March 1, 2014
By Jenny Herstein, U-M Public & Media Relations
Earlier this week, Michigan defeated Purdue in West Lafayette, Ind., in a thrilling 77-76 overtime victory. The Wolverines have just three games left this season, two at home and one on the road, and are looking to capture the team's first outright Big Ten Title since 1986.
"When you're at a university, that's where you want to be," said head coach John Beilein. "As you get into March, you want to be in position for a league championship, because a league championship usually means an NCAA berth, and we all know anything can happen there. It's a great step in the right direction. But, at the same time, while we focus on that, still try to look at the big picture at the same time."
Michigan holds a full game lead over Michigan State atop the Big Ten standings. The Wolverines have been among the contenders for the conference crown in each of the last three seasons, sharing the title in 2012 -- the program's first in 26 years.
Michigan has maintained it offensive production throughout the season, shooting Big Ten bests for field goal percentage (47.7 percent), three-point percentage (38.9 percent) and free throw percentage (75.7 percent.)
Michigan's close win at Purdue was highlighted by a game winner from Glenn Robinson III, who Beilein says is learning to become a more aggressive player.
"He has always been a very unselfish player, and that can be a fault sometimes," Beilein noted. He's still developing a skill-set that can help him be an even better one-on-one player."
But while Robinson's shot was the highlight, Jordan Morgan's rebounds late in the game were key to the Michigan win.
"He was absolutely terrific. He got a 50-50 ball twice (at the end of the game)," said Beilein. "Those are the things he has to do that the coaches all appreciate. Maybe the normal fan doesn't. But I think he believes now, even more, that he can really impact this team with simple plays like that."
In his five years on the Michigan team, Morgan has preserved through injury, has been both a starter and a role player off the bench, and now, in his last games in maize and blue, is coming into his role.
"He has really persevered through everything," Beilein said. "He could not make a thirty-second sprint when he got here, let alone three in a row. He's just grown so much as a man in so many different ways. His parents obviously did a great job with him. But he's done a great job of leading us."
This is the second time that Michigan has faced Minnesota this season. Zak Irvin hit five three-pointers and Jon Horford had seven points in the last 5:19 of the game as Michigan opened Big Ten play with a 63-60 win at Minnesota. U-M's first road win of the season helped the Wolverines claim their fifth straight victory in Williams Arena dating back to the 2008-09 season.
Nik Stauskas had 14 points, as he was 7-of-8 from the free throw line, while adding seven assists. Robinson had six points and a game-high four blocks before missing the final 17:24 of the game after rolling his ankle.
Both teams now have great incentive coming into the rematch. Michigan is looking to stay on top of the Big Ten standings, while Minnesota looks to capture late wins as it makes a push for an NCAA Tournament berth.
"I know they are going to come in with a mindset that is a 'burn the boats' type of idea to come in and get wins," said Beilein. "We're both playing for something really big."
The game will also be highlighted by a celebration of the 25th anniversary of Michigan's 1989 national championship team, who will be honored during the first half. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m.