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“When the street fight started, we didn’t answer it.”

Michigan men’s basketball team’s assistant coach Phil Martelli’s words perfectly encapsulated the scene of the Wolverines’ first defeat of the season which came on the road at the hands of then-No. 23 Minnesota on Saturday. After coming into the contest averaging 80.2 points per game, Michigan only managed to put up 57 points in an 18-point loss and tied its season-high 20 turnovers. 

“You can practice it as many times as you want, but if you make a bad decision in the game, that’s just the way it is sometimes,” sophomore wing Franz Wagner said.

While the whole team was disappointed in its performance, the Wolverines believe that their first loss can help them grow stronger. 

“Obviously everyone picks on what you did wrong, and they try to exploit ‘why didn’t you win,’ but there are good things that come out of losses,” graduate transfer guard Mike Smith said. “The one thing that I can take away from this is that we always have to be ready to go —  24/7 —  and just continue to compete at the highest level because it’s not going to get any easier.”

After scoring in double-figures in the first 11 games of his collegiate career, freshman center Hunter Dickinson was notably held to just nine points in 23 minutes. 

Gophers’ head coach Richard Pitino instructed his squad to double team Dickinson in the post nearly every time he touched the ball which gave both Dickinson and Michigan plenty of trouble.

“I didn’t think he was overdoing it,” Martelli said. “I think in a way he was not as sharp. He’s been so sharp and his IQ is so high. Rather than getting things done in a beat, it was taking him a beat and a half to recognize what was going on which was unusual.”

Alongside Dickinson, Smith struggled shooting the basketball as well. Despite having 10 assists, Smith failed to score a point, shooting 0-of-6. He also turned the ball over three times in 37 minutes of action. It was a rare down game for Smith, who has averaged 8.4 points and 5.8 assists per game and has served in a steady role as the team’s primary point guard.

“I did a poor job of leading the team regardless of scoring,” Smith said. “I think I should’ve led more and been more vocal. I take accountability for that. Being a point guard and being the older guy on the team,, I think I fell short of doing that for the team.”

After the loss, Michigan held film sessions to understand where things went wrong. The film session helped to demonstrate to the team that Minnesota’s defense took it out of its normal offensive flow, forcing it to adjust its system that had proven to be so effective through 11 games on the fly. After breaking it down, though, the Wolverines think they may have found solutions on how to respond.

“I was surprised by the things we saw (on film), they’re pretty easy to fix I think,” Wagner said. “So that’s kinda my mindset going into the next game is we gotta play with our habits, what made us get those first couple games and then it doesn’t really matter that much what other teams throw at us.”

A loss, especially the first one of the season, is always a tough pill to swallow. But Smith believes that the loss will only strengthen the bond that he and his teammates have.

“A lot of teams, either that I’ve been on or in general, when you lose, people start pointing fingers,” Smith said. “But at the end of the day, even when we were down 20 and the second team was in, we were up clapping for everybody. 

“We wanted to see them succeed because we know how much time they put in to be out there. This is going to help us become closer and want to win more and to fight for each other.”

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