Nobody could have foreseen the No. 23 Michigan Wolverines getting run off the court Thursday night. However, the Nebraska Cornhuskers controlled the game for a full 40 minutes and sent a message to the rest of the Big Ten with a 72-52 win over Michigan.
Through the first seven minutes, the game was a back-and-forth affair with Michigan and Nebraska tied at 12-12 with 13 minutes left. Then the Cornhuskers went on a run.
Over the next seven minutes of the half, Nebraska went on a 16-4 run to blow the game wide open leading 28-16 with 4:10 left in the half. The Cornhuskers went into the half with a 32-21 advantage as the Wolverines scored five points in the final four minutes before the break. James Palmer Jr and Isaac Copeland were major offensive catalysts for Nebraska in the first half. They were two of the four Cornhusker starters that finished in double figures by scoring 19 points ( a game high) and 13 points respectively.
Michigan’s defense continued to struggle in the second half, giving up 40 points in the final 20 minutes as they fell to 5-3 in conference play. Nebraska defeated the Wolverines for the first time since joining the Big Ten with the win.
Let’s see what we can takeaway from Thursday night’s game
What We Learned:
1.Michigan will live by and die by the three
During Michigan’s hot streak through Big Ten play over the past couple weeks, they have been lethal from behind the arc. In each of their last five games they finished shooting over 40 percent on their three-pointers. Their best game in that stretch surprisingly came in Michigan’s one-point loss to Purdue where the made 45 percent of their three-pointers. However, one of Michigan’s downfalls against Nebraska Thursday night was there inability to connect on the long ball.
The Wolverines shot an abysmal 23.5 percent (4 of 17) from behind the arc against the Cornhuskers. Only one Michigan player, Isaiah Livers, made multiple shots from behind the arc and even more impressive was that Moe Wagner came up empty on his three-point attempts.
Michigan’s bench did not do anything to contribute either going 0 for 6 from behind the arc as a group. That group included Jordan Poole and Duncan Robinson who are known as some of the better shooters in the Big Ten.
Now this could be from fatigue. The Wolverines have played three games in the past six days. However, Michigan cant afford to have more off-nights like this if they plan to hang around in the Big Ten Championship race.
2.Michigan’s turnovers were very uncharacteristic
One of the well-known qualities of John Beilein coached teams is that they value the basketball. Rarely do they turn the ball over and it is usually an anomaly when the Wolverines achieve double-digit turnovers in a game. One of those nights came against Nebraska.
Michigan finished the game with 12 turnovers. It was just the second time since the beginning of January that the Wolverines had reached that feat. What was even more surprising was the source of the turnovers. Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Zavier Simpson have two of the best assist/turnover ratios in the conference with them being first and fourth respectively. Both Abdur-Rahkman and Simpson struggled in the turnover department Thursday night, coughing the ball up a combined four times (two times each). The rest of the starters combined for six.
This wont be an occurring issue for Michigan. John Beilein will be on top of that faster than any coach in the Big Ten. But as evidence showed Thursday night, Michigan’s success relies a lot on them controlling the basketball.
3.Nebraska’s defense on Moe Wagner was outstanding
The way that Nebraska’s defense took Michigan’s best player completely out of the game was incredible. They accomplished what only two other team’s all season have done (Jacksonville and Iowa) by holding Moe Wagner to single digits in scoring. However, the Cornhuskers no doubt had the most impressive performance out of that group by limit Wagner to a single field goal and two points on 1 of 5 shooting.
For the most part Nebraska kept Wagner off the glass. Wagner did not grab a single offensive rebound however he did record seven rebounds on the defensive glass. Nebraska gave him no space behind the arc, limiting to one three-pointer attempt. Inside the paint Jordy Tshimanga and Duby Okeke frustrated him by not allowing Wagner to get a single easy look at the basket.
Wagner came into the contest playing the best basketball of his collegiate career. He had just finished off an 18 point, 11 rebound game against Maryland and before that tallied a career high 27 points in an upset win at Michigan State. That is what makes Nebraska’s defensive performance on him so impressive. They took one of, if not, the hottest player in the Big Ten and frustrated him for 32 minutes.
The love in Ann Arbor for their surging basketball team may have taken a back seat Thursday night. Winning on the road in college basketball, especially within the conference is tough, but getting blown out by 20 is inexcusable. Michigan is still a top five team and a loss like this may only do minor damage to their NCAA Tournament resume. What this lost hurt the most was the Wolverines’s chances for a Big Ten Championship.
On the flip side, Nebraska officially announced to the rest of the Big Ten that they are here and they are a factor. For the most part, against stronger opponents the Cornhuskers have faired pretty well this season. They defeated the once ranked No. 14 Minnesota, and lost by a mere one point to a top-10 Kansas team.
This win against Michigan put Nebraska right into the thick of the Big Ten race. They sit at 5-3 and tied for fifth in the conference with the same Wolverine team that they just ran off the court. Take notice Big Ten, Nebraska has won three of its past four and is heating up.