No. 3 Michigan hoping to fix late-game issues, figure out how to put opponents away
ANN ARBOR -- The Michigan basketball team hasn't had many issues this season, but when it comes to late-game situations, things have been far from smooth.
The Wolverines held double-digit leads late in games against North Carolina State and Bradley last week, but in both instances, allowed their opponents to slowly climb back in and make things interesting.
Michigan left both games with a win, but says late-game problems can't become a habit moving forward.
"It's just about trying to finish games out the way we should," Michigan junior guard Tim Hardaway Jr. said. "We haven't really been focused out there.
"And that just comes with practice, more reps and situations."
At Bradley on Saturday, Michigan held a 16-point lead with 3:34 to go. But after a missed jumper and three straight turnovers, that lead was whittled all the way down to just five with 28 seconds to play.
For the Braves, it was too little, too late. But for Michigan, it was the second-straight outing that showed a lack of killer instinct late in games.
"Almost all the steals they got was from one person hanging onto the ball too long, or not using a timeout," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "They took the ball right out of our hands at times. We've seen the video, and it's something we've got to get better at.
"Turn and call timeout. We've been working at that. ... We've got to be really solid (in those situations)."
Beilein refused to blame the issue on youth, as two of those three late-game turnovers were by Hardaway and Jordan Morgan -- a pair of juniors.
The other, by point guard Trey Burke.
Asked if he'll challenge either Burke, Hardaway -- the team's top two players -- to step forward in those situations and take the game over, Beilein said no.
On the contrary, actually. He says in those situations, someone else needs to help Burke and Hardaway, rather than stand around and wait for them to put things on ice.
"They can't have the ball the whole time," Beilein said. "There'd be a five-second call. We have to pass the ball, make sure we move the ball.
"But when you turn the ball over at 25 feet, it's a layup. There's no defensive plan for a turnover. In the last couple minutes, sometimes it happens."