The 3-point line is 20.75 feet away from the rim in college basketball.

In the Michigan men’s basketball team’s past two games, its 3-point shooting has seemed like the distance is closer to 50 feet.

After a lackluster 10-for-34 showing from beyond the arc against Central Michigan on Monday, the Wolverines (3-0) followed it up on Thursday with another pedestrian 8-of-23 performance in a 61-47 win over Southern Mississippi. Michigan was just 4-for-18 before the Golden Eagles (1-1) ran out of gas and relaxed their man-to-man defense.

“Games like this, we need to really understand and work at what make offenses click,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “It’s not clicking right now because the ball is sticky. We’ve gotta move the ball and just trust what it does. (Southern Mississippi coach) Doc Sadler plays really good defense — his teams no matter where they’ve been. A bad defensive team wouldn’t have exposed that.”

Lights-out long-range shooting is typically a mainstay of Beilein’s offense. During the Wolverines’ weak non-conference slate, however, it evidently hasn’t been a significant factor for the win column. But the disappointing results forecast doubt upon a team that will potentially play two AP top-25 teams next week in the Maui Invitational. Then, they will no longer be able to skate by with such poor shooting.  

“I don’t know if we’ve got the Hardaway-, Stauskas-type volume and success out there that we’ve had before, but I don’t think we’re a bad shooting team,” Beilein said. “… I don’t think we’re taking bad ones. We’re trying to hunt them sometimes when they don’t need to get hunted.”

On Thursday night, fifth-year senior Duncan Robinson was the first to take a three against the Golden Eagles. Clink.

Up only a bucket, junior forward Moritz Wagner launched one with 26 seconds remaining the first half. Clink.

Tied at 36 early in the second half with a lifeless Crisler Center crowd, senior guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman had two open, long-range opportunities to change the tide. Clink and Clink.

Amidst a handful of other untimely misses, Michigan finally managed to flip the switch after Robinson drained a three at the 11:37 mark to give the Wolverines a 41-40 lead, one it would never relinquish. At that point, though, the game could only be considered a sight for sore eyes despite a breakthrough performance by sophomore center Jon Teske.

“It might be an early season thing, or just a day thing,” Abdur-Rahkman said. “We got a lot of open shots, we just weren’t knocking them down. I think we started knocking them down a little bit in the second half. But we gotta shoot better, and if we don’t shoot better, we gotta play better defensively.”

On the defensive end, Southern Mississippi shot a conservative 6-for-13 from behind the line, including an off-balance 3-pointer by point guard Tyree Griffin that put the Golden Eagles up by one at the half. Against better competition, this shooting discrepancy simply won’t cut it.

When Michigan travels to Maui, nearly 4,400 miles away from Ann Arbor, it may be a refreshing escape for an inconsistent Michigan team.

As for the 3-point line? The Wolverines would like it to seem much, much closer to home.


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