Jan. 9, 2013
By Morgan Bailey, U-M Public & Media Relations
As the buzzer sounded in Crisler Center, marking the end of the first half against Nebraska on Wednesday night (Jan. 9), there was one statistic that stood out amongst the rest -- the Wolverines were shooting just 32.3 percent from the field, their lowest mark of the season.
The Wolverines are currently ranked second in the nation in field goal percentage, averaging 52.2 percent. Additionally, Michigan is fourth in the nation in three-point field goal percentage, averaging 42.3 percent from behind the arc. In the first half against Nebraska, however, Michigan made only one of 10 three-point field goal attempts. But in the end, the Maize and Blue still came away with the victory, 62-47.
"We were taking good, open shots, sometimes they just don't go in," freshman shooting guard Nik Stauskas commented after the game. "We knew that we had to focus on our defense. Defense wins games and we knew that eventually the offense would come. We just kept shooting and knew that they would fall eventually."
Prior to Wednesday night's game, senior guard Matt Vogrich said that he was looking forward to when the team faced adversity and how they would react in that situation. Only up by five points at the half (25-20), the shooting troubles began to unveil the first taste of that adversity for the Wolverines.
"The team reacted really well," Vogrich remarked. "It's all about getting stops when you're facing adversity. We weren't hitting shots like we have been and a few times good looks weren't falling. The guys really locked down though and got a bunch of stops. Defense wins games, so that helped a lot."
As the team gathered in the locker room following the game, assistant coach LaVall Jordan praised the team for their attitude during the timeouts. According to Jordan, the players were encouraging their teammates to move on and focus on the next play. "That shows how mature this group is," Jordan addressed to his team. "The fact that that mentality came from the players and not the coaches, that says a lot."
Not dwelling on one play and moving on to the next possession has been an important goal for the Wolverines all season. "Next play, that's the big thing we've stay focused on," Vogrich commented. "Next play, next defensive possession. We play one possession at a time and forget about the past so that we can move on to the next play and try to win that one."
Less than 30 seconds into the second half, Trey Burke drove into the lane, sank a lay-up and drew the foul, putting up a three-point play the old-fashioned way. The next possession, he drew another foul and drained both free throws. Just minutes into the second half, he had already scored five points; he scored seven points total in the first half. Burke finished with 18 points and three assists, demonstrating this team's ability to overcome adversity.
Later in the second half, Glenn Robinson III stole the ball off a Nebraska pass and had a clear path to the Wolverines' basket. Taking off just after the free throw line, Robinson rose in the air and slammed the ball into the basket, causing Crisler Center to erupt.
The crowd cheered even louder in excitement as Jimmy King, a member of the famed Fab Five (1991-1995) in attendance at tonight's game, was shown on the jumbotron. The Michigan fans gave the former guard a standing ovation, and King waved back in appreciation.
As a member of one of the most infamous freshman classes in NCAA basketball history, King and the rest of the Fab Five knew exactly what it meant to play in the face of adversity. "The biggest thing that I tell people you have to do is stay consistent in your mental preparation of every game," King commented during Wednesday night's game. "It is important to understand that you have to pay attention to the mental aspect of the game. You may have to dig a little deeper mentally for some games, but experiencing that is key."
In addition to commenting on the renovations of Crisler Center, King had nothing but praise for this year's squad. "I'm excited for them; they have great talent right now. I have always loved this coaching staff; coaching and teaching is very important in the college game. As far as this team is concerned, this is the most talent that I've seen Michigan have in 15 years."
With Michigan's 62-47 victory over the Cornhuskers, the Wolverines maintain their perfect 16-0 record, matching the best start to a season in program history. The Wolverines will continue to face the competitive nature of the Big Ten with their upcoming two-game road swing -- at Ohio State on Sunday, Jan. 13, at 1:30 p.m. and at Minnesota on Jan. 17.