STATE COLLEGE –
When John Beilein came to Michigan from West Virginia, Wolverine fans had visions of players routinely draining clutch shots from downtown.
Catch-and-shoot, pro-range, he-shouldn’t-shoot-from-that-far distance.
They’ve seen those shots fall, all right.
The problem is, those buckets have been made by opposing teams.
This season, the Wolverines have made 17 fewer 3-pointers than their opponents, despite attempting 80 more.
For a stretch in the second half Saturday, Penn State knocked down five straight 3-pointers. Michigan tried to respond with its own deep shots. Three times, the Wolverines tried a trey to stop the run. None of them fell.
“It just shows you the value of having a good shooting team,” Beilein said.
That’s not something Beilein has right now.
Two of Michigan’s top perimeter shooters, Anthony Wright and DeShawn Sims, went a combined 0-for-10 from beyond the arc against Penn State.
Penn State’s two top shooters went 12-for-20 from downtown.
There’s not much more Beilein could have done about his own players. He put a special emphasis on shooting during summer workouts and has continued with that focus.
It’s the other team’s shooting that’s been the real problem.
It’s no coincidence the Wolverines have repeatedly allowed opposing players to have career nights from behind the arc.
The perimeter defense has been porous, and opponents have exposed those gaps.
After 29 games, Michigan still struggles to effectively communicate on the perimeter and switch on screens.After Penn State’s Talor Battle and Mike Walker torched the Wolverines for 36 points from the outside, freshman Manny Harris said he thought the team shouldn’t still be struggling this mightily guarding the perimeter.
The Nittany Lions looked like they were on fire, NBA Jam-style, but they were left open.
This late in the year, routinely leaving guys open shouldn’t be a problem. By now, Michigan primarily plays a man-to-man defense – not a very complex system.
Guard your man. If there is a switch, pick up your new guy. Stick with him.
It’s not a skill issue, not something that has to wait for next season. Defensive mentality can change.
While Beilein couldn’t turn Sims into Kevin Pittsnogle overnight, he could’ve transformed his team’s defensive mentality. But he hasn’t.
He could’ve lit a fire under his team to get out and attack on the perimeter, but the results aren’t there.
Michigan continues to allow the deep shots and struggles to make its own ones.
Beilein didn’t inherit a roster of snipers. The Wolverines’ skill set might not match what he wants to do on offense.
But that’s no excuse for not stopping what opponents want to do on offense.
– Robinson can be reached at email@example.com.