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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, January 06, 2019 5:40 pm

Halftime: No. 2 Michigan 44, No. 21 Indiana 29

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

ANN ARBOR, Michigan – Michigan is really good.

We knew that before the game, of course, but the No. 2 Wolverines went out and emphasized it in the first half. They made a remarkable 13 of 16 shots and 4 of 6 beyond the 3-point line in the game's first 10 minutes, opening up a commanding lead that they maintain at halftime.

It didn't help the Hoosiers that both Romeo Langford and Juwan Morgan each picked up two fouls in the game's opening minutes and had to go to the bench for significant stretches. When Morgan went out, the Hoosiers had to turn to little-used Clifton Moore because big man De'Ron Davis is dealing with an injury. Moore couldn't hold his own on defense and coach Archie Miler was forced to put Morgan back and make him play with two fouls much of the half.

In reality, however, the presence of Indiana's stars on the court has made little difference. Langford and Morgan have often looked as frazzled as their teammates, missing layups on offense, missing rotations on defense and making things too easy for the Wolverines. The volume of open layups that have rolled off the rim for Morgan and Langford combined has been mind-boggling. Morgan, one of the most accurate shooters in the Big Ten at 67.6 percent from the field, but is shooting 4 of 12 at halftime.

More than anything, the defining feature of the first half was how easy everything was for Michigan. The Wolverines' ball-handlers got into the lane almost at will and then scored mostly uncontested at the rim or kicked to wide-open 3-point shooters. On the other end, Indiana only turned the ball over five times, but most of those giveaways led to easy Wolverines baskets, and Michigan has a 11-2 advantage in points off turnovers.

Late in the half there were some signs of a resurgence from the Hoosiers: a couple of good passes for baskets on offense, a forced shot-clock violation on defense. Those small bursts of energy from the Hoosiers, combined with Michigan's shooting cooling off a bit, helped keep the game from devolving into a complete blowout as the Hoosiers' matchup against Duke did. Michigan has a big lead and it's clearly been the vastly superior team, but it isn't an insurmountable lead, at least not yet. With some better performances from its best players (Langford and Morgan shot a combined 33 percent in the first half) and a renewed intensity on defense, Indiana may yet make this a game. It's going to take a massive effort to get there because, again, this Wolverines team is very good.

dsinn@jg.net