Sunday was another game with another slow start for the Wolverines. Michigan scored just 27 points in the first half on just over 33% shooting. They turned the ball over six times to add to their shooting funk. However, this time their defense clamped down, keeping Rutgers at just 21 on 30% shooting before the break. The Scarlet Knights would stay within striking distance for most of the second half as well. But with less than ten minutes to go in the game, the Wolverines gave themselves a little more breathing room to pull out a comfortable 62-47 win. Michigan moves to 6-3 in the Big Ten and 17-5 overall.
Coming off their worst loss of the season, it was a little concerning to see Michigan not come out more locked in today. They struggled to find their offense again, a trend they cannot continue if they hope to compete at the top of the conference and play themselves deep into March. At least they made up for it on the defensive end, causing 13 turnovers and keeping Rutgers at 33.3% shooting from the field. We are accustomed seeing high scoring three-point shooting teams under Coach Beilein, but this one has been much better on the defensive side of the ball. Coach Beilein noted the efficiency of their defense. The players have taken it upon themselves to be a better defensive team.
Speaking of three pointers, it was good to see Duncan Robinson break out of his mini slump. Robinson was quick to enter the game thanks to Isaiah Livers picking up two quick fouls. He would sink four three pointers on the game, with three of those coming in the first half – vital points when not much else was going in the basket for the Wolverines. Robinson finished with one of his better games in a while, scoring 12 points, while collecting five rebounds and four assists.
Wagner said after the game in regard to Robinson’s play, “that’s the guy I know.” He pointed out that Robinson is a good shooter and even if goes 0 for 9 from the field he wants his roommate to keep shooting. Beilein also wants to see Robinson hunt his shot more. He doesn’t want him asking for permission in regards to getting shots. Today he came in shooting and that was why he was the spark in the game.
In regards to coming off the bench, Robinson said that much of the conversation he had with Coach Beilein would stay between the two of them, but that he was all for embracing whatever had can do to make the team better. He saw his move the bench as a “leadership moment” where he could lead by example for the other younger players.
Three other Wolverines finished alongside Robinson in double figures today. Moe Wagner led all players with 16 points, including two threes of his own and 6 rebounds. Both Charles Matthews and Zavier Simpson notched 10 points apiece. The latter finished with a team high and career high 8 rebounds, along with 4 assists. After committing 6 turnovers as a team in the first half, the Wolverines limited the damage to just 3 more after the break.
Coach Beilein pointed to the schedule as the reason for their slow starts. He said: “You can tell in this game that we are tired. I’m so glad we can get through this game. Get refreshed in our legs and also our game. You’re just playing and playing, the repetition drills, we weren’t doing any of that. We have time to retool and refresh a little bit.” Michigan will finally get a bit of a rest this upcoming week. They only have one game, against Purdue on Thursday. Beilein will look to get back to some of the practices and teaching moments that the team was not able to accomplish with the loaded schedule they have had.
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