LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Not much about the KFC Yum! Center in downtown Louisville is quiet.
The coaches who shout directions at their players from the sidelines? Not quiet.
The teams’ benches, which cheer on their teammates, protest every call against them and call for the whistle in indignation every time one of their players is touched? Not quiet.
And 22,000 screaming Cardinals fans, decked out in white and waving matching rally towels above their heads? Definitely not quiet.
But No. 4 Michigan’s first-half offense on Tuesday night? Quieter than the Law Library before finals week.
Gone was the efficient ball-screen offense. Gone was junior forward Eli Brooks’ success from the arc. Gone was senior center Jon Teske’s dominance in the paint.
Gone, for all accounts and purposes, was the Wolverines’ offensive attack.
“A lot of the shots just weren’t falling,” Teske said after the game. “I told the team, just keep shooting those same shots.”
In the first half, Michigan shot for a dismal 17 percent on its three-point attempts, and an even worse 11 percent on its layups. The Wolverines shot only 33 percent in the paint and 11 percent on second-chance scoring attempts.
They just couldn’t find the bottom of the net.
Some of it could be attributed to the Cardinals’ defense, which was effective all night at shutting down Michigan’s ball screens — plays that have set up much of the Wolverines’ success on offense this season. But not all of Michigan’s offensive woes can be credited to Louisville. The Wolverines had plenty of scoring opportunities, and even managed to open up a few easy shots for themselves. Even then, it seemed they were only hitting rim and backboard.
“We missed some shots that normally go in,” said Michigan coach Juwan Howard.
In the second half, Michigan had at least somewhat more success offensively, even drawing within a four-point margin at one point. But by then, it was too late. The Cardinals had taken a 10-point lead into the break, and from there, the game was never really in question again. Though the Wolverines drew closer at various points in the second half, the damage was already done. The outcome of the game was, by then, unavoidable.
The Cardinals were far from the juggernaut they’ve been at times this season on Tuesday night. It’s a credit to Michigan’s defense that they weren’t. But on offense, the Wolverines just couldn’t quite do enough. As low-scoring and as gritty as this game was, Louisville was, simply put, the better team.
And for this game — Michigan’s offense the only quiet thing about it — that was enough.
“We messed up a lot of assignments that we had coming into the game,” said junior forward Isaiah Livers. “We’ll keep taking the same shots. They fall, they fall, they don’t — let’s get back and defend.
“We’re looking to the next game on the schedule. We just gotta stay positive, stay locked in.”