Dec. 30, 2012
By Morgan Bailey, U-M Public & Media Relations
As the coaching staff entered the locker room and applauded their team after a decisive 88-73 victory over Central Michigan University on Saturday (Dec. 29) night, one phrase stood out amongst the praise; "We just made history, boys! We just made history."
Not only was Saturday's victory the ninth consecutive home win for the Wolverines this season, but it also a marked a 13-0 completion to the non-conference schedule. The last time the Maize and Blue remained undefeated after non-conference play was the 1985-86 campaign, when the Wolverines went on to win the Big Ten title.
The Wolverines are one of just five teams in the nation that remain undefeated, and they have not been ranked any lower than third in the country, according to the ESPN/USA Today polls. Additionally, freshman shooting guard Nik Stauskas leads the nation in three-point shooting percentage, sinking at least one shot from long range in every game so far.
Always approaching the season one game at a time, however, the Wolverines are less concerned about stats and more focused on beginning the Big Ten season.
"It's good to have that success early, but at this point we are 0-0 in the Big Ten," Jordan Morgan commented. "It's a whole new season we're about to start right now. It's going to be more physical, every game is going to be close. We just need to regroup and get ready to go."
Freshman guard Glenn Robinson III has started every game for the Wolverines this season, and has been a key player in Michigan's success. "My role is to go out there and do what I can to help the team, and I think that's what I have been doing," Robinson remarked. "I'm just going to keep doing what the team needs me to do for us to be successful. There's some extra pressure around being a freshman, but I like the role. We have all worked hard to get this far, so now we have to keep progressing."
"Being undefeated is great, but we know that we need to do more," junior guard Tim Hardaway Jr. said. "We try to play our style of basketball, and that's Michigan Basketball. We're just going out there and giving it our hardest and doing what we can to get the win."
According to head coach John Beilein, the undefeated non-conference season is a great accomplishment, but the team has to stay focused on what is still ahead of them. "It's good to be 13-0, it certainly beats losing any of those games," Beilein remarked. "To be honest, though, it has nothing to do with the Big Ten -- we played well, a good non-conference schedule, but at the same time it's a whole different thing now when we play Northwestern next Thursday. We have to get better; we'll practice really hard the next couple of days getting ready for the Big Ten."
"We have to stay confident and composed because there are a lot of good teams in the Big Ten," commented Robinson. "You never know what might happen, so we have to keep our heads in the game."
"We have had good focus all year long. Our men treat every game like it's a Big Ten game," said Beilein. "The talent level and the intensity will change a little bit from our opponent's standpoint now that we face the Big Ten. We have a hall of fame list of coaches in this league; you're not going to out-trick anybody. You have to have great preparation and the kids have to be ready for the great defense we'll see each week."
Assistant coach LaVall Jordan summarized the feat the Wolverines accomplished in remaining undefeated in non-conference play when he addressed his team Saturday night -- "You guys have done something special, and now you are prepared for everything ahead of you."
The Wolverines will begin the Big Ten season on Thursday (Jan. 3) in Evanston, Ill., against Northwestern. Michigan defeated the Wildcats twice last year with both games going to overtime.