Against Illinois on Tuesday, five Wolverines put up 0-fers from beyond the 3-point line, including shooters Michigan normally relies on, like sophomore Stu Douglass and redshirt sophomore Laval Lucas-Perry.
But piercing through the dark clouds surrounding the Michigan men’s basketball team’s awful 3-point shooting was a beam of light — from sophomore guard Zack Novak.
Novak has been struggling with his stroke recently, most notably against Penn State when he went 1-for-6 from the 3-point line.
But against Illinois, Novak went 4- for-10, providing his team with the only consistent touch from beyond the arc.
“I’ve been working on changing stuff up with my shot,” Novak said. “Just slowing down, trying not to be in a rush. It helped.”
The good shooting effort led to one of Novak’s best offensive nights in a while. His 12 points marked the first time the guard has cracked double-digits since Jan. 23 against Purdue.
Lucas-Perry continues to struggle
The shooting sruggles have been plainly evident all season, and the numbers continue to back it up.
Of Michigan’s five starters, not one is shooting above 31 percent from deep. And recently, few players have been struggling as much as Laval Lucas-Perry.
The guard’s 0-for-6 shooting from deep against Illinois was the worst in his past five games. In three of those, he has not made a 3-pointer.
“Same old song,” Lucas-Perry said. “We got to find some answers quickly, because the Big Ten Tournament is coming up right away and we got to find a solution to this problem that we’re having.”
Lucas-Perry is known as a shooter, but given his current slump, he said he needs to find other ways to contribute to the team.
“I’ve got to do something different to help this team win,” Lucas-Perry said. “Defensively, or finding other teammates when I’m not hitting, driving to the basket.”
With the way the Wolverines were shooting during the first half of Tuesday’s game, no fan would have been surprised to look at the scoreboard and see that Michigan was down by a wide margin.
In reality, the Wolverines were only down by eight. The reason behind the small deficit despite the poor shooting was simple: defense. When Michigan missed shots, it tightened up on defense.
This observation may seem like it’s out of an elementary-school coach’s handbook, but it’s been a hard lesson learned by this year’s Wolverines.
One of Michigan’s biggest problems this year has been that when it can’t hit shots, it becomes distracted on defense.
“When we haven’t shot well, we are a distracted team,” Beilein said after last week’s loss to Penn State at home. “Now you’re thinking about the missed shot and not getting the loose ball. You’re thinking about it on defense.”
But that was definitely not the case on Tuesday. And if there was a silver lining against the Illini, that was it.
“We were great defensively,” Beilein said. “Really good. You can’t do much better defensively.”
Illinois has averaged 68 points per game in conference play. On Tuesday, Michigan held the Illini to 51.