up with skilled, athletic bigs, but that’s to be expected. Walton and Irvin need to be light years better than they were today.

This game is best forgotten, written off as an aberration so characteristic of early season college basketball.

Besides, Michigan football battles Ohio State Saturday. Happy Thanksgiving!

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