Ann Arbor — Senior center Jon Teske has been looking for his shot more than ever this season.
As of late, though, Teske’s shots have been finding everything but the bottom of the basket.
Heading into Wednesday night’s game at Rutgers, Teske is shooting 23.5 percent (8-for-34) from the field over the past four games. All but four of those shot attempts have come inside the arc.
According to Teske, opponents have focused on pushing him further away from the block on post ups and have made it harder for him to get into a rhythm during his recent slump.
"I have to try to catch the ball lower on the block and not so far out,” Teske said Tuesday. “That's one thing I'm working with Coach (Juwan) Howard on is doing my work early and trying to get easier shots down low.”
Howard has noticed similar things on film, especially against Northwestern last week. In that game, Teske missed five shots around the rim in the first three minutes and finished 3-for-14 from the field.
“He got knocked off balance a few times, knocked off his sweet spot,” Howard said. “Some shots that normally go in rolled in and rolled out.
“They also have been doubling him in the post. We have to take that into consideration as well.”
Howard made it clear during summer workouts the offense was going to go through Teske and he was going to have Teske play more in the post. At the start of most games, Michigan’s first offensive possession often results in a post feed to Teske.
But for Teske, demanding the ball down low, banging in the post and playing on both blocks has been an adjustment. Last season, he played more at the top of the key and on the elbows with most of his damage coming in pick-and-rolls and pick-and-pops under former coach John Beilein.
“Jon doesn't have that (aggressive) demeanor so Coach Howard was trying to instill that into him,” junior guard Eli Brooks said. “He embraced it in the first half of the season, but he just needs to continue to stay confident and (know) it works. He's just got to get to his spots and trust the work that he's putting in is going to pay off.”
Teske said he felt he had an advantage posting up earlier in the year because opponents weren’t used to defending him in those situations. But as it gets deeper into the season, the scouting reports are catching up and Teske noted teams may be picking up on what move he likes to use in the post and what block he prefers the ball on.
To combat it, Brooks said the Wolverines can do a better job of putting Teske in a better position with their entry passes and finding him earlier when he’s established in the post.
Teske said he’s continually working on ways to improve his game down low with Howard, who has preached to all the big men the importance of having counters to go to when opponents take one thing away.
“I've just got stay confident in my shot when I get the ball down low and go up strong,” Teske said. “A lot of teams are game planning around me, so my job is to either get a shot up or kick it back out for an open look. But my teammates trust me to make the right decision."
Howard said Teske has been “getting better and better” as a post-up player and has never resisted playing more on the inside this season.
And even though Teske’s numbers have taken a significant dip — 26.7 percent on 2-point shots the past four games compared to 61 percent over the first 21 contests — Howard said Teske is still finding ways to impact the game.
“He's the first person you can point the finger at and say, ‘Jon is not playing well. Jon is not giving us anything. Jon is not an inside presence,’” Howard said. “He's on everyone's scouting report. They double him for a reason because they do not want to see Jon score baskets because they know he's capable of having big nights if you play him one-on-one.”
While Teske hasn’t had a big night in recent weeks, Brooks said that hasn’t affected Teske’s energy and effort at all.
“He's been the same Jon,” Brooks said. “It’s just the shots aren't falling right now.”