After the Michigan men’s basketball team came out sluggish Wednesday before clawing back to beat Penn State, there was a consensus from the Wolverines that they needed to find a way to come out strong from the start.
Saturday against Maryland, Michigan came out with a bit more energy but couldn’t find its shooting stroke — at one point shooting just 33 percent from the field and 15 percent from behind the arc.
Though their offense found new life in the second half, the Wolverines couldn’t recover from the early deficit, losing 77-70 at Crisler Center on Saturday.
Michigan improved its offense in the first half by attacking the rim, but its defense left much to be desired and Michigan went into the halftime break down, 37-28.
“It’s just very frustrating,” said sophomore forward Moritz Wagner. “When you’re out there on the court and work your butt off, and then get beat at home like that.
“There are just moments where it seems like we fall asleep collectively.”
Junior guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rakhman and senior guard Zak Irvin led the team in the first half with six points each, while Maryland forward Damonte Dodd led all scorers with 11 points.
Michigan caught a break with Maryland’s Michal Cekovsky, a 7-foot-1 forward, out of the lineup Saturday. But Dodd, who stands at 6-foot-11 and had been averaging just 5.9 points per game before entering Saturday’s contest, filled in nicely for the Terrapins and finished with 15 points.
The second half was a bit more favorable for Michigan. The Wolverines started the half on a 9-1 run to cut the deficit to one.
But every time Michigan got close, Maryland responded. The Wolverines closed the deficit to two more multiple times in the second half, but each time, the Terrapins answered with a bucket of their own to extend their lead.
“It was tough,” Beilein said. “When we made a big play to cut (the lead) down, they’d make one coming right back. It’s hard to keep doing that.”
A lot of that was because of Maryland’s Melo Trimble, who started to heat up in the second half and finished with 13 points and 6 assists.
Forwards Justin Jackson and Jared Nickens also added 15 and 12 points, respectively, for the Terrapins.
Maryland ended the game shooting 51.9 percent, and made 10-of-15 from behind the arc.
“Today, we were locked in,” said Maryland coach Mark Turgeon. “We made shots today.
“We made some tough ones. We’re a really good shooting team and we’re still getting used to each other. … But we made shots today.”
On the other side of the court, Wagner led all scorers with 17 points.
While another Big Ten loss isn’t crippling for Michigan’s NCAA Tournament hopes, it leaves little room for error the rest of the way.
But in the meantime, the Wolverines have a lot of work to do, mainly on the defensive side of the ball.
“We have to really close out on shooters,” Beilein said. “We need to get the shooters. Like today, (Maryland guard Kevin Huerter), Jackson and Nickens, those are not guys you close out short and contest, you just run them off the line. Well, a couple times, we closed out short and dared them to shoot it, and that’s what they do well.”