Wolverines need work on defense after lopsided loss
Los Angeles — After UCLA freshman guard Lonzo Ball drained a 3-pointer from the logo to end the first half, Michigan was left wondering what more it could do.
The Wolverines played perhaps their best basketball all season and still entered halftime against No. 2 UCLA tied at 50.
“We looked at Coach (Billy) Donlon, our defensive guy, and he was like, ‘They scored 50 points in the first half and we scored 50 points, but we can’t even tell if it’s great offense or just attest it to them making tough shots,’ ” senior guard Derrick Walton Jr. said.
It turned out no matter what Michigan did on the offensive end, it couldn’t do anything to slow UCLA as its defense was gashed in a 102-84 loss Saturday at Pauley Pavilion.
It was the first time during Michigan coach John Beilein’s 10-year tenure that an opponent scored more than 100 points and just the second time one of his teams gave up at least 90 points since Duke scored 95 on Dec. 8, 2007.
It also was just the second time Michigan had scored at least 80 points under Beilein and lost. The first came last season in an 86-82 defeat at Maryland.
“I mean putting up 84 points, normally when we get to 80 we don’t lose many games,” senior forward Zak Irvin said. “But it’s tough when you give up 102 points, you’re not going to win many games either. I thought we played really well. They just made a lot of tough shots.”
Whether it was in the paint, in traffic, or well beyond the arc, UCLA knocked down shots from all over the floor and proved why it’s one of the top offenses in the nation, shooting better than 60 percent (19-for-31) from the field and 70 percent (10-for-14) from 3-point range in the first half.
And the second half only got worse for Michigan as its defense unraveled and UCLA (10-0) kicked into another gear, shooting a stunning 74 percent (20-for-27) from the field.
“We just have to go back and get to the basics,” redshirt sophomore forward D.J. Wilson said. “In practice, coach preaches ‘guard our yard.’ We just had some defensive stretches in the second half where we were not doing that.”
It was a punch in the mouth for Michigan (7-3), which has put an emphasis on its defense and had made strides through the first nine games.
But after UCLA freshman forward TJ Leaf seemingly did whatever he wanted on offense, scoring 21 points on 10-for-14 shooting to lead five Bruins with at least 14 points, it provided a clear message that there’s still work to be done.
“We probably won’t see a team with the four guys on the perimeter that all can attack like that,” Beilein said. “Really Leaf can do it, too, but we’re going to see (teams) in our league that have two or three guys like that and it’s the same deal. We just got to work better at it.
“Here was the analogy I made: If you’re bad at foul shooting, you go back at foul shooting, and I think in the past we’ve been bad sometimes schematically defensively. This is just about your man, one-on-one, and them taking us off the dribble.
“You can’t make foul shots, you go practice foul shots. You can’t guard your yard, you got to go back and practice it more.”