Second-half drought dooms Michigan to blowout loss in North Carolina

Michigan’s offense, out of sync all night, turned completely cold during a second-half stretch that turned a competitive (albeit botched) game into a blowout.

Playing a real road game in front of fans for the first time in March 2020, Michigan fell flat to North Carolina on Wednesday, losing 72-51.

The 24th-ranked Wolverines are down to 4-3 this season. They shot only 35 percent from the field.

A pair of freshmen РCaleb Houstan and Moussa Diabat̩, who made his career debut Рkept Michigan close in the first half. They combined for just two points in the second half, in a team-wide struggle to generate good shots and convert when opportunities presented themselves.

Diabaté finished Michigan’s leading scorer with 13 points. Eli Brooks added 11 and Houstan finished with eight, all in the first half, while adding seven rebounds.

It was no game for Caleb Love (22 points, four for three) and the Tar Heels, who improved to 5-2.

Michigan’s first loss, at home to Seton Hall, ended in final possession. But after an 18-point loss to Arizona in Las Vegas, Wednesday’s loss proves the Wolverines have a long way to go to live up to their lofty preseason expectations.

Michigan was just two points behind at halftime and was under six with 14 minutes to go. Michigan missed their next nine shots, North Carolina responded with a 15-3 run, and the Wolverines’ deficit only grew from there.

Juwan Howard tried to shake things up ahead of the game, setting up Diabaté to start as main striker Brandon Johns Jr.

Early in the second half, Hunter Dickinson was penalized with two fouls on one possession, giving him four for the game and forcing Howard to replace him at 6:17 pm to go. He sat for the next 10 minutes.

That’s when the Tar Heels gradually took their lead. They went up 41-33, and Howard called the time out. Dawson Garcia hit a 3, then scored on an out to make it 46-35. Johns missed a pair of open threes and a layup was rejected in the race, but also had Michigan’s lone basket in a six-minute streak in which Carolina pulled away.

Michigan missed nine straight goals and Carolina went on a 7-0 streak to turn a close game into a stomp.

Love’s three consecutive games, including one far behind the line, brought the score to 59-40.

Dickinson played just 18 minutes, his smallest since entering the starting lineup early in his first season, and scored four points, his second lowest production in a Michigan uniform.

The teams went back and forth early. After Brooks opened the scoring for Michigan, the aforementioned freshman duo combined Michigan’s next 19 points. Both teams shot under 37% in the first half. The Wolverines struggled with turnovers early on, but didn’t commit in the 11:14 Finals. They were leading up to five, but came in at halftime two behind.

Michigan opened the game with four misses and four turnovers before Brooks hit a pull-up jumper. North Carolina stacked bricks at the other end, so Houstan’s 3s and Diabaté’s layup took Michigan to 9-8 after seven minutes.

Freshman Frankie Collins replaced DeVante ‘Jones for the point guard at 11:09 of the first half – Michigan had six turnovers at that time – and played for the next eight minutes.

Diabaté and Houstan continued to carry the load. Dickinson’s inside basket shattered the freshmen’s goal streak and gave Michigan a 23-18 lead with 5:37 left in the half.

Love hit a hard 3 at the end of the half to give her 10 points and Carolina a 29-27 lead at the half.

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