Last Wednesday, the Michigan men’s basketball team played its worst game of the season — a lopsided, 84-71 loss at No. 13 North Carolina.
But to open the Big Ten slate Saturday, the Wolverines looked far different.
Michigan dispatched Indiana, 69-55, on the 50th anniversary of the first basketball game at Crisler Center.
“We don’t call it a spring board, we call it a trampoline,” said coach John Beilein. “Let’s take this thing that happened in Chapel Hill where we were just bad and grow from it. We really bounced back very well today.”
Led by 19 points from freshman guard Jordan Poole, the Wolverines (1-0 Big Ten, 7-2 overall) led the entire way, as Michigan built a double-digit lead just five minutes in.
But early into the second half, the Hoosiers (0-1, 4-4) clawed themselves back within striking distance. Forward Josh Newkirk knocked down a three to cap off a 9-0 Indiana run that cut the Wolverines’ lead to just five with 15 minutes to play.
But then, as they had done throughout the afternoon, the Wolverines found a run of their own.
On the corresponding play, fifth-year senior forward Duncan Robinson — despite a rough 1-for-8 shooting performance prior — lifted and hit from the top of the key. Then, after another basket and two defensive stops, freshman point guard Eli Brooks would follow suit to cap off an 8-0 run.
“That was huge,” said junior forward Moritz Wagner. “I was on the bench and coach was like, ‘We need one right now.’ (Indiana) messed up the play, and Duncan was wide open, and that was big. That was the play we practiced and had (set up), so it all worked out perfectly.”
And from there, the Jordan Poole show would commence.
The former four-star recruit showed off the talent he has flashed in recent games, finishing a contested reverse layup before sinking a deep three to give Michigan a comfortable advantage Indiana wouldn’t jeopardize for the remainder of the contest.
Poole led the Wolverines with 19 points on 7-for-12 shooting — career-highs for him despite having recently settled into the Wolverines’ rotation.
“That’s what Jordan does,” said freshman point guard Eli Brooks. “Jordan’s a play-maker. Given the opportunities that he’s had, he seizes the moment. We all knew he could play this well, it was just a matter of time.”
Despite the recency of the North Carolina defeat, Michigan couldn’t have started Saturday’s game much stronger, opening an 18-4 advantage after eight minutes of play.
The Wolverines sunk four early 3-pointers off strong ball movement and a willingness to make the extra pass. Poole — the first Wolverine to come off the bench — was again fearless shooting the basketball and found nylon on four of his first seven attempts, including a trio of triples.
Indiana’s offense, meanwhile, was abysmal. The Hoosiers were held without a field goal through the first eight minutes and committed five turnovers in a sloppy start.
“Coming out of the locker room, our defense was really focused on the scouting report,” Beilein said, “(Assistant coach) DeAndre Haynes did a great job with that scouting report. Our kids lived that scoring report.”
But Michigan’s fast shooting start would soon slow, as a four-minute scoring drought and 12 points from forward Juwan Morgan — who led all scorers with 24 points — would allow Indiana to remain within striking distance, trailing 34-21 at the half.
Eventually, though, Poole had his day — leading the Wolverines past the Hoosiers in convincing fashion.
And for Beilein, who faces another quick turnaround with a visit to Ohio State on Monday, it was reminder of what has been the case throughout his tenure with the Wolverines.
“I hope (you’ve seen) over that last 10 years that Michigan bounces back,” Beilein said. “We’re going to bounce back because you’re not going to win every game.”