ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The Maryland men’s basketball team thrived on its 3-point shooting. Michigan perished because of it.
In defeating the Wolverines 77-70 at the Crisler Center on Satruday, Maryland went 10 for 15 from behind the perimeter and forced Michigan to defend against a speedy, skilled set of guards.
With that strategy, Maryland all but took advantage of one of Michigan’s more glaring deficiencies in its first two months of the season: perimeter defense.
Michigan (11-5, 1-2 Big Ten) entered the game with the Big Ten’s lowest 3-point defense percentage, opponents shooting 39.8 percent (94 of 236) — an average of about 6 for 15 per game.
Maryland (14-2, 2-1) generously exceeded that total.
“Some of their guys made some tough 3s but a lot of those guys were open,” said Michigan forward Zak Irvin, who scored 15 points. “It’s tough to beat a team when they get 30 points from the 3-point line. They just played really well.”
Maryland guard Jared Nickens, Irvin said, was a particular threat to the Wolverines. Nickens entered the game shooting only 26.2 percent on 3-pointers, but went 4 for 4 off the bench against Michigan.
Maryland coach Mark Turgeon didn’t have a complicated explanation for why Maryland shot so well from behind the 3-point line.
“We made shots today,” Turgeon said. “Of course, Jared made 4 of them, but we made some tough ones. We have a really good shooting team and we’re still getting used to each other, and we’re getting better at what we do. But we made shots today.”
The 10-for-15 effort, though, had to please Turgeon; Maryland entered Saturday’s game 11th in the Big Ten in 3-point field-goal percentage (123 for 355, 34.6 percent) yet has been on a consistent 3-point shooting pace. In four games prior to Saturday, Maryland was a combined 44 for 85 (51.8 percent) from behind the arc.
Moritz Wagner, who had a game-high 17 points, couldn’t give an immediate response as to what his team needs to do to improve its perimeter defense.
“I don’t really know what to say about that, because you’re out there working your butt off and you’re getting killed at the 3-point line again,” Wagner said. “The only thing that’s left for us is just to go in the gym on Monday, try to get better and be aware of the fact that we’re not solid right now, defensively, especially.”
Michigan coach John Beilein, however, offered a more technical explanation.
“When we close out on people, we’ve got to get to shooters,” Beilein said. “Like today. (Maryland’s Kevin) Huerter, (Justin) Jackson and Nickens, they’re not guys you close out short and then contest. You just run them off the line. A couple times we closed out short and dared them to shoot it. That’s what they do well, and that’s that processing speed (on defense), that, ‘where am I going to go?’ It will come, it will come.
Then, Beilein impressed a certain urgency upon that notion.
“Hopefully, it doesn’t come when they’re playing over in Europe some day, later on, or in the NBA,” the 10th-year Michigan coach said, with a wry smile. “It’s got to be something that they want to do her at Michigan. Who am I guarding and where it is. It’s just an issue with this team.
“We’re going to work at it, and it’s going to be really fun when they pull this all together.”