Posted Dec. 22

The Michigan men’s basketball team took its best shot against No. 8 UCLA Saturday afternoon.

But the Wolverines missed it.

And missed it.

And missed it again.

Hampered by poor shooting throughout the game, Michigan’s upset bid fell short and the Bruins ran away with a 69-54 win in front of the largest crowd to watch a game at Crisler Arena this season.

The Wolverines shot a below average 31 percent from the floor and an abysmal 19 percent from beyond the arc.

“I thought we had tremendous looks,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “If we shoot 30 percent (from 3-point range) then all of a sudden it’s a whole different game.”

Michigan took 31 3-pointers in all because of UCLA freshman Kevin Love’s presence in the paint.

The 6-foot-10, 271-pound center was a force around the basket, scoring 17 points and collecting a game-high 16 rebounds.

Countering with 6-foot-10, 220-pound Zack Gibson and 6-foot-10, 240 pound Ekpe Udoh, Beilein admitted there was no way Michigan could successfully control Love. The Wolverines attempted to attack the Bruins (11-1) from the air yet their streaky shooting let them down, making the afternoon’s game plan similar to trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

But despite its shooting troubles, Michigan took a 27-24 lead into halftime.

The defense was key in helping the Wolverines (4-8) attain and maintain that lead. Michigan effectively harassed ball handlers and forced the Bruins to alter many of their shots. Sophomores DeShawn Sims and Udoh combined to make six blocks during the game and none were more exciting than Udoh’s back-to-back blocks early in the second half.

Udoh promptly denied both UCLA’s Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Darren Collison while the Crisler crowd erupted in approval.

Freshman Manny Harris eventually came up with the ball following the second block, rushed down the court and drew a shooting foul. Harris made his free throws and the Wolverines had their biggest lead of the game, 36-28.

But the same problems that plagued Michigan from the beginning of the season persisted in spite of the confidence gained from holding a lead against a top-10 team. Players took several rushed or ill-advised shots, numerous open looks clanked off the rim and ball handlers either ignored or missed all together open teammates.

“In the second half we had a couple of lapses,” Udoh said. “They started hitting shots and we missed shots.”

Michigan’s loss ends a brutal non-conference schedule, which also included Georgetown and Duke. Now the Wolverines’ focus shifts to the Big Ten season where they will square off against Wisconsin in Ann Arbor Jan. 2.

By then Michigan’s best shot will have to be more on target.

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