BLOOMINGTON – The Michigan men’s basketball team came late and left early on Saturday.
The Wolverines were late getting into the game, facing a double-digit deficit before the game was even three minutes old.
They were continuously late on their defensive rotations, freeing Indiana shooters for open 3-point looks.
With Michigan trailing big early, senior Brent Petway tried to jump-start his team with a blocked shot.
Alas, Petway’s attempt was tardy as well, and the McDonough, Ga., native was whistled for goaltending.
And three Wolverine seniors – Petway, Courtney Sims and Lester Abram – fouled out against the Hoosiers, leaving before the 76-61 loss was official.
The fourth Michigan senior, guard Dion Harris, tied for the team lead with 12 points, but failed to score until just nine minutes remained in the first half. Abram and junior Ron Coleman also mustered 12 points.
“Before the game (Michigan) coach (Tommy) Amaker was telling us that they were going to come with their best shot,” Coleman said. “He told us that the first four minutes of the game were going to be important, and the first four of the second half were going to be important.”
But Michigan didn’t heed the warning.
After three minutes of basketball, it trailed 11-0.
The Wolverines (4-3 Big Ten, 16-6 overall) fell into the early hole due to their inability to defend the 3-pointer. The Hoosiers sank three shots from beyond the 3-point line in the game’s first four minutes, and went on to sink 8-of-14 first-half attempts from behind the arc. Each time Michigan threatened to tighten the game, the Hoosiers (5-2, 15-5) responded with a dagger from downtown.
“We really felt it was going to be an emotional start for them, and I was hopeful that we were going to have a chance to match that,” Amaker said. “But we weren’t able to do it, and they hit the first few buckets and the first few threes, and it really got things rolling for them.”
The Wolverines responded to the early deficit, however, as they cut the deficit to five on a Courtney Sims lay-up. But Indiana countered with a 3-pointer by junior A.J. Ratliff to extend the lead to 16-8.
Michigan continued to rally, reducing the lead to six twice in the half. But both times, late defensive rotations by Michigan allowed Indiana senior Roderick Wilmot to knock down a 3-pointer and push the lead back to nine, where the margin stood at halftime.
“We’ll make a play, but then we would come down on offense and wouldn’t score, and then they would come back down and score,” Petway said. “So that would put us right back where we were. We just couldn’t get over that hump, and that’s what we need to address. We just need to find a way to get over that one hump.”
The Wolverines appeared unready to start the second half, too. Indiana junior D.J. White began the half with a quick baseline jumper that started the Hoosiers on a 14-3 spurt. That run extended the lead to 49-29, and the deficit proved too much for Michigan to respond to.
“(The) start of the second half, that was the difference in the basketball game,” Amaker said.
Michigan threatened to catch up to the Hoosiers late, cutting the margin to eight with three minutes to play. But Indiana junior Mike White put back his own miss after Petway pinned it against the backboard. Courtney Sims was late coming over to box out, and committed his fifth and final foul on White as the junior finished the play.
That started the exodus of Wolverine seniors, as Petway and then Abram followed Sims to the bench with their fifth fouls.
The loss in Bloomington is another example of Michigan’s troubles winning on the road this season. Its road record stands at 2-5, and 1-3 in Big Ten play, with the lone win coming against a Northwestern team with just one conference win.
“I think it’s the same game (as the other road losses),” Harris said. “I just don’t know what to say about how we perform on the road. I haven’t figured it out yet.”
If Harris and the rest of the seniors don’t figure out how to win on the road soon, they’re probably going to end up arriving late for yet another event.
And the doors of the Dance don’t look kindly upon stragglers.