- Teresa Mathew/Daily
By Daniel Feldman, Daily Sports Writer
Published March 7, 2014
Though the Michigan men’s basketball team has already clinched the outright Big Ten regular-season title, Saturday’s game against Indiana still has plenty of meaning.
For starters, it will mark the final home game for fifth-year senior Jordan Morgan.
After playing just seven minutes against Illinois Tuesday because of a back injury, it appears the forward will be good to go this weekend.
“(Jordan Morgan) practiced (Thursday),” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “He was a little slow, but I think he’s been in therapy the last couple days. But he fell on his back, got a pretty good bruise on his back, but he’s a warrior. Nothing’s stopping him from playing in his last (home) game.
“Unless he’s complaining of pain. Pain will be the only thing that would keep him out of there or if we see he’s not moving well.”
After dropping their last three games to Indiana (7-10 Big Ten, 17-13 overall), most recently on Feb. 2 in Bloomington, the game represents something a majority of the Wolverines have never done in their collegiate career: beat the Hoosiers.
“We’re definitely motivated,” said sophomore guard Nik Stauskas. “I’ve never beaten Indiana and a lot of guys on our team are 0-3 against them. This is just another opportunity to prove ourselves.”
A determining factor for Indiana will be the injury status of forward Noah Vonleh. The freshman was described as still day-to-day with foot inflammation, according to Indiana coach Tom Crean on Friday.
Filling the void for the freshman — who has missed the last two games — has been Indiana’s two other double-digit scorers, sophomore Yogi Ferrell (17.4 points per game), who made seven 3-pointers against the 12th-ranked Wolverines (14-3, 22-7) last time around, and Will Sheehey (11.2 points per game).
Whether Vonleh plays or not, the Hoosiers’ style of play will still be difficult to defend and play offensively against.
“The way they’re playing right now is playing very small,” Beilein said. “By that, I mean a whole bunch of 6-5, 6-6 guys are playing at one time or around Yogi (Ferrell). So that allows them do the same things.
“Vonleh is one of the few kids in this league that can go out on the perimeter and hold his own. He’s an anomaly that way. ... They’ll still have that capacity to play us differently — just switch on a ton of screens.”
Regardless of Vonleh’s status, the goal for Beilein and company still remains sending Morgan, a player that has seen both the ups and downs of the program, out with a win.
“The only thing that ruins a Senior Day is a loss,” Beilein said. “And I think everybody wants this day to be special for (Morgan).”
As special as the day can become with a victory for Morgan, a win could also complete a trifecta of sorts for Michigan.
“You envision beating an Indiana team who has already beaten us this year in front of a sellout crowd with a Big Ten (regular-season) championship under your belt,” Beilein said. “And so that can be really special. We’ve already got two of those things done. I’d like to beat Indiana, that’s the key part.”
With the Big Ten Tournament a week away, and a schedule already in place to prepare for whomever the Wolverines will play in the second round in Indianapolis, a win can only elevate a team that has already reached the peak of the summit that is the Big Ten.
For Beilein, a Big Ten championship is just the icing on the cake. This team wants more.
“We have a little bounce in our step right now, which is always good,” he said. “We accomplished one big goal. And now, let’s not look back, let’s go after more.”