Michigan gets signature win after rough month
by Mark Snyder, USA TODAY Sports
Even the Wolverines really weren’t sure.
Coming off a crushing loss at Penn State on Wednesday, blowing a 15-point lead in the final 11 minutes, Michigan’s players could feel it happening again Sunday.
A 10-point, second-half lead over Michigan State with 4/61/27 minutes left vanished even quicker at the Crisler Center than in State College, Pa.
Yet, this time, Trey Burke created the action on defense. Two steals in the final 25 seconds, one a basket to take the lead, one a strip to end the game, and U-M had a 58-57 victory.
What is that one point worth in Ann Arbor? Everything.
Even at this point, after a 3-4 February and no elite wins on the Wolverines’ résumé (sorry, not buying Ohio State), the win to open March could ripple throughout the month.
For a reeling team and a young one vulnerable to emotional swings, this was essential.
“It’s hard when you’re in a position where you’re playing so well, 20-1, and the schedule changes and you’ve got to keep going through it, the perception is not the reality,” coach John Beilein said. “But for our kids, perception is pretty important that we get some little boost here.”
It was just a week earlier that Michigan felt nearly the same after a sharp second half in a win over Illinois. But it was as much fool’s gold as some might say about their ever-evolving maize uniforms.
Teams that turn the corner don’t implode like at Penn State.
“Just to give us another boost, like we had today, is huge for a team’s psyche,” Beilein said.
That psyche remains fragile.
Even with the “gritty, not pretty” win the players talked about, the score reflected more of the effort than the execution.
No one will be bragging about an 0-for-12 three-pointer performance or getting outrebounded, 44-29.
But this had to be progress simply because of an improved defense.
Holding MSU to 35.6% shooting — U-M’s second-best performance of the Big Ten season — said enough. They benefitted from the Spartans’ 18 turnovers and adapted without the three-pointer, scoring 44 points in the paint.
MSU coach Tom Izzo emphasized U-M didn’t score in the paint traditionally with post-ups, … [For more on Michigan Wolverines get signature win after rough month, click here.]