Feb. 18, 2014
By Jenny Herstein, U-M Public & Media Relations
Sunday afternoon's (Feb. 16) rematch between Michigan and Wisconsin at the Crisler Center was a tale of two halves. Michigan struggled over the first minutes of the game, making just two of its first six shots and finding itself down 12-2 early in the contest. By the end of the first half, the Maize and Blue had scored less than 20 points. But the team didn't get down, battling back in the second half, before ultimately falling, 75-62.
"It literally comes down to energy and effort," said junior co-captain Jon Horford. "We came out too sluggish; too lackadaisically in the first half. It's something going forward we need to address initially instead of waiting until the second half to make our run. We have to force it out of ourselves to have that energy and bring that effort if we want to have success."
Michigan had difficulty scoring against a disciplined Wisconsin defense. But the Wolverines' woes also were the result of the team's difficulty doing the little things. Michigan had seven first-half turnovers and had trouble moving the ball, recording no assists in the first 20 minutes of play.
"The way they were playing defense, it rushed guys. It made guys make decisions they normally wouldn't make," said Horford. "We have great passers on this team. Credit to Wisconsin, the way that they pressured us and they altered our style of play. But it's definitely fixable, and it's something we're going to address tomorrow."
"We didn't take care of the ball very well and we didn't finish plays on defense -- boxing out," senior co-captain Jordan Morgan added. "Just a lot of little things. I don't think it was one thing. It was a bunch of little things that kept going wrong, and they were playing way too well to make mistakes like that."
"We were tentative sometimes and we threw the ball to them," said head coach John Beilein. "If it's a short possession game, and you give them the ball seven times in one half, to a team that doesn't turn people over, you're going to have a tough time. If you throw the ball away, you can't get an assist."
However, in spite of the large deficit, the Wolverines did not lose their spirit. The team came back, making a 9-0 run to pull within three points of Wisconsin and bring Crisler Center to its feet.
"It was just all about energy -- being connected and picking each other up," said Morgan. "When we started to encourage each other, we started to play a lot better."
Yet Michigan's near-heroic efforts, including a career-high 25 point performance from Caris LeVert, were not enough to breach the gap that had emerged in the first half. Despite outscoring Wisconsin, 43-41, in the second half, the Badgers pulled away at the end to defeat Michigan.
"We fought back, and I really thought we were going to come all the way back," said Beilein. "But they made a couple tough shots, and we missed some. So it was one of those games where you bury yourself and you're going to have to play a super second half. While we played better, it wasn't good enough."
The Wolverines will have some time to rest, with their next game coming in a week (Feb. 23) against in-state rival Michigan State at Crisler Center.
"Our guys played hard, as hard as they can play, I believe, but probably not smart enough," said Beilein. "They didn't play smart enough today, and they'll get better from it."
Michigan's mission now is to stay positive and learn from the loss, according to Horford.
"It's all about the way you think. If you think positive, positive things happen," he said. "It's something that we have to force ourselves to do, no matter how bitter the taste is. You just have to keep pushing and see the bright side."
Game Recap: LeVert Hits Career High But U-M Falls to Badgers