Let’s be honest here: Michigan looked terrible yesterday against Wisconsin. The Wolverines’ shot selection left much to be desired, they couldn’t make stops on defense when they needed them most, and Wisconsin dominated the rebounding column. The Badgers showed up, and Michigan didn’t.
Yeah, it’s no fun to lose, especially at home. But good teams don’t let losses like yesterday’s carry over into future games. Instead, they learn from those defeats, and work on what they can do better. Often times, they come out better and more focused in their next game.
So was the Wolverines’ loss on Sunday good for the team?
Last night’s 60-59 victory over the Michigan State Spartans ran Michigan’s winning streak against their in-state rival to three, and gave the Wolverines a big win in Big Ten play. Most importantly though, the game also provided viewers with a glimpse into the inner workings of the Wolverines’ team.
First and foremost, Trey Burke is a star. The freshman has come in and has done a better job of replacing Darius Morris than most expected. Burke scored 20 points last night, and led the team in rebounds, assists, and steals as well. While Burke does not have the passing ability that Morris has, and tends to try to do a little too much with the ball, Burke has proven to be an ample replacement for the current Los Angeles Lakers guard. Last night’s performance against MSU showed us that Burke also has the ability to rise up and lead the team in big games; on nearly every possession, Burke led the Wolverines down the floor and made plays.
Along the same vein, Michigan has the tremendous ability to account for the struggles of others. Tim Hardaway, Jr. has not shot as well from the field as in the past, perhaps due in part to a recent growth spurt. The sophomore shot just 2 of 13 against Iowa and did not hit a field goal last night until his dunk to begin the second half. In his place, though, Michigan has seen guys like Burke, seniors Zack Novak and Stu Douglass, and sophomore Evan Smotrycz step up in different games. Even as Smotrycz has struggled this season, others have filled the void in different ways. Last night, Hardaway and Smotrycz didn’t perform to the best of their abilities. Burke, Novak, and Douglass all had at least nine points, including Douglass’ lay-up with 31 seconds left in the game.
While it was unfortunate to see the Spartans overcome the large Michigan advantage and take the lead late in the game, the Wolverines showed their tenacity and their ability to hang around with bigger teams. Draymond Green and Derrick Nix of MSU present much larger presences in the paint than any of Michigan’s players, but the Wolverines’ defense limited them to a combined 20 points.
It may not have been the prettiest victory (although both teams shot over 48% from the field), Michigan showed that they should be considered among the best in the country and certainly in the Big Ten.