Mitch McGary and Nik Stauskas
Dec. 20, 2013
Last Saturday (Dec. 14), Michigan took on No. 1 Arizona at the Crisler Center. The Wolverines led the game from early into the first half, but Arizona re-took the lead with 2:30 left in the game.
From there on out, the Wolverines and the Wildcats fought a back-and-fourth game, but Michigan failed to make a crucial stop, allowing the Wildcats to hand Michigan a 72-70 defeat. The loss was Michigan's first to a non-conference team at home since Jan. 9, 2011, when it fell to Kansas, 67-60.
Although the loss drops Michigan to 6-4 on the season, the team believes the loss will ultimately help them grow.
"These losses really help us, and they bring experience to our team," said sophomore Nik Stauskas.
"We've had a great week of practice so far," said sophomore Spike Albrecht. "We took the loss, and we're trying to grow from it. But at the same time, we're starting to get sick of losing. So we've got to start turning things around here rather quickly."
The Wolverines have not lost consecutive games this season. Their opportunity to bounce back this weekend will come against Stanford on a neutral site at Barclay's Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., as part of the Brooklyn Hoops Holiday Invitation.
Last season, the Cardinal returned many talented players from their young 2011-12 NIT championship squad and were expected to be a contender in the Pac-12. Yet, several missed opportunities in close games left Stanford a mediocre 19-15 (9-9 Pac-12), placing it in the NIT, where they lost in the second round to Alabama.
This year, almost all that talent returns to start anew in the hopes of living up to the expectations they failed to meet last season. Only one starter will not return from last season, Andy Brown, who in his sixth year of eligibility and suffered a career-ending knee injury.
"This could be their year that they finally break through and get in the NCAAs and maybe make a great run because of how talented and how experienced they are," said Michigan head coach John Beilein.
So far, Stanford sits 8-2, with losses coming against Brigham Young (112-103) and Pittsburgh (88-67). Yet the Cardinal hope to ride the momentum from Wednesday's (Dec. 18) 53-51 upset at No. 10 Connecticut into Saturday's contest against the Wolverines.
One player who has shown tremendous growth for Stanford this season is junior guard Chasson Randle, who is the leading scorer for the Cardinal, averaging 18.6 points per game.
Canadian big man Dwight Powell, a senior, was an All-Pac-12 first-team selection last season and averages 14.6 points a game and leads the team in rebounds per game (8.1) this season. The 6-10 forward also leads the team in assists per game (4.2).
Senior Josh Huestis was named to the Pac-12 All-Defensive team last season and was the third-leading shot blocker in the conference (71 blocks). He is also a key rebounder for the Cardinal, averaging 7.9 boards and 11.9 points per game.
Junior Anthony Brown only played four games last season, due to hip surgery, but has started the new season averaging 15.2 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. Brown is currently leading the Cardinal in three-point percentage, having gone 22-for-28 (57.9 percent) so far this season.
Redshirt junior center Stefan Nastic and senior guard Aaron Bright round out the Cardinal rotation.
Michigan is 1-3 all-time against Stanford. Saturday's game will be the first time the two programs have met since Dec. 29, 1959, when Stanford defeated the Wolverines, 59-52, in the Pacific Coast Tournament in Los Angeles, Calif.