Michigan Basketball Dreams Shattered: Rutgers Ends NCAA Tournament Hopes

Michigan Basketball Dreams Shattered Rutgers Ends NCAA Tournament Hopes

Michigan basketball had only made one shot in the first ten minutes of the second half, but it seemed like they were beginning to gain the upper hand.

The gap between them and Rutgers had been reduced to a single point when Derek Simpson stepped up to the free-throw line.

He made the first, but the second bounced off the backboard and back to him. Taking advantage of the situation, he dribbled and put the ball in the basket, eliciting cheers from the Scarlet Knights’ bench and confusion from the Wolverines.

Hunter Dickinson lamented, “It was disheartening. Our miscommunication is something we rehearse regularly, and it is inexcusable. Coaches stress this in training and during timeouts—one player should guard the shooter while another stays near the basket.”

The onus is on the participants on the court to work together and cooperate, thus launching a 12-0 run for the Scarlett Knights while Michigan had its most dismal shooting half of the year.

The Wolverines started the second half with a poor 1-for-17 shooting run (finishing 4-for-21) and went a record 14 minutes without making a single field goal, resulting in a 62-50 defeat at the hands of Rutgers in the second round of the Big Ten tournament.

This loss makes it nearly impossible for Michigan (17-15) to make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2015, after five consecutive Sweet Sixteen appearances.

Juwan Howard stated that the team had an inclination to attempt to make plays by themselves, which gave Rutgers the chance to take advantage of hurried, missed shots and turnovers.

He went on to say that the team’s offense was really struggling in the second half, since they only made four shots and had issues with turnovers and offensive rebounds.

Rutgers forwards Antwone Woolfolk attempted to keep Michigan Basketball center Hunter Dickinson in check during the first half of the Big Ten tourna
Rutgers forwards Antwone Woolfolk attempted to keep Michigan Basketball center Hunter Dickinson in check during the first half of the Big Ten tourna

Michigan had a record of 16 wins and 1 loss in its 17 previous encounters against Rutgers and its preceding 16 Big Ten tournament opening matches had an outcome of 15 wins and 1 defeat.

In contrast, Howard has a record of 1 win and 3 losses in 4 Big Ten tournament games, with the only victory being the 2019 game against Maryland, in which he got thrown out before completion.

Hunter Dickinson propelled the team forward with 24 points and seven boards, while Kobe Bufkin contributed nine points, seven rebounds and five assists. Cam Spencer topped Rutgers with 18 points, and Simpson added 13, as the school moves on to challenge the top-ranked Purdue Boilermakers on Friday afternoon.

Meltdown in the second half

Michigan’s situation deteriorated drastically in the second half, as they only managed to accumulate a 28-25 advantage at the break.

A shot clock violation was immediately followed by four unsuccessful attempts from Howard, Bufkin and Dickinson, leading to a swift 9-1 Rutgers spurt that necessitated a timeout from Juwan Howard.

Howard stated that, occasionally, they became somewhat out of their usual scope of behaviour and strayed away from the straightforward approach they had taken in the first half. Subsequently, Bufkin’s two free throws were followed by a 3-pointer from Aundre Hyatt for Rutgers’ fifth consecutive bucket.

Dickinson then sunk a 3-pointer from the corner, before Dickinson split a pair of free throws, Dug McDaniel made two and Tarris Reed Jr. made one, reducing the deficit to 40-39 with 11:06 left on the clock.

Simpson’s swift three-point effort gave Rutgers an advantage of 43-39 while Michigan’s missed shots started to accumulate. Bufkin commented, “At times, fortune is just not on our side.

We had a difficult beginning of the second period, but we stuck it out. Unfortunately, the result was not what we had hoped for.” The Scarlet Knights managed to make five of their six attempts while the Wolverines went on a dry spell of twelve unanswered shots; a lot of which were thanks to the defense.

After Spencer made a layup, the co-Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Caleb McConnell snatched the ball away from Dickinson and scored off a floater. Clifford Omoruyi, another All-Big Ten Defensive Team member, then blocked a shot from Dickinson, and Spencer then sunk a 3-pointer to bring the score to 50-39, requiring a timeout from Michigan.

Following this, Omoruyi swatted a shot from Terrance Williams, Oskar Palmqust secured the ball and threw it to Simpson for a slam, assuring that the game would never come within double digits.

Bufkin commented that he felt their hard work was evident, but when their shots missed, the contest became more difficult.

He explained that this was not a valid justification for inadequate defence, and expressed regret that it occurred.

Finally, Dickinson’s 3-pointer in the last minute, followed by two more from Baker and Bufkin in the closing seconds, broke their 14-minute drought without a field goal.

It began nicely, but quickly faded

From the get-go, Dickinson showed his prowess, executing a right-handed hook shot in the opening possession and then landing a scooping layup in the next.

He then grabbed two rebounds and blocked a try before Jett Howard struck a three-pointer and Bufkin scored a reverse layup off Dickinson’s pass. “In the first half I had more of a one-on-one chance,” Dickinson said as he had 6 out of 10 chances and scored 13 points in the first half.

He added that the opponents were trying to collapse more on him in the second half.

As has been the case many times this season, the Wolverines offense faltered. For the next seven minutes, Michigan only made two out of eleven shots, enabling Rutgers to gradually reduce the deficit to 13-11 when Omoruyi scored a layup with 9:49 left in the half.

Dickinson gave the Wolverines a much-needed boost, scoring a three-point play on a floater plus the foul. Following this, Williams made a jumper, allowing Michigan to go up 18-11. The Wolverines shot a 48% (12-for-25) in the first period, despite playing against the conference’s toughest defense.

Rutgers, on the other hand, had a hard time making shots – missing their first seven attempts, and then having a 1-for-10 drought, leaving them with a 4-for-23 record through nearly fourteen minutes.

Caleb McConnell of the Rutgers Scalet Knights drove the ball towards the basket as Will Tschetter of the Michigan Wolverines defended during the first half at United Center in Chicago on March 9, 2023.
Caleb McConnell of the Rutgers Scalet Knights drove the ball towards the basket as Will Tschetter of the Michigan Wolverines defended during the first half at United Center in Chicago on March 9, 2023.

Michigan gave the Scarlet Knights numerous additional opportunities to score; they collected eight offensive rebounds, resulting in eight points in second-chance opportunities and a further 10 points due to seven turnovers in the first half. Despite shooting a low percentage of 29% (10-for-34) from the floor, the Scarlet Knights still managed to take nine more shots than Michigan, keeping them in the game.

Rutgers had a brief period of success late in the period as they made 6 of 8 shots, the last of which came when Antwone Woolfolk stole Bufkin’s attempted entry pass and took it to the net for a layup, resulting in a 14-5 run and giving the Scarlett Knights a 25-23 lead with 1:21 on the clock.

Dickinson then answered by making a hook shot to level the score, before Joey Baker hit the bench’s second three-pointer with a single second remaining in the half.

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