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No. 5 Michigan frozen by No. 1 Louisville's defense in 58-43 loss

Orion Sang, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Basketball

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Michigan basketball entered the KFC Yum! Center fresh off a dominant showing at one of the nation's premier in-season tournaments, with a newly minted No. 5 ranking and a chance to climb even higher in the polls with an upset of the nation's top-ranked team.

And then the Wolverines ran into No. 1 Louisville's defense.

Michigan was held under 20 first-half points for the first time since 2008, shooting just 6 of 30 in the opening period as it quickly fell behind by double digits. And although the Wolverines shot better in the second half and cut the deficit to as little as four points, the slow offensive start doomed them in a 58-43 loss.

Michigan (7-1) entered the game with one of the country's best offenses, with an effective field-goal percentage of 61.4% that ranked No. 2 in the country. Through their first seven games, the Wolverines shot 60% on 2s and 42.4% on 3s, with those respective measures ranking No. 4 and No. 9 nationally.

But from the opening tip, the Cardinals stifled the Wolverines, who shot just 15 of 57 from the field and 3 of 18 from 3 for the game.

Michigan's half-court offense struggled badly against Louisville's pick-and-roll defense. The Wolverines, who have been efficient operating in ball screens, couldn't crack the Cardinals, who defended against every screen and forced Michigan's offense to reset.

The Wolverines weren't able to take their usual amount of 3s -- they were 1 of 6 in the first half -- and couldn't create any good looks close to the basket, either. That meant a steady diet of tough midrange jumpers and floaters -- and plenty of Jon Teske post-ups.

The senior center kept the first half from becoming a blowout, accounting for four of Michigan's six made field goals by hitting three baby hooks and a jumper.

 

But Teske, who finished with a team-high 18 points, got very little help. The Wolverines' primary creator, point guard Zavier Simpson, was largely neutralized by Louisville (8-0). Simpson averaged more than 10 assists in last week's Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, but had just three against Louisville and had zero in the first half. Meanwhile, wing Isaiah Livers was held to three points on 1 of 9 shooting after entering the game as Michigan's leading scorer while shooting better than 50% from outside. The Wolverines' two other starters, guard Eli Brooks and wing Franz Wagner, combined for just seven points on 2 of 12 shooting.

The Wolverines began the second half with a quick 8-0 run and cut Louisville's lead to four. For a second, Michigan was right back in the game. But the Cardinals responded with an 8-0 run of their own, and the moment passed. Jordan Nwora, a leading candidate for national player of the year, hit an array of tough shots, finishing with a game-high 22 points.

Michigan had a chance to make another national statement after last week's top-10 wins over North Carolina and Gonzaga. But the vaunted offense that helped lead them to those victories went cold Tuesday night.

(c)2019 Detroit Free Press

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