EVANSTON – Jevohn Shepherd knew what he wanted to contribute this year.
“I just wanted to instill winning,” the junior said before the season. “In previous years, upperclassmen didn’t assume that role. They had other, individual goals, more than team-oriented goals.”
When given the chance, Shepherd did his best to reverse that. In his first start of the season Saturday at Northwestern, the Michigan men’s basketball team snapped a five-game losing streak. Shepherd’s energy was clearly contagious.
In the game’s first four minutes, he made two jump shots, grabbed two steals and took a charge to help the Wolverines build a 9-2 lead.
Shepherd started in place of senior Ron Coleman, who missed the first game of his career – ending a streak of 114 consecutive games. Coleman injured his ankle against Indiana Tuesday but said he plans to play Wednesday at Illinois.
Although Shepherd played just 8.4 minutes per game last year, his teammates’ confidence in him didn’t waver.
“He just really didn’t get the opportunity last year because of some issues with the seniors, and how everything played out,” sophomore DeShawn Sims said before the season. “I think this is the time where he’s going to show people what he can really do.”
And Shepherd did it all. He finished with eight points, five assists, four rebounds, three steals, a block and just one turnover in 26 minutes.
Just like Rudy: As his team went through practice last week without Coleman, it occurred to Michigan coach John Beilein that his team was a couple injuries away from a crisis at small forward.
After a string of defections, a dismissal, and an injury, Michigan finally beefed up its active roster. Pete Burak, a team manager, dressed for Saturday’s game but didn’t play. The sophomore wore No. 53.
“I have envisioned it so many times, it was almost like second nature,” said Burak, who went to Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard High School. “It was such a thrill. I don’t know how else to explain it. It was just so much fun.”
Burak, who spent his childhood watching the Fab Five and dreaming of donning the maize and blue, found out Friday that he would join the roster and promptly called everyone he knew.
“He was very happy,” Beilein said. “The team’s happy for him. I know that was great for him to warm up out there.”
Burak, who excelled in the preseason timed mile, plays small forward on the scout team.
“He’s 6-1, but we’re probably lying,” Beilein said.
Coble control: Northwestern forward Kevin Coble torched the Wolverines for 34 points. The sophomore entered the game as the Wildcats’ third-leading scorer, averaging 13 point per game.
“He’s got that Larry Bird type of ‘now I’m here, and now I’m not,’ ” Beilein said. “There were a couple times where he just turned, and everybody in the gym believes he’s going to shoot it, except him.”
Beilein said he won’t use tape of this game to get his players to focus on how to guard Coble. Rather, he’ll try to get them to emulate Coble’s offensive style.