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Posted on Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 12:37 a.m.

Michigan basketball team sputters again, falling to Utah

By Michael Rothstein


Utah guard Jace Tavita passes around Michigan guard Darius Morris during the first half Wednesday night.

AP photo

SALT LAKE CITY - Cramped inside a locker room barely bigger than the key on the Hunstman Center floor, Michigan senior forward DeShawn Sims looked physically ill.

It could be that he’s catching the flu that forced Zack Novak to miss Utah’s 68-52 win over the Michigan basketball team on Wednesday night. It could be he’s disappointed in the way his senior season is playing out, with losses coming by the bunches lately.

Or, it might be a combination of both.


Michigan coach John Beilein, shown here in a photo from the preseason, said his team must "get a whole lot better" after Wednesday's loss to Utah if it's going to replicate its NCAA tournament run this year.

Lon Horwedel |

Ranked No. 15 in the country to start the year, Michigan (4-4 overall) has lost four of its past five games, two in double-digits. The vaunted 1-3-1 defense the Wolverines run can’t stop anybody.

Utah (5-4) had a couple of slashers in forward Carlon Brown and guard Marshall Henderson, who victimized Michigan’s defense. Henderson beat the Wolverines from the outside, too, scoring a team-high 22 points. Michigan’s offense wasn’t much better. 

The 3-point shooting woes continued. While Michigan crept above 30 percent for the game from beyond the three-point line - 31.8 percent - take out the play of junior guard Manny Harris and the rest of the Wolverines shot 24 percent from behind the arc.

“We have to get better,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “Get a whole lot better.”

Michigan was crushed rebounding, 41-25. The Wolverines allowed 12 offensive rebounds, which led to 11 second-chance points. They let Utah, a team shooting 43.2 percent coming into the game, to shoot 50.9 percent. Many of their baskets came on wide-open dunks or easy layups.

Beilein attributed the rebounding woes to a lack of defensive positioning and the physical nature of the game. In part because of Novak’s sickness, the third-year Michigan coach started fifth-year senior Zack Gibson to deal with Utah’s height up front, led by 7-foot-3 center David Foster.

The strategy, much like everything else Michigan tried Wednesday, failed. Sims and Gibson were routinely beaten defensively. On offense, they couldn’t get their shots up over Foster, who had five blocks to go with 10 points and six rebounds.

And even when Michigan came close, cutting the Utah lead to 1 point off a 14-5 run sparked by Harris, who had 7 points in the spurt and a game-high 25 points overall, Foster came up big.

He blocked a layup by Laval Lucas-Perry, then Henderson scored on the other end, starting an 8-2 run for Utah that broke open the game.

“Sometimes we got great looks and he just changes them,” Beilein said. “The blocked shot of Laval there was a real game-changer.”

Sophomore guard Stu Douglass continued his struggles, shooting 1-for-6 overall and 1 of 3 from the three-point line. Freshman guard Darius Morris missed layups. Lucas-Perry only played 11 minutes.

Beilein started searching for anything to try and find a spark, including playing Gabriel Richard graduate Eso Akunne a career-high 17 minutes, in which he scored three points. 
Mentally, though, Michigan has a lot of work to do.

“It’s not good right now,” Harris said. “We have to find a way to get everyone’s confidence back up and get everybody mentally into it. So it’s not good right now, but it’ll get there.

“I think that’s a big part of it. We just, our focus is not where it should be.”

Michael Rothstein covers University of Michigan basketball for He can be reached at (734) 623-2558, by e-mail at or follow along on Twitter @mikerothstein.



Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 8:33 p.m.

Beilein has been below.500 in his first two Big 10 seasons and is heading for a third.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 8:29 p.m.

Chosen1 - Michigan will not finish above.500 in the Big Ten. There will be no NCAA and no NIT. Teams playing better than Michigan: Purdue, MSU, OSU, Wisconsin, Illinois, PSU, Minnesota,and Northwestern.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 6:39 p.m.

Live by the three, die by the three. Zone defenses are for players who cannot play man to man defense. Easy to beat if you are patient and move the ball. Rebounding is as important as scoring.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 1:14 p.m.

i think they finish 5th based on how they are playing. I think Purdue, MSU, Wisky, and either Illinois or Ohio State finish above them or tie them.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 12:27 p.m.

I asked before, where will u finish in the BIG10 M fan? I said 7th at best 4 weeks ago.U have lost to CRAP teams,and u think your going to make it up in the BIG 10.What a joke. THOSE WHO STAY WILL WIN ONE OR TWO GAMES.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 12:25 p.m.

what big guys do you want him to play? Cronin? he isn't near being in game shape and walks with a serious limp from past injury. Morgan? he is coming off an injury as well and JB wants to keep his redshirt.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 11:49 a.m.

Wow, who ever thought that a 7' 3" player could be effective in the post. Maybe John could put one of his guards on another guard's shoulders. That probably makes more sense then signing any players taller than 6' 7". This season is done already and Sims isn't going to help next year or this year for that matter. Play the big kids now so you've got some experience going into next year.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 10:58 a.m.

