After Michigan’s comeback win against UCLA, Moe Wagner said that the Wolverines needed to stop trading home wins and road losses. He and the team were hoping to find consistency. Michigan was able to put those words to the test with a game at Texas, a likely postseason squad. Although Michigan didn’t have the best shooting night, they once again found away to pull out a hard fought 59-52 win against the Longhorns.
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman led Michigan this time out. The senior recorded his first career double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Charles Matthews was close to one as well, with 12 points and 8 boards. The balanced scoring, saw Wagner, and Duncan Robinson with 10 points apiece as well. When Texas went on a run, cutting Michigan’s fourteen-point lead to just four, an Abdur-Rahkman three pointer, followed by back-to-back triples from Wagner pushed the lead back to 12 midways through the second half. There was no panic as the veterans insured there would be no comeback win.
The win was aided by the fact that Texas’ top scorer, Andrew Jones was unable to play, due to a wrist injury. The Longhorns struggled to score for long stretches of the game, especially in the first half, where they would finish with just 20 points. However, Michigan can only play the team before them. Additionally, Michigan’s own star, Wagner, was unable to finish the game when he suffered an ankle injury in the second half. Thankfully, the injury does not look serious, and if Michigan does decide to be cautious, the Wolverines have just three games between now and January 2 when they return to Big Ten play at Iowa. And all are winnable without their German forward.
Now that Michigan has finished their gauntlet of five challenging games in a row, here are a few takeaways:
Beilien is a fantastic coach
After two great wins against UCLA and Texas it is easy to say that Michigan’s coach is doing a good job. Yet, there are little things that Beilein does that aren’t always noticed. For instance, when Michigan needs to make adjustments on defense over the last few games, Beilien has switched from man-to-man to zone, usually with great effect. Similarly, when Juwan Morgan was getting his points inside, Michigan started to double-team Indiana’s big man and stifled his scoring.
As announcer Dick Vitale pointed out during the game yesterday, Michigan has lost more than their fair share of players to early entry into the NBA draft, many of who weren’t highly sought-after recruits when coming out of high school. Beilein is a mastermind of finding out what players are good at, and getting their strengths to shine through.
The youngsters are for real
Michigan brought in three freshman this season, and all three have been an integral part to Michigan’s rotation. Eli Brooks, Jordan Poole, and Isaiah Livers have all seen heavy minutes during the Wolverines’ challenging five game stretch. When Robinson is in foul trouble, like he was against Texas, Livers played 22 minutes. He gives the Wolverines a better defensive presence at the four spot when the game dictates the need for stops.
Poole had his breakout game against Indiana where he went 5-10 from three and finished with 19 points. He gives Michigan offense off the bench. And Brooks has been the team’s starting point guard since Maui. The number of minutes that the freshman accumulated during this stretch indicates that their coach has confidence in them. As the season continues on, and these young players get even more accustomed to the college game, Michigan will continue to get better and better.
Big Ten having down year
With a top-notch coach, stars in Wagner and Matthews, leadership from Robinson and Abdur-Rahkman, and rising youngsters, Michigan has the chance to be a contender in the Big Ten. Especially considering the Big Ten is having a down year. Yes, Michigan State might win it all this year, and Purdue looks like a contender as well. After that, the conference is struggling.
Maryland and Minnesota aren’t quite living up to their early season hype, Northwestern isn’t looking like the team they were a season ago, and Wisconsin has oddly fallen off a cliff. Michigan has a chance to be right near the top of the conference and big wins over UCLA and Texas in non-conference play enforces that idea.
If you would like to receive an email each time a new Michigan Basketball article is published, fill out our email notification form