U-M came into this game undefeated and feeling pretty good. For the better part of three quarters, they played extremely close lacrosse with a team that was then the No. 4 team in the country (and remains No. 1 according to Analytics Lacrosse). Then the wheels fell off.
From the official box score, a look at the tempo-free stats:
|Notre Dame 2017|
|Faceoff Wins||11||Faceoff Wins||14|
|Offensive Efficiency||.139||Offensive Efficiency||.444|
Michigan had a slight disadvantage on faceoffs, and could have made up for it with the number of clearing attempts they had (as is the natural state of things), but really dropped the ball getting end-to-end. Then they couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net, and late, couldn’t prevent the Irish from doing it, either.
The final score really obscures how close this game could have been. Michigan’s top players were relatively close (though still a step behind) the Irish’s top guys. What was exposed here was a complete lack of depth for the Wolverines. Michigan cut the score to 7-5 early in the third quarter, but didn’t have the horses to run with the sheer volume of talent through the whole ND roster. Through three quarters – which even includes the beginning of that Irish run – Michigan was up 10-8 in faceoff wins and 29-24 in possessions. In efficiency, they trailed by a far less embarrassing margin (with a .172 to Notre Dame’s .417) than the final tally. The wheels had slowly been coming off over the course of the game, emphasized in that third quarter, and then sealed in the fourth (12 Irish possessions to seven – two on failed clears – for Michigan, and a 6-0 scoring margin).
Sticking to that theme, Michigan played a clean game in the first quarter, then gave up three EMO chances in the middle two quarters, and one more in the fourth. Despite Notre Dame’s offensive talent, only two of those seven chances were converted… but over the course of the game, that’s a lot of man-down time, and the legs are going to give out. When you’re playing a team that’s already better than you, it removes an upset chance, and makes a close game – and don’t misinterpret me here, this is not one U-M was ever a threat to steal, just finish better – look ugly.
Ian King (two assists) and Brent Noseworthy were the entirely-unsurprising offensive stars in this one, as they will be for just about every contest in which they’re both healthy and on the field. King did take six shots (three on goal) without scoring, which is a little bit of a disappointment. Even if the three off-cage maintained U-M possession, three saves is typically three offensive opportunities ended. Of course, he became U-M’s all-time leading point-scorer in the contest with 14, so a nice day in the lifetime achievement award category, at least.
Given clearing numbers that are worse than basically any Michigan game since the program became competent – around years three and four – it should come as no surprise that turnovers were a bugaboo, and not just for the offensive personnel. D-middies Will Reynolds and Chase Young combined for three, poles Eric Smith and Nick DeCaprio a pair, and goalie Tommy Heidt had two. Of course, that still leaves 11 of the 18 total for the offensive players (three for King, four for Decker Curran, one each for Noseworthy, Mikie Schlosser, PJ Bogle, and Team). This was a sloppy team game, with the second quarter ironically the worst, given it was the only one U-M matched ND score-for-score.
Tommy Heidt actually had a great game despite giving up 16 goals: he faced a ton of rubber. Giving up 16 while have a save percentage over .500 (he made 17 saves for a .515) is insane. It means the D didn’t help him much. That’ll happen against really good teams, especially when the offense isn’t carrying its weight in protecting you.
Notre Dame really spread the love offensively – more indication of their outstanding depth – with nine multi-point scorers, and nobody getting more than four total points (Ryder Garnsey on a pair each of goals and assists). Hate to be overly critical of a Next Level player (and for two years running, the GLS player of the year), especially since it’s not Sergio Perkovic’s fault that he has all sorts of national hype and one of the worst ESPNU-granted nicknames of all time, but he was pretty bad in this one: 12 shots, only seven on goal, and only one of them finding the back of the net. The criticisms of him are sometimes unfair (and again, based on things outside of his control), but for a guy with one of the best long-range sniper reputations in the country… not great, Bob.
Michigan got right back on the good side of things with a mid-week game against Mercer, part of the Spring Break trip down South that turned out very well for them.