Against No. 19 Southern Methodist, the Michigan men’s basketball team didn’t have its bread and butter.
Heading into their matchup with the Mustangs, the Wolverines (6-3) were shooting 43.9 percent from beyond the arc. In the first half of their 82-58 loss Tuesday, they went just 2-for-14 on their 3-point attempts. Junior guard Derrick Walton Jr., who was averaging 9.6 points and 4.6 rebounds per game — making him the Wolverines’ second-leading rebounder — sat out his second straight game with a lateral ankle sprain. Senior guard Caris LeVert, who leads the team with 18.6 points per game, made just one field goal on 13 attempts.
The trend continued into the second half, and Michigan couldn’t keep up. The Mustangs (7-0) clobbered the Wolverines in SMU’s Moody Coliseum, handing Michigan its third non-conference loss of the season.
Though the first half exposed many of the Wolverines’ flaws, it wasn’t all negative. Sophomore guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, starting in place for Walton, scored Michigan’s first six points to keep the Wolverines in the game and hushed the Mustangs’ lead scorer, 5-foot-9 guard Nic Moore, in the contest’s early minutes. Abdur-Rahkman went 6-for-10 shooting and finished with 15 points.
Junior forward Zak Irvin, who has been largely quiet since returning from his offseason back surgery, scored a loud nine points when his teammates needed it most.
But SMU went on scoring runs at numerous points, including a five-minute, 10-0 run that was finally put to an end when Abdur-Rakhman stripped the ball from Mustang guard Jarrey Foster and threw it to redshirt sophomore guard Duncan Robinson, who then fed it to sophomore forward Kam Chatman for a jumper.
Moore finally made a statement with three minutes left in the half with back-to-back triples, the second one coming off a straight-on, long-range 3. Less than a minute later, LeVert double-dribbled on the other end, giving the ball back to Mustangs forward Jordan Tolbert, who followed up with back-to-back dunks.
SMU ended the frame on a 15-4 run, making its final six attempts to head into the locker room with a lofty 14-point lead.
The Wolverines were able to trim the gap to nine points in the second half after back-to-back 3-pointers from Robinson and Irvin made it 39-30, but despite Robinson’s best efforts — his 15 points tied Abdur-Rahkman for the team lead — the Mustangs continued to wallop the Wolverines. Michigan allowed 10 dunks, nine of which were scored by Tolbert, who ended the game with 23 points on 11-for-12 shooting.
“(Tolbert with) four offensive rebounds per game … I don’t think I’ve seen that, and I’ve seen a lot of stats,” Beilein said. “He just goes and gets the ball. He was like a man playing with boys out there — he just went and got it.”
LeVert’s shooting woes continued into the second half, with his first and only field goal coming with just 4:36 left in the game. Last season, SMU also effectively shut down LeVert, who scored just four points in Michigan’s 62-51 loss at home on Dec. 20.
“We had two days to rest, so we tried to rest (LeVert) on Sunday,” Beilein said. “We’ve been leaning on him an awful lot, so he’ll bounce back, but it was a tough game for him. … Who knows what it is, but they did a great job against him. They switched a lot of screens when he came off, they really challenged him, and he had a tough game. When he’s missing foul shots, you know he’s having a tough game.”
The Wolverines left the court in Dallas with plenty of missed opportunities, including a final stretch where they shot 0-for-6 in the last three minutes. Michigan was also outrebounded by the Mustangs, 45-20, mostly on the defensive end.
After flying home Tuesday, Michigan will take a much needed three-day rest after its seventh game in 19 days and before Saturday’s matchup with Delaware State.
“We’re still young in the season,” Beilein said. “If you’re going to get beat, get beat early. And this shows you, like I said, if you think you’re good, you’re not good.
“That team’s good. We’re a long way from being good.”