MINNEAPOLIS — Four of Michigan’s blue road jerseys ripped in the Wolverines’ 83-75 win over Minnesota Wednesday.
Impossible is nothing, right, Adidas?
Trey Burke’s No. 3 was the first to rip, so he played most of the game wearing No. 12, which was also ripped later in the game. So after Jordan Morgan used Michigan’s second and only other extra jersey — the redshirt junior played the second half wearing No. 30 — Burke and, later, Caris LeVert were forced to play with holes in their uniforms.
I can’t remember the last time the Wolverines beat a top-10 opponent on the road after four of its jerseys were ripped since no official statistics are kept on road games won with ripped jerseys. I can assure you, though, that no Michigan team has won a road game over a top-10 team since the Wolverines beat No. 10 Duke, 62-61, on Dec. 8, 1996 until Wednesday. That was more than 16 years ago.
Impossible is nothing.
Michigan blew its chance at the No. 1 ranking after playing a dud of a first half last Sunday against Ohio State. The lingering question before that game — could the young Michigan squad win in a hostile road atmosphere against an equally talented roster? — only magnified in the days after. No longer was it just a whisper, a hypothetical, it became something the Wolverines needed to answer.
“When you don’t lose very often, they really hit hard,” Michigan coach John Beilein admitted Wednesday, which is why he said the film sessions following the loss to the Buckeyes were held in a positive light.
“This is what we’ve been waiting for — try to find ways to get better, because you don’t necessarily become better if you win by 20 points. You get better when you get it handed to you like we did in Columbus.”
And they did.
In Columbus, Ohio State jumped out to a 21-point lead before the Wolverines mounted their comeback. Tim Hardaway Jr. was held to just 12 points on 5-of-15 shooting, so Hardaway’s message to his team heading into Minneapolis was that from the moment it stepped off the plane Tuesday night, prepare to play like you’re down 10 points.
Hardaway did, bouncing back from his rough outing Sunday to score 17 first-half points, propelling Michigan to a six-point halftime lead.
The Wolverines might struggle to conjure up that type of chip on their shoulder in every game, but hey, impossible is nothing.
Michigan’s first-half momentum turned into a second-half steamroller out of the gates.
At the 13:42 mark, Glenn Robinson III stole a lazy Minnesota pass near halfcourt, dribbled uncontested up the floor, and effortlessly slammed home a 360-degree dunk.
The dunk, which ESPN immediately nominated as a Top-10 play of the day, gave the Wolverines a 19-point lead, their largest of the night.
In his press conference, Beilein couldn’t hold back a smile while saying that he wasn’t judging the dunk, or giving it any score, from his spot on the sidelines. But when asked if beating a top-10 team on the road for the first time since 1996 meant anything to him, his immediate response was no, and there weren’t any smiles to go along with the answer.
Every time he’s talked, Beilein has seemingly failed to let any historical landmark that this team has reached sink in, and this answer appeared to be no different. But then he paused, and something in the coach’s mind clicked, sparking a more pointed answer.
“You know what it means?” he asked, hesitating again. “If you look at this season, this season right now, we’re going to have to do something out of the ordinary to be in the Big Ten hunt.”
Michigan just did. Eventual Big Ten champions need wins like the Wolverines got Thursday in a raucous environment, against the No. 9 team in America, on national television in what some said was Minnesota’s biggest home game since the ’70s. And it did so with authority. And with ripped jerseys.
“We’ve got our confidence back,” Burke said afterwards with a smile.
And for a confident Michigan team, impossible is nothing.
— Wasserman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter: @d_wasserman.