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ORLANDO, Fla. — After a first half of shaky offense, the Michigan men’s basketball team finally settled into a groove. An offensive outburst created a cushy 12-point lead in the beginning of the second half, and all the Wolverines had to do was contain the University of Central Florida’s’s scorers and knock down a few shots of their own in order to secure victory.

This proved too difficult for Michigan, as it failed to stop the Knights’ prolific shooting in an 85-71 loss

“Our biggest thing is defense,” graduate transfer guard DeVante’ Jones said. “The offense is going to come. We are going to make some mistakes on offense. We are unselfish enough to make plays so it’s all about defense for us right now.”

Even knowing that, the Wolverine defense simply couldn’t hold up.  UCF went on a seemingly endless run where they made eight 3-pointers in a row. 

The onslaught was brought on by stellar shooting performances by Knights guards Darin Green Jr. and Brandon Mahan. Each 3-pointer UCF hit dug into Michigan’s lead and its confidence. In a short burst, the Knights took control of the game.

And they never relinquished it. 

“We made too many mistakes during that three-minute span,” fifth-year guard Eli Brooks said. “We let them back in the game. We let their energy play a toll.”

As UCF regained the lead, the Knights crowd continued to grow louder. The raucous environment caused the Wolverines to have lapses in communication and break down on defense. They stopped rotating down low as much and the failed communication led to missed assignments. Each mistake compounded with the next and led to a complete breakdown on defense. UCF easily capitalized on the defensive mistakes and continued to make easy baskets. 

Michigan consistently gave up wide open shots, and the Knights punished it with made shots every time. Even when the Wolverines were able to contest a shot, they were often a few seconds too late. 

“We are going to make mistakes playing basketball,” Brooks said. “But we can’t make mistakes back to back and just allow teams to go all around.”

UCF ended up shooting 52% from the field and 60% from beyond the arc. In the second half alone, The Knights went a perfect 8-for-8 from three. And though UCF should be credited for its impressive shot-making capability, this offensive outburst was preventable. The Knights entered the game shooting 46% from the field and 33% from three. Teams can have an above average day here and there, but this performance is certainly in-part explained by Michigan’s poor perimeter defense. 

As UCF wore down the Wolverines, the effects of Michigan’s 12 days off became apparent as UCF’s lead increased, culminating in a lopsided final score.

There might not be another time when a team will hit eight straight threes, but the Wolverines shouldn’t give a team the chance to do so. Michigan’s defense ultimately cost them the game — and with Big Ten play looming, the time to fix its issues is running out.