INDIANAPOLIS — The first thing that comes to mind when Michigan fans think of No. 10 Indiana is the 25-0 first-half run that effectively ended the teams’ Feb. 2 contest at halftime.
The Wolverines came out of the Crisler Center locker room to claw back from a 21-point deficit, but the Hoosiers — specifically guards Yogi Ferrell and Robert Johnson — were too much for the Wolverines.
But that was a month ago.
Friday, Michigan (10-8 Big Ten, 21-11 overall), will get the chance to face the Big Ten champion Hoosiers (15-3, 25-6) in Indianapolis in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals with the team’s postseason fate hanging in the balance.
After a down-to-the-wire victory over Northwestern on Thursday filled with overtime drama, the Wolverines will have to recoup and recover quickly before the Friday matchup.
“We gotta rest right now,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “We gotta rest and get ready for tomorrow. We’ll have shoot around time here — we won’t use it — we’ll just walk and talk and watch clips of the Indiana game, as well as watch for similarities between this game and what Indiana will do.”
The Wolverines can’t afford that kind of run these days — especially with a NCAA Tournament bid on the line.
“That run was something crazy, for sure,” said redshirt sophomore guard Duncan Robinson following Thursday’s game against Northwestern. “They have a lot of firepower on the offensive end, so we (have to) just try to make them uncomfortable, don’t let them get easy catches, that sort of thing. Yogi Ferrell is a great player, so you do what you can to try to take him out of his groove. I’m sure Coach B is already thinking about the game plan for that sort of thing, so we’re excited for it.”
The Hoosiers have four players scoring in double digits, with guard Ferrell leading the pack with 17.1 points per game. Indiana will also be coming off a five-day break from game action.
Sophomore guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman noted that the Wolverines would have to key in on defense on Friday if they want a chance. After all, the Hoosiers are averaging 82.7 points per game compared to Michigan’s 74.8 points.
“They’re a great team and can put five guys out there on the court who can all shoot the ball,” Abdur-Rahkman said. “You gotta play tough on defense and you’ve gotta be more on the help and in the gaps and things like that.”
One of Michigan’s biggest defensive assets is junior forward Mark Donnal, who has started the last 18 games. The Wolverines got a taste of what its defense was like without Donnal on Thursday, and it wasn’t pretty. After only scoring four points in the first half, forward Alex Olah came back and scored another 16 points as Donnal’s playing time was hampered by fouls. In the second half, Donnal played just eight minutes, and in overtime, the big man fouled out and watched from the sidelines.
Michigan players don’t foul out often. Donnal was just the second Wolverine to do so since junior guard Derrick Walton Jr. fouled out at Maryland.
“It didn’t feel good,” Donnal said. “You can’t really do anything from the bench, but I had confidence that Ricky (Doyle) would step up. He played a good game today when I was in foul trouble. … Unfortunately, it happened, but we got the win, so that’s all that matters.”
Junior forward Zak Irvin added more to Michigan’s defense on Thursday, grabbing eight boards while also scoring the Wolverines’ winning jumper and logging 42 minutes in his home state of Indiana. Friday, Irvin will hope to lead the Wolverines against the Hoosiers as he did on Feb. 2, but with a different outcome in mind.
Though the Hoosiers will effectively have a home crowd against Michigan in Indianapolis, Irvin will, too.
“It helped (Irvin) a little bit,” Abdur-Rahkman said. “A little home-court advantage kind of thing. Playing in your hometown definitely helps, and it gives you that extra chip and that extra grit that you want to win the game.”