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With perimeter game smothered, Michigan baffled on offense

Adam Glanzman/Daily
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By Neal Rothschild, Daily Sports Editor
Published December 4, 2013

DURHAM, N.C. — Time and again Tuesday night, John Beilein looked defeated, which made sense, because he had been.

If it wasn’t his hands folded behind his head, it was his chin in his hand, and if it wasn’t that, it was him walking to the referee to call a timeout.

His offense, which had looked so explosive in the early games this season, had failed him in the Wolverines’ 79-69 loss to Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Two airballs to start the game certainly weren’t a good omen. On multiple occasions, miscommunications led to passes that found the fourth row of the Cameron Crazies student section.

Even as sophomore forward Mitch McGary drained a long jump shot in the first half, Beilein shouted “No!” as the Wolverines ran back on defense, voicing his displeasure with the possession.

A few trips later, Beilein tried to get a play in to freshman point guard Derrick Walton. “Five!” Beilein yelled as Michigan advanced up court, only for the raucous stadium noise to drown out the sound as the call went unheard and the Wolverines wound up with another empty trip down the floor.

On one possession, sophomore guard Nik Stauskas tried to cross up Quinn Cook and only crossed up himself. Stauskas stumbled, and Cook took the steal to the other end for an easy layup.

And forget making 3-pointers, Michigan had a tough time even shooting them. Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski had a game plan to eliminate the Wolverines’ 3-point threat, and it worked to perfection.

“Stauskas gets a lot of shots in transition, and they’re a great transition team,” said Duke guard Tyler Thornton. “So those are the two things we wanted to limit — transition shots and 3-point shots.”

Stauskas, who was questionable with an the ankle injury, was stymied all night. Whether it was the lingering pain hindering him from pushing off or the Duke game plan, shot attempts were nowhere to be found. Despite playing 34 minutes, Stauskas attempted just two field goals, one a 3-point shot, making neither of them.

Sophomore guard Caris LeVert was the only Wolverine able to generate offense, going off in the second half for 20 points. He finished with 24 on the game, highlighted by 7-for-7 free-throw shooting.

But he, too, wasn’t even able to manage more than a single 3-pointer.

“We tried to make sure that we knew most of their offense,” Krzyzewski said. “Then it’s just a matter of our kids working real hard to make sure you try to stop it. They still scored, but it was tough to score against us tonight.

Michigan was held to 3-for-13 shooting from the perimeter, and those numbers are a bit deceptive, as two of those came in the final minute as Beilein tried to prolong the game by fouling.

Between a 3-pointer by sophomore point guard Spike Albrecht in the opening minutes and freshman guard Zak Irvin’s shot with a minute left, the Wolverines went three-less. For a team that often relies, if not survives on that shot, solutions were limited.

“It was a great plan,” Beilein said. “They really tried to keep Stauskas’s touches very low and not let him get into a rhythm. Lock the rails on the sides so that we had to score tough twos, they did a great job with doing that.”