For five minutes Tuesday night, the country’s second-best shooting team looked like a bunch of junior-varsity kids who’d just been told to suit up for the varsity squad — eager to throw up shots without any real sense of how to do it.
Indiana took 10 shots in the first five minutes of its game against the Michigan men’s basketball team (7-3 Big Ten, 17-6 overall) and made just two. The Wolverines, meanwhile, used a string of four-straight makes to jump out to an early 10-2 lead and pushed the margin to as many as 11 in the first half at Crisler Center.
But then, the script flipped: The Hoosiers (9-1, 19-4) looked varsity; Michigan looked elementary. Indiana used a 28-0 run that stretched from the 9:05 mark in the first half to the 18:36 mark in the second to cruise to an 80-67 win.
In the first five minutes, it looked like the stars might align and the Wolverines might pull off an upset over the 22nd-ranked Hoosiers. And after all, plenty of stars were in the stands, including the likes of Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh, former Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland and professional poker player Phil Hellmuth, who will all be guests at Michigan football’s Signing of the Stars Event on Wednesday.
But Michigan’s stars faded, and Indiana needed only one star — senior guard Yogi Ferrell — who shined bright enough to guide the Hoosiers to their conference-best ninth win. Ferrell went 6-for-10 from the field and finished with a game-high 17 points and nine assists to help pace an Indiana team that likes to move the ball quickly in transition. It’s the fifth time in six career games against the Wolverines that Ferrell has put up at least 14 against the maize and blue.
“It’s a flow sport. You don’t have a chance to huddle up all the time,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “So we had some open shots, we missed them. They’re tremendous in transition. Like I said, Yogi Ferrell is as good a point guard as there is, because he can shoot off the bounce, he finds people, he’s playing team ball and they’ve got shooters everywhere.”
The Hoosiers finished 50 percent from the field and also got big contributions from guard Robert Johnson and forward OG Anunoby, who tallied 16 and 11 points, respectively.
But still, early on, the Wolverines looked like they could hang. With nine minutes left in the first frame, Michigan redshirt sophomore guard Duncan Robinson knocked down his second 3-pointer of the night to give Michigan a 24-20 lead. It would be the last basket the Wolverines would make until 90 seconds into the second half, when Robinson hit a jumper to end a 10-minute scoring drought.
When Michigan stopped scoring, Indiana was just getting started and couldn’t miss. In the final 10 minutes of the first half, the Hoosiers went 12-for-15 from the field, including three made 3s with less than two minutes left in the frame. Michigan’s one-time lead disappeared faster than Donald Trump’s lead in Iowa did Monday night, and the Hoosiers headed into the locker room with a safe 45-24 lead.
In the second half, two free throws set the tone for the formality that was the final 20 minutes of play. Sophomore guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman got fouled early in the second half, went to the free-throw line and missed both tries — continuing Michigan’s scoreless streak.
“It’s just draining when you have an 11-point lead against that team and everything’s going well,” said junior forward Zak Irvin, who led Michigan with 16 points, “then just like that (it’s gone). Basketball’s a game of runs. A (28-0) run, that’s something that none of us saw coming.”
Indiana eventually cooled off — making just one of its first five shots of the second frame — but its first-half run was too great for Michigan to overcome, despite finding its touch in the second half. The Wolverines shot 60 percent in the frame, but the most they could cut the Hoosiers’ lead to was 13 points, and even that came just seconds before the final buzzer sounded.
After the game, Irvin and Robinson mentioned a lack of mental toughness as a reason for the loss, but Beilein didn’t buy into that. He thought Indiana was just better.
“People always throw that out there, mental toughness,” Beilein said. “You want to blame people — coaches want to blame players. … Sometimes the other team is just damn better than you on that night, and I’m not the coach who’s going to point fingers at my players. We’ve got to get better, we’ll find a way.”