COLLEGE PARK — 18 days ago, against Maryland, the Michigan men’s basketball team looked its strongest. It attacked the basket, bullied opponents in box-outs and demonstrated how much it wanted to win. On Thursday — against the Terrapins once again — it fell short of that.
The key difference between the Wolverines and Maryland was a gap in intensity and drive. From the jump, the Terrapins dominated the paint and won the rebound battle on their offensive glass. Michigan, meanwhile, didn’t display those elements of its game — elements that shone in its commanding win three weeks ago.
“We knew they were gonna come out with a lot of energy, a lot of intensity, because of the way we beat them last time,” junior center Hunter Dickinson said. “… So we expected it.”
While the Wolverines may have expected it, they couldn’t contain it.
Early on, Michigan looked lost on defense, observing shots arcing through the air instead of finding a defender to box out. And unlike the two teams’ last meeting, Maryland took advantage of each blunder.
As the Wolverines made their way to their huddle at the under-four minute timeout down seven, one disparity stuck out between the two teams: rebounding.
The Terrapins had already snagged 18 rebounds, and Michigan mustered just half that. What compounded the discrepancy more, though, was that Maryland’s aggression in the paint facilitated nine offensive rebounds. And with that, nine extra opportunities.
“With rebounding, especially offensive, it’s more about effort,” junior forward Terrance Williams II said. “We just gotta show more effort on the glass. We gotta box out, be more physical than them.”
The Terrapins continued to display their effort by attacking the paint and the glass. And as they did, Michigan remained stagnant, unable to break its cycle of lethargy. In the first half, Maryland stole 10 offensive rebounds and pounded the paint over and over, accumulating 24 points in the paint — three times the amount the Wolverines had.
Success stems from effort, and three weeks ago, Michigan demonstrated that. On Sunday, they demonstrated the exact opposite.
Without effort, the little things — second chances from offensive rebounds, protecting the ball and driving to the rim — aren’t possible. Weariness is contagious, and when one player on the court exhibits that, it could quickly infect all five.
“They did everything that we wanted to do to them in terms of dominating the paint and dominating the boards,” Dickinson said. “So they were the better team out there tonight.”
Given Dickinson’s size and aptitude down low, the Wolverines usually have a major advantage from points in the paint, but the Terrapins exploited it as a weakness, commandeering the space and accumulating 42 points in the paint — 20 more than Michigan.
This season against Maryland, the Wolverines have displayed both highs and lows. For a team to thrive, it takes more than scoring. Instead, it takes the little things to facilitate scoring. It’s the rebounding prowess, the communication, the strong leadership. It’s everything that the Wolverines tried to implement too late in the game, leading to struggles in the interior and on the glass.
“I don’t think they had as many offensive rebounds in the second half,” Williams said. “But by then it’s too late. You can’t win a game (when you allow) double digit offensive rebounds, that’s extra possessions for them.”
In Michigan’s loss, it proved exactly that.