COLUMBUS — Visions of Thursday night replayed inside the heads of the Wolverines — only this time it was Duane Washington and the Buckeyes inflicting pain instead of Wisconsin’s D’Mitrik Trice.
Just three days prior, Trice almost singlehandedly downed Michigan from behind the 3-point line en route to an away victory. Sunday afternoon, the Michigan men’s basketball team was left seeing double as Ohio State sank 11-of-21 from three, beating the Wolverines 77-63 in the process.
“(We) can’t have defensive lapses,” freshman forward Franz Wagner said. “They made some tough shots, but the pick and roll, I think we didn’t guard that well. That’s how they got the open shots.
“Two of them were bad shots and they just went in. But other than that, they were pretty open. … Especially Washington’s shots.”
Collectively, the Badgers and Buckeyes —top two in the Big Ten in 3-point field goals per game and 3-point percentage — shot 50 percent from beyond the arc.
For Michigan coach Juwan Howard, who has spent his inaugural season emphasizing perimeter defense, his team’s recent performances are unacceptable.
“It’s very disappointing,” Howard said. “We’ve just got to do better. A better job of having a certain level of focus. Surging back and making sure we close all the way to those 3-point shooters. I’d rather see a lot of these (players) be able to shoot the ball with no air space, with a hand-ball contest.”
Against Wisconsin, the Wolverines’ poor communication and close-outs were largely attributed to the absence of their best defender, junior guard Eli Brooks.
But even Brooks’ return couldn’t remedy Michigan’s communication Sunday afternoon. Ohio State’s guards, led by Washington and C.J. Walker had their way off of pick-and-rolls, often finding themselves in space or a teammate open on the perimeter off the defensive rotation.
“A lot of open threes were off switches or not being in the right position,” Brooks said. So it’s just talking in your position and knowing where you’re supposed to be. Coach always talks about, ‘Talk your position so you can talk your way into it.’ ”
Added Wagner: “Today, mostly (on) Washington’s shots, I think, is where we messed up defensively. Him coming off screens, he’s been making us pay for that, cause we weren’t ready, weren’t communicating. Not everybody was aware of that, what’s happening on the floor.”
Washington benefited from getting into an early rhythm, knocking down three of his five 3-pointers in the first 13 minutes of the game.
He wasn’t alone though, especially down the stretch. Walker found bottom on a number of jumpers, while big man Kaleb Wesson hit two 3s — including a banked 30-footer over senior center Jon Teske with 1:36 to go — to deliver the final blow.
“Unfortunately, when guys are making shots like that, the confidence level is extremely high,” Howard said. “It was a back-breaker for us.”
Ultimately, Michigan’s last two losses can be chalked up to an inability to run opponents off the 3-point line — a feat it’s performed so well for much of the season. Whether it’s communication or something more, the Wolverines’ second loss in a row leaves them searching for answers on the defensive end.
“Yeah, very frustrating,” Wagner said. “Especially cause we know we can do it. We showed in prior games.
“Everything’s gotta be better — just blow it up, everybody’s gotta be closer to their man, more ready to close out to the shooter.”