March 2, 2014
By Jenny Herstein, U-M Public & Media Relations
If there's one word that best summarizes the Michigan men's basketball team's performances against Purdue and Minnesota this week, it's tenacity.
First, on Wednesday night (Feb. 26), the Wolverines battled back from a 19 point deficit against the Boilermakers in West Lafayette to force overtime. Michigan emerged victorious on Glenn Robinson III's last-second shot, winning, 77-76.
Against the Golden Gophers, the Wolverines opened up a lead of their own. They led Minnesota by as many as 11 points, but the Gophers twice got within two points of Michigan.
Yet Michigan again showed poise to close out the game and defeat Minnesota, 66-56.
"It's a long season. You've got to play it out, the full forty minutes," said sophomore Spike Albrecht. "You're not going to win a game in the first four minutes. You've got to keep fighting out there, whether you are up or down 10, and that's what we do. We just keep fighting."
"I think we have really high character kids on the team who sort of have a sense of responsibility for the team and their teammates," added head coach John Beilein. "We practice a lot, and we practice hard in these areas, but if you don't have the right people who are really connected, it's hard to do that. I think our staff has done a great job of recruiting the right kids who, as we watch and evaluate, we look for those qualities. You get in this environment, or you go to Michigan State or Ohio State, it's a little different.
They've really been good at just handling pressure and handling all that comes with playing at this level."
Key to Michigan's spirited play has been the willingness of its players to embrace a myriad of different roles. While great shots may make the highlight reels, players who grab rebounds, fight for loose basketballs, knock down free throws and play solid defense are just as important in contentious games such as these.
"It made all the difference," said tri-captain Jordan Morgan of the little plays Michigan made against Minnesota. "We came up with loose basketballs, big rebounds, big defensive stops when it mattered. In a game like that, that's what separated it. "
Perhaps one of the best illustrations of Albrecht's contributions to the team's energy is a play he made during the game against Minnesota, when he made a daring save of a ball headed out of bounds, leading to a basket by Morgan.
"We were on offense, we shot it, it kind of bounced to the corner -- it was a 50-50 ball," said Albrecht. "Usually, I run back on defense, but I thought I had a chance on it, so I kind of gambled. Fortunately, I was able to get it, and J-Mo (Jordan Morgan) had an incredible finish through contact."
"It was huge. You could see -- that one was going to come down to someone was going to make big shots for either us or them and whoever did was going to win the game," said Beilein. "When you can keep possession, you keep them from hitting that huge shot."
"He's a hustle player," Morgan said. "He just does what needs to be done. He steps in and makes big shots and big plays."
"As a team, the coaches always tell us 'just do your job for the team,'" Albrecht said. "My job is to bring the energy for the team, so that's what I try to do out there."
While brining energy often means making these sorts of hustle plays, it also means being able to step up and hit clutch shots. Albrecht drained a three-pointer with 1:13 left in the game that increased Michigan's lead to 10 points and clinched Michigan's victory.
"Caris (LeVert) drove into the lane, and he made a great pass to me," Albrecht said of the play. "Luckily, I was able to knock it down."
"That's just who I am as a player," he added. "I play with a lot of pride and a lot of heart out there, and I just try and make plays for my team."