On Sunday afternoon, the Michigan Wolverines and Indiana Hoosiers clashed in an imperative Big Ten battle that would help determine their NCAA tournament aspirations.
In the opening moments of the first half, Michigan (16-9, Big Ten 6-6) took a swift 5-0 lead, as Indiana (15-11, Big Ten 5-8) worked its way back. Indiana kept the deficit close throughout a majority of the first. However, as the final minutes winded down, the Wolverines began to pull away and entered the half up 35-25.
Michigan held onto its lead in the second half, as Indiana struggled to narrow the deficit. It appeared that for every basket the Hoosiers generated, the Wolverines had an answer. Michigan would end up controlling the lead throughout the entirety of the game, picking up a vital win over Indiana, 75-63.
Let’s see what we learned from the game.
What We Learned
1. Michigan Has Potential.
After Michigan’s 30-point blowout win against Indiana in January, many expected Michigan to pick up another victory in their second meeting. Michigan was coming off a convincing 86-57 win over Michigan State and with an NCAA tournament bid on the horizon, Michigan once again stepped up its play. Led by senior guard Derrick Walton Jr.’s 25-point, five-rebound and four-assist showing, Michigan rose to the occasion.
Walton Jr.’s performance was followed by junior forward D.J. Wilson’s 13 points. Sophomore forward Moritz Wagner also contributed 11 points and 10 rebounds, manufacturing a double-double in the win. In the first half, the Wolverines were fantastic from beyond the arc, shooting 60 percent from the perimeter. Michigan displayed a valiant team effort in the win. If the Wolverines can continue to work together, expect more Big Ten victories in their future.
2. Indiana Needs James Blackmon Jr.
James Blackmon Jr. has been a key asset for Indiana this season, but since his return from a lower leg injury he suffered in Indiana’s previous meeting with Michigan, the junior guard has struggled. In his first game back against Purdue, Blackmon Jr. was mediocre, scoring just 11 points on 3-of-14 shooting. Against Michigan, little improvement was see in Blackmon Jr.’s play. He shot 2-of-7 from the field and contributed just six points, three rebounds and one assist.
The Marion, Indiana native is fourth in the Big Ten in scoring (17.3 ppg) and first for 3-point field goals made. Prior to his injury, Blackmon Jr. looked unstoppable, but now appears to be a shadow of his former self. If Indiana expects to pick up wins against its remaining opponents, Blackmon Jr.’s play will be a deciding factor to the team’s success.
3. Michigan’s Defense Stepped Up.
At the end of the first half, Michigan had forced 10 turnovers from Indiana. The Wolverines capitalized on their defensive play, generating those turnovers into 13 points. In comparison, the Hoosiers forced just four turnovers at the half, as the Wolverines valued their possessions. Throughout the game, defensive stops were a consistent contributor to Michigan’s offensive opportunities and triumph.
At the end of the game, Indiana turned the ball over 15 times, as Michigan converted those turnovers into 20 points. Michigan’s recent play has displayed its momentum heading in to the postseason. However, despite the team’s win, No. 7 ranked Wisconsin and No. 16 Purdue are some of the tough competition that still lies ahead. In order to keep its momentum alive, Michigan must play at an elite level in the weeks to come.
4. Indiana’s NCAA Hopes Have Likely Come To An End.
Coming into this matchup, Indiana knew that this was a must-win game against Michigan. After its poor performance in Big Ten play this season and losing to five of its last six opponents, Indiana’s chances to get into the NCAA tournament are now slim to none. The Hoosier’s 25-point first half performance against the Wolverines was a quick indicator that they would likely lose the game they couldn’t afford to let slip away.
Despite Indiana’s success at the beginning of the season, with wins over then No. 2 ranked Kansas and No. 3 North Carolina, the team has crumbled as conference play progressed. With No. 16 ranked Purdue and Northwestern still remaining on Indiana’s schedule, this loss essentially cements the idea that Indiana will miss the NCAA tournament this year.
Indiana will set its sights on Minnesota, as Michigan prepares for No. 7 ranked Wisconsin. While this loss was difficult, Indiana must focus on winning its five remaining regular season games. Michigan’s postseason continues to look bright, but it will need to prepare for a talented Wisconsin team on Thursday.