Dec. 6, 2013
On Wednesday night (Dec. 4), the University of Michigan men's basketball team took on Duke in Durham, N.C., as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
Sophomores Caris LeVert and Mitch McGary led the way for Michigan, with LeVert matching his career high of 24 points and McGary posting a double-double with 15 points and 14 rebounds. Yet the Wolverines fell behind early, going just 8-for-26 (31 percent) in the first half and ultimately were defeated by Duke, 79-69.
"We learn so much both in victory and defeat. But, somehow, the defeats really help you," said head coach John Beilein. "That's the only way we've looked at it, and I think we made a positive turn yesterday in many things that we did after watching the film and then taking it into practice."
He added, "You can't make excuses. You can't point fingers. You've just got to focus on how can we get better."
Duke was particularly effective at defending sophomore Nik Stauskas, who scored just four points in 34 minutes.
"Nik's going to see the other team's best defender every game," Beilein said. "That's going to be a common thing. They're going to try and take him away. We need to find a way to use him as a screen or get more screens for him."
The Wolverines will look to showcase their improvements on Saturday afternoon (Nov. 7), when they face Houston Baptist at the Crisler Center.
Houston Baptist has been a program on the rise since 2008, when it rejoined NCAA Division I after several years in the NAIA. Last season, the Huskies recorded their most wins in this period, ending the season 14-17 (3-5 Grand West) and making it to the championship final of the Grand West Tournament.
This season, Houston Baptist begins its first year as a member of the Southland Conference and currently stands 3-5. The Huskies notched wins at home against Crowley's Ridge College (75-61) and Rice (73-71) while also pulling out a victory in overtime on the road at Army (74-72).
Entering the 2013-14 season, the Huskies lost four seniors, including All-Great West forward Art Bernardi and Great West Co-Defensive Player of the Year Anthony Hill.
However, many experienced players remain, including 5-6 junior point guard Marcel Smith, who will be starting at the number one position for the third straight year. Smith was named an All-Great West honorable mention last season.
Sophomore Rob Lewis leads the Huskies in scoring after being named sixth man of the year last season in the Great West. Lewis finished last season with nine straight double-digit scoring games and is pacing his team with 13.4 points per game so far in 2013.
Tyler Russell, a 6-0 junior guard, was sidelined for part of last season with a torn ACL. Now, he is averaging 11.5 points per game.
Forward Cody Joyce led the team in field goal percentage last season, and continues to do so, shooting 50.8 percent from the floor.
The Wolverines and Huskies met one other time on the court -- in 2009 -- with Michigan coming away with a 77-55 victory at Crisler Center. And as the non-conference slate winds down, each of the four remaining games of the 2013 calendar year poses a new challenge for U-M, which seeks to find its team identity as the Big Ten slate looms.