Jan. 24, 2013
By Morgan Bailey, U-M Public & Media Relations
Coming off its first conference bye weekend on Thursday night against Purdue (Jan. 24), Michigan returned to Crisler Center and successfully defended its home-court once again, defeating the Boilermakers, 68-53. The victory marked the Wolverines' fifth conference win, and 18th win overall this season. Purdue opened the game firing on all-cylinders, but important second-half adjustments allowed the Wolverines to pull away from the Boilermakers in the second half and come away with the 'W.'
"It feels really good to be back at home and playing in front of the home crowd," sophomore guard Trey Burke commented after the game. "We knew that Purdue was going to come in and give us their best shot."
And that's exactly what the Boilermakers did. Making five of its first six shots behind the three-point arc, Purdue shot 53.8 percent from long range and was 43.3 percent in field-goal shooting in the first half. However, the Wolverines adjusted properly at halftime and held Purdue to just 33.3 percent field-goal percentage in the second half. More importantly, the Boilermakers missed all nine three-point attempts in the second half.
"The adjustments were really important," Burke said. "Purdue got really hot in the first half, and they were doing a good job of finding their shooters. Once we started fighting through screens with a higher intensity and really bought into our defense, that's when our offense started to flow more. Our biggest thing is rebounding and keeping them off the glass, which limits their second-chance opportunities. We did a better job of that in the second half tonight."
It is often the intangibles that make the biggest difference in the outcome of a game, and freshman forward Mitch McGary takes pride in his ability to make those plays.
"Getting the crowd into the game and diving onto the floor to get a loose ball is a big key to my game," McGary remarked. "I try to pump up the crowd whenever I can, and it picks up the team's energy overall as well. I wanted to bring the energy up when we were down in the first half, and from then on we didn't let down. It was a key turning point in the game."
McGary had several hustle plays that were key to the Wolverine's amped-up energy in the second half, including an important steal that led to a slam. Everyone inside Crisler Center erupted to their feet and maintained the electric energy for the remainder of the game.
"Everyone on the team has a word that is their motto, and mine is enthusiasm. I bring that to the table -- a lot of energy and pick up the team whenever I can," said McGary.
"He bring so much to this team with his energy; it's huge for us," head coach John Beilein commented on McGary. "Everyone feeds off of his energy. Those are big plays for us when we have him, or any of our guys, making those type of hustle plays."
With the Wolverine's 68-53 victory at home on Thursday (Jan. 24), the Maize and Blue will now play four games in the next 10 days, including contests at Illinois (Jan. 27) and at Indiana (Feb. 2). Currently even with Indiana at second place in the Big Ten with a 5-1 record in conference play, this next upcoming stretch in the schedule will perhaps be the toughest the Wolverines have faced so far.
"We're going to look at it one game at a time," Beilein commented on the schedule. "We have Illinois coming up Sunday (Jan. 27) -- it's a quick turnaround followed by another quick turnaround. This was a good win, but now our kids have to live right off the court, making the right decisions. We have to practice with efficiency -- not tire them out, but make sure they are ready to respond the next day."
"The Big Ten is tough -- night in and night out you're going to face a good team," said Burke. "We're going into Champaign on Sunday (Jan. 27), and we're looking forward to playing a good Illinois team. We know that we have our hands full, but we're going to go out there and play with high intensity, as if we're at home."
Once the final buzzer sounds at the end of each home game, and the team retreats back to the locker room after every game, it is tradition that the key player in that game stands on a chair and leads the team in singing "The Victors." After Thursday's game, however, Coach Beilein declared that the win was a team effort, and therefore the entire team would lead the chant.
"Every game it's not just one person that is contributing at the highest level, it is a team effort and the team sticks together," Burke commented. "That's how we get wins, and that's how it was tonight."