Fouls, free throws help sink Michigan
Minneapolis — It was unlike anything Michigan coach John Beilein had ever seen.
Twenty-seven personal fouls.
Forty-one free-throw attempts allowed.
Not only did the numbers factor into Michigan’s 83-78 overtime loss Sunday to Minnesota at Williams Arena, both set new highs under Beilein, who is in his 10th year with the Wolverines.
The previous mark for fouls was 24, which happened against Oklahoma on March 21, 2009, and at Oakland on Dec. 10, 2011, and opponent free-throw attempts was 31, set by Kansas on Jan. 9, 2011.
“We couldn’t get enough stops. We couldn’t stop their free throws,” Beilein said. “We just could not stop it. It’s a physical, physical game. It’s physical and it’s got to be physical both ways.”
Michigan was also assessed a technical foul in the second half — pushing its number of total fouls to 28 — that changed the momentum of the game. Trailing 58-57 with 4:39 left, Mark Donnal was called for a blocking foul when Minnesota’s Amir Coffey appeared to fall down on his own.
Beilein expressed his displeasure before turning and walking back down the sideline. Referee Ted Valentine called a technical on Michigan’s bench and later told Big Ten Network, which was televising the game, it was because an assistant coach was on the apron of the court.
After Donnal was whistled for the foul, Michigan assistant Saddi Washington jumped up on the apron and raced down from one end of the bench to the other. That led to four free throws for the Golden Gophers and a five-point lead.
When asked if he was given an explanation for the technical foul, Beilein replied: “How do I put this and not throw anybody over the bus? It wasn’t on me.”
Of Michigan’s 27 fouls, four were committed in overtime and led to Minnesota scoring seven of its 11 points at the line. The Golden Gophers finished 28-for-41 on free throws.
Entering Sunday’s game, the Wolverines ranked fifth nationally in fewest fouls per game at 15.2. But by the end of it, Moritz Wagner and Duncan Robinson both fouled out, Xavier Simpson committed four fouls in seven minutes, and D.J. Wilson, Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton Jr. committed three apiece.
Minnesota was called for 17 fouls, with only two coming in the final five minutes of regulation and overtime.
“Got a lot of tough breaks in the game, really tough breaks,” Beilein said. “I’ll watch the video before I address (the officiating).”
As uncharacteristic as Michigan’s foul trouble was its free-throw shooting. The Wolverines shot a season-low 50 percent (9-for-18) from the stripe and had several misses come at crucial times.
Walton, one of the best free-throw shooters in the Big Ten, missed three consecutive free throws in the second half, while Robinson and Irvin each split a pair when it was a one-possession game.
Then in overtime, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman missed two free throws with 1:40 left and Michigan trailing, 76-75.
The Wolverines entered the game ranked fourth nationally at 78.9 percent. It was the first time 54 games Michigan shot 50 percent or worse on free throws in a game (5-for-10 vs. Delaware State on Dec. 12, 2015).
“The ball just didn’t bounce our way, especially on free throws and missing front ends on 1-and-1s and things like that,” Abdur-Rahkman said. “Just got to go back and practice to fix things.”
Minnesota finished with a decisive 44-31 advantage on rebounds, including 13 offensive boards that led to 17 second-chance points.
Jordan Murphy led the Golden Gophers with 15 rebounds and Reggie Lynch added eight in 13 minutes.
“They’re so big and so strong and we were stretching them out a little bit, but Moe (Wagner) is just learning to rebound. That’s not D.J. (Wilson’s) forte,” Beilein said. “We’re going to go in there and try to get some. We’re not going to win that war, so why even try to win it? Just get back and keep them out of transition, which I think we did a good job on.”
Wagner and Wilson grabbed seven rebounds apiece, but the Wolverines had zero second-chance points on three offensive rebounds.
“I think some of it had to do with angles,” Wilson said. “I know they got a few when I was out and then Zak (Irvin) was having to guard a bigger guy in Murphy.”