Michigan 68 UConn 63, Michigan 10-7 (3-2 Big Ten)
At some point during the game, I tweeted something to the effect of, "In a game like this, I have a really hard time not bursting out in cheers." This may have confused some people, who didn't realize that press row is supposed to be a fully non-partisan portion of the arena. By the time there were just a couple minutes left in the game, I didn't have to hide my excitement, because most of the journalists right around me were drawn into the excitement as well.
The Indiana game was a sloppy, unappealing contest for the viewer. A lot of people said afterwards that they wished it hadn't even been a nationally-televised game. To me, a win on national TV is a win on national TV, especially when it comes by 24 points, but that's not my point here. The game against UConn, to me, seemed to be redemption for the national audience, and a chance to see what Good Michigan can look like when the Wolverines actually play well.
Against a huge team like UConn, Michigan isn't supposed to stand a chance. The Huskies are supposed to bang it down low, get Michigan in foul trouble, and come away with a comfortable win, even on the road. Michigan didn't get the memo, as they harassed men much bigger than them into missed shots and turnovers down low, and barely lost the rebounding battle to a squad much bigger than them at nearly every single position.
This is the Michigan team we saw last year. It may have showed up too late into the year to make it to the tournament again, but they weren't going down without a fight. This UConn team isn't what their top-15 ranking would imply (and after dropping their last three game, they can kiss that ranking goodbye), but the Huskies are no pushover. This might be the Wolverines' best win of the year, and though it probably won't be enough to get them into the tournament without an insane run through the Big Ten, it certainly re-opens the NIT as a possibility, even likelihood.
The next few games no longer look like a curse, but rather an opportunity.
- To those clamoring for a third scorer to emerge from the team, I think you got your answer today: It's not necessary to have a 1-2-3 (Manny/DeShawn and another go-to guy) as long as there are several guys scoring. Sims was only the 4th leading scorer, but Michigan pull off a win against a ranked squad.
- Matt Vogrich almost became a member of Club Trillion, but played two minutes without accruing any other stats, which I guess makes him a member of Club Two Trillion.
- Michigan... has... bench? Zack Gibson and Anthony Wright came up big today, when the team really needed them because of foul trouble for Novak and Sims. I've been hard in Wright in the past, but I'll also give him props when he earns them. Hats off to both of those guys.
- Also from the bench, Darius Morris comes in for a round of praise after the past couple games, and practically disappears. 0/4 with 1 turnover, 1 steal, and 1 assist. Can't blame him too much as these are probably some of the best opposing guards he's faced, but he has to play up to the competition if Michigan wants to continue having success.
- Zack Novak is capable, more than almost any basketball player I've ever seen, of turning in a mediocre statistical performance, but looking like one of the biggest factors to his team's success. The 3-ball at the end was huge.
- The shooting performance was mediocre, but UConn is also a pretty good defensive squad, with a ton of quickness on the perimeter. I'll take 44.9 eFG% against them, with hopes it'll continue improving.
- Dude, a UConn player airballed a free throw. I haven't seen that since the first time Ben Wallace played for the Pistons.
- I really liked the presentation for BRandon Graham at halftime. It was a shame there was some booing directed at Rich Rodriguez. I would have loved to see the students respond with a chant in support. Next Tuesday is another opportunity, I guess.
Additional important photo from the Detroit News.
"I don't care about nothin' else but the win." DeShawn Sims, on having a quiet day on the statsheet.
"That's the whole joke, I just chill on the rest of the games, and just play whenever it's a big game." Anthony Wright, comparing his performance to the NCAA tournament loss against Oklahoma last year, in which he led the team with 14 points.
"This is just the first game of a big four-game series we have coming up, and it's always great to get that first win." Anthony Wright, on looking to the Wisconsin game.
"It's cool, its cool. Just to have that support from the football team and Coach Rich Rod, you know, kind of a Michigan family atmosphere type of thing." Stu Douglass, on having the football team in the stands.
"It's definitely a step in the season, and it could be a turning point, I don't know. But I know from here on out, the team's gonna come out with a lot more hunger." Manny Harris, on whether this game should be considered a turning point for the team.
"The crowd was big for us today, I think a sellout. The Maize Rage was awesome, even our other fans, everyone was into it." Zack Novak, on the crowd support.
"Especially from a defensive standpoint right now, we're really learning a lot more of what it takes to do this." John Beilein, on the team's improved defense and overall play over the past few games.
Michigan begins (or continues, if you count the UConn game) a brutal stretch, traveling to Madison to take on the Badgers Wednesday, then turning right back around to face Purdue in West Lafayette. Following that road swing they'll return to Crisler Arena to take on in-state rivals Michigan State in another Maize Out game.