Bloomington, Ind. — For Michigan, it was almost like déjà vu.
At Duke on Dec. 3, Michigan struggled offensively because Blue Devils defenders denied Nik Stauskas from getting the ball and made the other four Wolverines take the reins offensively.
That had been Michigan’s last road loss — until Indiana used a similar blue print on Sunday afternoon to upset the 10th-ranked Wolverines, 63-52, at Assembly Hall, where the Hoosiers improved to 22-2 in the series since 1988.
Against Duke, Stauskas had a season-low four points with no field goals. On Sunday against Indiana, Stauskas was 1-of-6 from the field and made four free throws and finished with six points — more than 12 below his season average. Stauskas had scored in double figures in each of the 12 games since the Duke loss.
Indiana used 6-foot point guard Yogi Ferrell to shadow Stauskas, who is 6-6.
“They take their quickest player and don’t let Nik get the ball. We’ve seen that before; we haven’t seen when they put our primary screener with a switch guy and that’s what changed a lot of things,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “Drawing that up in the huddle and practicing is two different things.”
Michigan (16-5, 8-1 Big Ten) was unable to adjust on the fly and the offense suffered. The 52 points were a season low, as were the eight assists.
“Yogi did a great job of not letting him get the ball. We tried to work hard to get (Stauskas) the ball. We want Nik to be aggressive,” Beilein said. “They switched screens every time he had a ball screen and we have to work at handling that better.”
“Obviously, we were trying to get Nik the ball or let Yogi guard him and we’ll go four-on-four.”
Beilein said the key to Indiana’s game plan was a non-traditional defense, using Will Sheehey to switch off pick-and-roll plays, enabling them to stay with ball-handlers and maintain favorable matchups.
“We had a different game plan for them, but I think the coaches prepared us very well for that and we were going to switch out on their ball screens,” said Ferrell, who had 27 points.
“We wanted to do that to try not to have them draw the ball and kick for 3’s.”
One of Michigan’s hallmarks during its 10-game winning streak was the ability to hit free throws and close out games in the final minutes.
Against the Hoosiers, the Wolverines struggled from the free-throw line down the stretch. Michigan closed to 55-49 with 2:04 left and Jordan Morgan (five points and a season-high 10 rebounds) had a one-and-one free-throw opportunity.
But Morgan missed the first and Indiana got the rebound. Twenty seconds later, Robinson had another one-and-one chance, but missed the free throw, which could have changed the tenor of the last few possessions and the end of the game.
“It could have been right down to the end. Jordan is a career 66-percent guy and if can keep shooting 66, we’re happy. Glenn has been 80 or 90 percent,” Beilien said. “It’s stuff that happens in games.”
Beilein hasn’t relied on the 1-3-1 zone defense as much, citing the difficulty in executing and how teams have had more success against it.
It worked in short stretches against the Hoosiers, but Beilein used it more out of necessity than by choice.
“We had no answers for Yogi. He wasn’t passing it. They only had six assists today; it wasn’t an assist game — it was get the ball in Yogi’s hands and they’re either re bound it or play off residual action,” Beilein said. “One way you can do that is play 1-3-1 and have two guys gapping him.
“We went to that to try and create some turnovers and it worked for a bit but they did get one drive to the basket. Defense wasn’t the issue today; our offense has got to get better and that falls with me.”