Two and a half weeks ago, the Michigan men”s basketball team appeared to finally find a course to victory and success when it beat then-No. 16 Iowa 70-69 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The pains of the season”s first half were temporarily alleviated. Two grinning freshmen point guards talked to reporters, complementing each other”s comments like an entertainment duo. Even the Michigan managers bounced through the hallways with an exuberance previously concealed.
The dominant mood was that the worst was over for Michigan the team had gotten over the hump.
Since that Jan. 20 evening, Michigan (3-8 Big Ten, 9-13 overall) has won only won more game, a 72-65 victory over conference bottom-dweller Northwestern. Sunday”s loss to Indiana was Michigan”s fourth consecutive defeat.
Michigan will retake the court against Iowa (6-4, 17-6) tonight in Crisler Arena, hoping to relocate some of the magic discovered in the first contest.
The team remains optimistic that the season can still be salvaged, despite the fact that Michigan has to win nearly all of its games to even qualify for the NIT.
“There have been so many other things that have been taken out of context that it puts such a drab on the entire situation,” Ellerbe said Monday. “We”ve lost basketball games, we haven”t lost life. We haven”t lost the opportunity. We still have the opportunity to play some games and have a good season.”
Since the last time Michigan played Iowa, the Hawkeyes lost their leading scorer, Luke Recker, for the season with a leg injury.
Recker, the Hawkeye”s leading scorer, put up 18 points in the previous meeting, and was largely responsible for Iowa”s near comeback.
The Hawkeyes are in a mini-slump without Recker, having lost two straight contests the latest of which was a 69-61 loss to Northwestern. It was the Wildcats” first conference win of this season or last.
“We”re very happy to come in one of the greatest environments you can possibly play in and get a win against a team that sits atop the Big Ten conference,” Michigan coach Brian Ellerbe said at the time.
Instead, the shocking victory in Iowa City will mostly likely go down as the season”s peak, an abberation in a sea of woes.