The buzzer sounded, and members of the Michigan men’s basketball team left the court with their heads dropped to their chests.
And rightfully so, as the Wolverines had just blatantly failed their first road test in Columbia, S.C.
Just two days after being voted No. 25 in the AP Poll, Michigan might have given voters reason to reconsider, losing 61-46 to South Carolina. The Wolverines looked to be in trouble from the beginning, heading into the locker room at Colonial Life Arena down six at halftime.
But after the half they had, the Wolverines were fortunate not to trail by more. Both teams seemed to be playing a game of opposites in favor of South Carolina.
In the first frame, Michigan shot 25 percent from the field, and converted just once from behind the arc despite 12 attempts.
“We didn’t get many good looks, but when we got them we still didn’t make them,” said Michigan coach John Beilein on WTKA after the game. “That was really key. When we get our shooters open, in a game on a hostile (court) … it should have been even or ahead at half, and we couldn’t get it. The second half we had the same couple of looks we created. We didn’t knock them down.”
The Gamecocks, on the other hand, made sure the Wolverines had no answer for them down low. They imposed their will, pouring in 20 points in the paint en route to 42-percent shooting from the field.
As if South Carolina wasn’t hurting Michigan enough, the Wolverines started hurting themselves, too — turning the ball over eight times in 20 minutes.
They were lucky, though, that the Gamecocks weren’t shying away from physicality. Michigan poured in 14 points from the charity stripe, giving it a fighting chance at keeping the game from quickly turning into a blowout.
The most Michigan trailed by in the first half was eight, but as the misses kept piling up, it felt like that deficit was growing.
And grow it did.
The second half was more of the same, and it was a far cry from the brand of basketball the Wolverines played to win the 2K Classic in Madison Square Garden five days earlier.
The Wolverines couldn’t have hit water if they fell out of a boat, as their shooting woes from the first half only got worse. Their offense sputtered to a shooting percentage of 19.2, and shot 2-for-26 from behind the arc.
Unlike Friday night against SMU, Michigan’s marquee scorers couldn’t get the job done.
Senior guard Zak Irvin fouled out with 6:25 left in the game and was forced to head to the bench having scored just five points and committed eight turnovers. Though Derrick Walton Jr. still posted 15 points, eight of them came from the free throw line. The senior duo combined to score just 20 points on 5-for-27 shooting.
As if that wasn’t enough to spell doom for the Wolverines, they failed to protect the rim, too. After posting 20 points from the paint in the first half, the Gamecocks made it their territory in the second frame as well, taking Michigan’s big men to task for 16 points.
“We couldn’t score a basket (down low), so they’re going to get more points in the paint,” Beilein said. “We only scored 10 baskets. We weren’t getting many of those. I don’t think it was about points in the paint. I think it was an ineptitude in our offense to make some shots, execute.
“We had two assists and 16 turnovers. When have you seen that stat? Credit South Carolina, they played a great game and we weren’t up to that challenge.”
After the Wolverines invaded Madison Square Garden and left as champions of the 2K Classic, there were questions about whether fans could expect such dominant performances from Michigan every game.
If those same people were watching Wednesday night, they got their answer.