Ann Arbor, Mich. — To be fair to Indiana, the final score was not reflective of the closeness of the game through the first 35 minutes. To be fair to Michigan, it still wasn’t that far off after the last five.
On this night, it was the familiar blend of turnovers, poor shot selection and an overall lack of offensive rhythm that doomed Indiana in a 69-45 loss. The Hoosiers were just 1-of-15 from behind the arc, shot 36.5 percent from the floor for the game and committed 19 turnovers, leading to 21 Michigan points.
“We got a lot of good looks, but they just wouldn’t fall,” Verdell Jones said afterward, referring in particular to the 3-point shooting.
Indiana fans can take heart in the Hoosiers’ defensive effort, which the final score probably doesn’t do justice. The visitors forced 16 turnovers and never let Michigan find its 3-point shot, one of the Wolverines’ preferred scoring methods. And it wasn’t until late in the second half that Michigan truly pulled away — cued, unsurprisingly, by Manny Harris’ 17 second-half points, most of which came in the final minutes.
“Credit Indiana, they did a wonderful job,” Michigan coach John Beilein said after the game. “I was really impressed with how they played defense today.”
Christian Watford continued to prove a bright spot for Indiana, finishing with 16 points and eight rebounds. As a team, in fact, IU finished with a 32-28 advantage in points in the paint and pulled down 12 offensive rebounds.
But even in their statistical victories, there were flaws. Too often, Hoosier guards drove the baseline only to fall to traps and subsequent turnovers. And Indiana’s perimeter players struggled to get the ball inside to Watford and other big men on several occasions, forcing bad passes into double teams, leading to more giveaways.
“We’ve got to swing it and drive so that we can get the defense rotating and then try and throw it in there,” Jones said of Indiana’s attempts to feed the post. “I think we were doing one pass or no passes and trying to throw it in, and they were reading on it.”
Again, Indiana fell short of the kind of signature conference win its fans would like to see, but this performance was not so listless as the first road loss this season, a 79-54 loss at Ohio State. But the one-two punch of DeShawn Sims and Manny Harris — good for 41 points and 14 rebounds by night’s end — was too much for the Hoosiers.
“At the end of the day, two of the better players in the country — two of the very best players in this league — were too much for us to handle,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said. “When we’re not clicking on all cylinders defensively, we don’t have enough guys that can make plays individually to keep people from going where they want to go. And (Michigan) just did an excellent job with it.”
“We kind of came unglued at the end, after playing a very, very strong game for so long, and never letting ourselves get rattled. But we did get rattled at the end, and it was because of the abilities of Manny Harris and the abilities of DeShawn Sims.”