Feb. 6, 2014
By Jenny Herstein, U-M Public & Media Relations
On Sunday afternoon (Feb. 2), Michigan saw its perfect start to the Big Ten season draw to a close with a loss at Indiana. As the team returned to Crisler Center to face Nebraska for the second time this season, the players knew that they needed to come out aggressively and bounce back from the defeat.
"I wanted a huge boulder on our shoulders after that loss," said head coach John Beilein. "You only have so many opportunities to win the Big Ten championship, and it comes every game in little pieces. Come in there with a chip on your shoulder -- anger, mad, whatever. Just come in and get done what you have to get done."
The Wolverines got the job done on Wednesday night (Feb. 5), securing an emphatic 79-50 victory over the Cornhuskers to retain their place at the top of the Big Ten standings (9-1).
"You've got to have a next-game, next-play mentality," said sophomore Spike Albrecht. "We played with a chip on our shoulder, and we were definitely the aggressors out there."
Bouncing back has been one of Michigan's greatest strengths in recent years. Over the past three seasons, the Wolverines have only lost back-to-back games twice -- with one of those pairs coming in the final games of 2011-12 season at the Big Ten Tournament (Ohio State) and NCAA Tournament (Ohio). The other set came in 2012-13, when Michigan dropped two straight on the road against Wisconsin (in overtime) and Michigan State.
"We saw it a couple years ago, when we won the Big Ten championship. We'd never lose two in a row," said Beilein. "It's really important. That was a difficult defeat for us. We didn't play well at Indiana. But, our kids have to have that resolve, or you don't exist in this league."
"The coaches, you hear them say all the time we never lose two in a row," added Albrecht. "That's something we take a lot of pride in. You can't lose two in a row if you want to be champions."
One reason Michigan has been so successful coming off losses is in its ability to view defeat as an opportunity to learn rather than as an obstacle.
"Obviously, you never like to lose, but when you do lose sometimes it's good for you, because it brings you back to reality and makes you realize the things you're not doing right," said sophomore Nik Stauskas. "We just went back to the film of the Indiana game and we looked at all the things we were doing wrong and we learned from them."
The Wolverines took the court with a confident attitude, attacking the basket and knocking down open looks. While Michigan struggled to make three pointers against Indiana, going just 3-of-13 (23 percent) on the afternoon, they knocked down 13 triples against Nebraska, led by freshman Zak Irvin's 4-of-9 performance from downtown.
"Guys were being aggressive taking it to the basket," said Stauskas. "When you get to the basket you're going to draw defenders and it's going to result in a lot of open threes."
Glenn Robinson III also had a personal bounce back on Wednesday night. The sophomore's shots had not been falling prior to the game against the Cornhuskers, but he remained confident in his offensive abilities and it paid off. Robinson led all scorers and tied a career high with 23 points on 8-of-14 shooting and 3-of-7 from behind the arc.
"He's (Robinson) been doing a lot of extra work on his own; he's been shooting on his own," said Beilein. "He's just looking for opportunities to score the ball, take the ball to the basket, make foul shots, and then guard his man. That was really good to let him have that type of game today."
"I had the same confidence. I never got down on myself," said Robinson. "I knew the shots were going to fall, and they just fell tonight. It felt great to see those shots go in and to have the team playing so well."
The Wolverines were aggressive not just in driving and shooting the ball, but on defense as well. In the first half, they limited the Huskers to just 21 points and defeated them by a final margin of 29. On the night, Nebraska shot just 32.5 percent from the field.
"When you play teams a second time, our kids understand how talented they can be," said Beilein. "We did a great job of getting in gaps, understanding what they do offensively, and making sure that we knew what we call KYP: Know Your Personnel."
"We've been working hard, watching film," added Robinson. "It's great to see us execute defensively and hold them to only 50 points -- it's tough to do that for any Big Ten team."
One of the most impressive defensive performances of the night came from Stauskas, who keyed in on Nebraska's leading scorer, Terran Petteway. Petteway, who averages 18.2 points per night, was held to just five against the Wolverines.
"We had all five guys looking at the ball. We had all five guys in the gaps," said Stauskas. "It didn't give them a lot of opportunity to get to the basket."
Another factor in Michigan's defensive performance was keeping Nebraska off the offensive glass. Michigan kept the Cornhuskers from having second-chance opportunities by attacking the boards, recording 27 defensive rebounds as a team. They outrebounded Nebraska overall, 35-26.
Playing with a chip on their shoulder didn't hinder the Wolverines' attention to detail or their teamwork, either. Michigan shot a perfect 14-of-14 from the free throw line and shared the basketball effectively with 21 assists on 26 made field goals (80 percent).
That teamwork, Robinson believes, is what makes Michigan stand out.
"If we play like that, I don't think there are many teams that can beat us," said Robinson. "We're so well connected off the court and on the court. It's hard to find a team like that."
Game Recap: Michigan Wipes Out Nebraska on Beilein's Birthday