Monday, February 27, 2006

So Sad, Yet So Hungry....

Michigan 54 Ohio State 64

Prior to Saturday I had this great inclination to write my Michigan/osu recap directly after the game. This way I'd free up some time over the weekend to think about new stuff and to have something fresh for Tuesday and Wednesday. Didn't happen. Michigan played so bad I didn't want to think about the game until I was driving back from the boonies today. In comparison to the Illinois game last week, Saturday was a definite letdown. Not because they lost. But because of the way they lost.

They lost ugly.

In dropping Saturday's game against osu, Michigan turned the ball over 13 times in the first half alone. They took horrible shots. They forced themselves into corners. They took bad fouls. The refs also seemed to take a dislike to Graham Brown, calling him for what can only be described as iffy fouls, certainly not the kind you call in an important conference game.

What was more disappointing was Michigan's guard play. Horton, coming off his best game of the year, had his worst. He scored only 12 points on 4-16 shooting and committed 6 turnovers. No matter what he tried, nothing seemed to work. CBS's commentators were in a frenzy to declare Jamar Butler (who guarded Horton most of the night) the second coming, but in reality Horton just had an off night. While it was true Butler kept Horton from penetrating, Horton had plenty of open looks. He simply missed them. After scoring 39 a game ago, I'm not going to ride Horton at all. He tried to do too much on Saturday. And when you played as well as he did last week, you'd push too hard too.

Jarret Smith, who was so clutch in the Illinois game seemed to be suffering an Illini hangover as well. Though he didn't play badly, he wasn't nearly as up tempo as he was against Illinois and had an air ball that I'm still searching for words to explain. He was there, he just didn't stand out in any way.

More concerning was the play of Daniel Harris. Five turnovers, 3 points, and fouling out of the game. In watching him play, its obvious he's still hobbled. His defense, which is normally pretty good, was average. He had trouble getting separation for shots, and wasn't able to get the lift he wanted on his jumpers. Hopefully the break between the Indiana game and the Big Ten tournament will give him the time he needs to heal. He definitely needs it. For Michigan to go anywhere in either Tournament it needs Dion Harris to compliment Horton. So Michigan needs Harris to rest as badly as he needs it.

In the front court, Courtney Sims played another good game, contributing a double double in the loss. However, I have never seen a man who is 6-10/6-11 get blocked as often as he did during that game. Someone please teach him how to jump. When your 6-10/6-11, simply getting off the ground equals a dunk. Please teach him this. I'm begging you. Petway, despite having a solid game, missed several crucial tip-ins and makeable layups in the second half. He pumped in in 5 points and grabbed a team high 11 rebounds in 26 minutes. But unfortunately, I'll remember the shots he missed more than anything else he did during the game. They were that easy.

Graham Brown was a non-factor, spending most of the game on the bench, allowing Ohio State's starting offensive tackle Terrence Dials to absolutely destroy Michigan under the basket. Watching Sims try to guard Dials was comical. It was like Mr. Garrison vs. Fat Albert, and there was a cupcake behind Mr. Garrison. Dials threw down 22 points, grabbed 11 boards, and generally beat the crap out of anyone unfortunate enough to be near him. I think he ate one of the children sitting courtside, but the video evidence is inconclusive. (at right: Terrance Dials flexes after defecating on the Michigan frontcourt.)

No one could hit a shot. Open shots would not fall. Tip-ins turned into tip-outs. Rebound putbacks became offensive goaltending. Michigan shot a dismal 34% in the first half, and followed that up by shooting 40% in the second half. The outside three wouldn't fall for Michigan either. They shot 16.7% and 27% in the first and second halves, respectively. The best outside shooter on the team Saturday afternoon turned out to be Ron Coleman who went 5 of 12. However, he only shot 1 of 5 from three. Michigan couldn't put in the easy baskets when they needed them. Petway, Sims, Horton, and Harris all had easy baskets they should have made during the second half, yet failed to convert. When you're given opportunities to win a game, you have to seize them. Michigan did that against Illinois, but didn't have it in them Saturday.

Sadly, Michigan played solidly on defense for the second consecutive game. It wasn't until they missed four or five easy layups while within four points that Michigan finally packed it in. After those blown layups, the score stood at 40-36. Then osu got sick of the game and iced it with a 10-0 run to seal the game. Until that point, osu was only hitting enough shots to stay ahead. The defense was good. And if Graham Brown hadn't been ridden by the refs, it would've been close to great.

The loss to Ohio State, is annoying, but not all that bad in the grad scheme of things. OSU's beaten just about everyone this year. They are (and I hate to say this) a good team, with solid players all around. Michigan is a good team when it plays well. Saturday was not such an occasion. Even so, Michigan's RPI remains strong at 31 overall. That should be enough to go dancing, but, as I've said before, one more win would ice it.

Indiana is next.

Rising From the Dead...

I've had this recurrent dream where the dead rise from the grave and feast on the living. Maybe its because there's a scene in 40-Year-Old Virgin where Jay's watching Dawn of the Dead and screaming "bitch get out da room! Bitch Get Out Da Room!" But for whatever reason its there. I think I figured out why.

Indiana is pulling its best evil dead impersonation. During its last two games Indiana feasted on Penn State and chowed down on Michigan State's tournament seeding. (at left: Indiana eating your bracket before your very eyes). Now they get one more lifeless corpse to feed on at Purdue before visiting Michigan on March 3. Indiana had dropped 5 in a row before winning its last two. With nothing on the line other than pride, and, of course, braaaaiiiiiinnnnnns, they've played the last two games with the hunger they should've shown the last twenty. They'll come into Cristler famished, so wear a helmet.

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