I think it's a little too early to be saying Michigan won't be in the tourney. There is alot of season and the big ten tourney still left to be played. JB has more talented players here than he did when he was at wvu and he took them to the elite 8 and sweet 16. The biggest issue we have right now, is the guys who were making the hustle plays, diving on the floor for loose balls aren't here. We have a couple of 3 pt specialists who can't seem to remember what the basket looks like. All these things are fixable. And with one big win against kansas or uconn and it could jumpstart a run into league play


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 10:44 a.m.

Chosen 1: Looks like Beilein is choking. M was lucky to get into the NCAA last year. M won't even make the NIT this year. Where are those supporting players of Beilein from last year that helped out so much? Face it. You will not be watching M during tournament time.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 8:51 a.m.

Did Beilein dominate in the Big East? no, but neither did he get pushed around like Amaker did against Big ten teams. Beilein in his last 3 years at WVU had an Elite 8, Sweet 16, and NIT championship. Zulu, sorry but Michigan gave Tommy plenty of time to get things right and he couldn't get it done. He was.500 or lower in 5 of 6 years here at Michigan in the conference. Never took the team to the NCAA tourney. And last year's team was led by some of tommy's guys but some of the freshmen JB brought in made big shots to help get them in the tourney as well. Hate JB all you want, but don't give me Tommy Amaker was a good coach....He got a big job here and he CHOKED....


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 7:19 a.m.

It's funny how M fans could not wait until Tommy Amaker was out of here. The fact that M made it to the NCAA last year was mostly with Tommy Amaker's players and now that Beilein has his own players, we are seeing how his system works. Three point shots are beautiful at the right time of the game but to build a whole philosophy around 3 points shots does not make much sense nor does it require much coaching. I said at the beginning of the season that Harris and Sims were going to regret not turning Pro. Their stock after this season is going to plummet, M will be lucky to win 3 B10 games and the NIT is out of the question. I hope potential recruits and their advisers are seriously looking at the trend in M recruitment and their new philosophy and advise their son/protege accordingly. BTW: Has anyone noticed that it seems that coaches are becoming the focal point of sports and not the athletes. It seems that every coach now has their own agent. I guarantee, if it was left up to the coaches to play the game, not many teams would be winners. So why are we putting so much emphasis on the coaches. No doubt coaching is important, but I guarantee the best coach would not win without the athletes. Athletes need to take the game back. Please do not give me this BS about how the coaches are father figures for so many of these kids.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 2:43 a.m.

@LeHigh - are you still gonna give excuses for john beileins gimmick after the last 5 games? all you need to do is open your eyes when you watch the games. his gimmick is already exposed. But since you mentioned the big east, when i hear big east i think of Syracuse, Villanova, Georgetown, Connecticut, St John's, Cincinnati and Louisville. I do not remember Beilein's teams dominating those teams I mentioned. I do not remember Beilein in a final four and a national championship LOL! Maybe he had a couple of good years but to dominate, he did not. Beilein's gimmick offense is also marked in the big east. LOL! UM got stuck with a coach who's philosophy is a pure gimmick, no logic. No rebounding, no defense, no scoring inside, no big center, no big power forward, no nothing, just ALL THREE POINT SHOTS! LOL!


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 12:57 a.m.

Keep up the good work coach Bielein, Go Green--Go White!!!! MSU willl go back to the final 8 at least, Michigan stinks in anything other than XC and Track and Field!!


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 12:45 a.m.

Then why did Beilein's 'gimmick' teams survive the Big East, arguably a stronger basketball conference? The lack of size in the middle is killing Michigan when their shots aren't falling. Even with this bad pre-conference performance, if Michigan can have a good conference record they'll sneak into the NCAA's.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 12:01 a.m.

Team know the antidote to Beilein's gimmick offense! They are just going to guard the perimeter to make it hard to make those threes. Stop the threes, you stop Michigan. Very easy to prevent. On the offense, pound the ball inside the big man to score inside of create openings. You will not be checked inside as Beilein does not have big men to rebound and defend inside. That is how easy it is to beat a Beilein team. Too much "system" not much logic. This team will not survive the big ten. Another thing that is bothersome, why is Beilein confused on what to do at this stage of the season? In this stage, you should be refining the lineup and not acting confused. I am afraid that Beilein will win 1 game in 3 games this season. Forget the NCAA, Beilein's team is in the bubble of the NIT.


Wed, Dec 9, 2009 : 11:48 p.m.

just like it was last season, Macabre. they played so far beyond their capabilities last year it's not even funny.

Macabre Sunset

Wed, Dec 9, 2009 : 11:17 p.m.

Not good at all. A return trip to the NCAAs starting to look like a bit of a long-shot.


Wed, Dec 9, 2009 : 11:15 p.m.

Wow is there any sport team good at Michigan?!! They are killing my confidence in the atheletic program.