There weren’t many positives for the Michigan basketball team to take away from Tuesday’s 99-68 loss at Georgia Tech. But if there was one glimmer of hope, it was the play of the post players in the second half.
Despite being down by 27, with the game basically out of reach at halftime, the frontcourt stepped up the intensity in the game’s final 20 minutes. Even in the lackluster first half, Courtney Sims, Brent Petway and Chris Hunter combined for 15 of Michigan’s 32 first-half points. But during the second half, they turned it up a notch.
“We made it a point of emphasis to try to put the ball inside to them to at least get them touches and get high-percentage shots in the lane or even get fouled,” Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said. “I thought they really tried hard and battled.”
Sims led all scorers with 17, including 10 second-half points. He also managed to shoot 6-for-12 from the floor, despite the backcourt’s shooting woes.
Playing in front of his family from nearby McDonough, Ga., Petway displayed some promising post moves en route to tying a career high with 12 points. He often passed up the dunk for close jump- and hook-shots.
Hunter had perhaps the best night of the three, forcing the Yellow Jackets’ defenders to regularly foul him. Making the most of his 12 minutes of playing time, Hunter dropped a career-best 13 points and went 5-for-6 from the stripe.
Along with Graham Brown’s four points, the Michigan frontcourt scored 29 of the Wolverines’ 36 second-half points. With Georgia Tech trying to run Michigan out of the building in the first half, controlling the tempo was key for the Wolverines to keep the game from becoming a bigger blowout.
“We wanted to focus on posting up and slowing down the offense,” Brown said. “Their transition game was spectacular, and we had trouble stopping them. By looking inside, we got some easy baskets.”
Wolverines don’t run: For the second straight game, a new weakness emerged in Michigan’s performance that never used to be a problem.
Michigan’s 18 turnovers and a lackluster transition defense led to fast break after fast break for Georgia Tech — leading to 20 Yellow Jacket layups. Add to that stat the amount of 3-pointers the Yellow Jackets converted by hitting trailers on fast breaks behind the 3-point line, and it’s clear that Georgia Tech thrived on the fast break.
“We were trying to play to the best of our ability,” sophomore Dion Harris said. “But our turnovers led to a lot of fast break points.”
The lack of any sort of transition defense compounded the scoring landslide started by Georgia Tech. The Wolverines were giving the Yellow Jackets free lanes to the basket on a night when they couldn’t miss even the hardest shots. Georgia Tech shot 13-for-23 from 3-point range as a team. The barrage of fast-break points boosted the Yellow Jackets’ field goal percentage to 54 percent.
“They shot it well from three, and they got layups,” Amaker said. “It became a track meet, and it was no match for us.”
This problem was obvious after last week’s 72-63 loss to Providence in the consolation game of the Preseason NIT. Michigan led early in the contest until a series of fast-break points brought the Friars back and kept them in control the remainder of the game.
Notes: Junior wing Lester Abram missed his fourth straight game on Tuesday with a reaggravated shoulder injury. He dressed, but did not enter the game. Amaker labeled Abram as day-to-day and hopes to have him back by Saturday’s contest versus Notre Dame … Michigan’s loss evened its Big Ten/ACC Challenge Record at 2-2 since the series began. The Wolverines won their Big Ten/ACC Challenge matchup last year with a 68-61 victory over North Carolina State at Crisler Arena.