INDIANAPOLIS — There are those
incredibly well- played, error-free athletic contests about which
television announcers love to say, “You’d hate to see
either team lose a game like this.”

Kate Green

This wasn’t one of those games.

Butler shot 38 percent, missed 24 3-pointers and scored just
three baskets inside the arc in the first half.

Michigan turned the ball over 21 times, shot under 70 percent
from the free-throw line and posted a mere 20 points in the second
half … and won.

But when the Wolverines look back on yesterday’s
hard-fought, if not somewhat ugly matchup with the Bulldogs,
they’ll take away more than just a key nonconference
victory.

If there’s anything that the Wolverines should have
learned, it’s that, in spite of defensive lapses and forced
shots and seemingly endless field-goal droughts, they have the
ability to win ugly.

It’s not an easy lesson.

It’s definitely not a lesson that comes from destroying a
team like High Point by 35. It won’t come in practice or in
film sessions. The only way to learn how to win games like last
night’s is to do it.

“I was really impressed with the toughness of our kids to
battle through a lot of difficult things that hadn’t happened
to us this year,” Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said.

And the fact that the Wolverines can finally face adversity and
come out smiling says something in itself.

“I don’t know if a lot of people understand,”
Michigan senior Bernard Robinson said. “Two years ago, we
would have lost this game — a lot of things would’ve
happened that would’ve went against us. For us to come out
this victory in a way like that shows a lot about this
team.”

Okay.

So this year’s Wolverines have quickly proven that they
can win any type of ballgame.

Consider lesson number one learned.

Lesson number two is that this team has a long way to go. Last
night’s performance was, at times, nasty. Give some credit to
Butler, a Sweet-16 team from last year that played hard in front of
its home fans.

But don’t forget to give some credit to the fact that
it’s just three games into Michigan’s season, and the
Wolverines will be the first to tell you that they are far from
perfect.

“You can learn something from every game,” Michigan
center Graham Brown said.

“But tonight we have a couple more things that you can see
came out — you’re going to learn more stuff in closer
games.”

We won’t have to wait long to see how much the Wolverines
have taught themselves.

A very good North Carolina State team comes to Ann Arbor
tomorrow.

Then, Michigan has to venture into Vanderbilt to battle with a
much-improved Commodore team Saturday.

It’s not going to be an easy week to take study
breaks.

“We’re going to work real hard (today), and just do
the best we can and hope for the best,” said Brown of this
week’s tough schedule. “We’ll prepare ourselves
as much as we can.”

In that preparation, while the Wolverines will tell you that
they can get better in all facets of the game, there are certainly
places where the focus will land.

Michigan’s big man trio of Brown, Chris Hunter and
Courtney Sims looked like they had a huge advantage against a
Butler squad with one player over 6-foot-8. Amaker went so far
after the game as to say that he expected Michigan to impose its
will on the Bulldogs inside.

But the Wolverines’ three behemoths snagged just five
rebounds combined in the game, one less than Michigan point guard
Daniel Horton.

The Wolverines’ were 5-of-11 from the free-throw line in
the second half, including three misses from Robinson and two from
wingman Lester Abram, two of the team’s best from the charity
stripe.

Horton and fellow guard Dion Harris, the two running
Michigan’s offense from the point guard spot, combined for 10
turnovers.

But … Michigan won.

When it comes right down to it, at the end of the game, the
scoreboard showed Michigan with one more point than the host
Bulldogs.

And if the Wolverines are truly going to be a threat to make it
to the NCAA Tournament, no lesson that Michigan will learn the rest
of the year will be any more important than yesterday’s: a
win is a win is a win.

Chris Burke can be reached at
“mailto:chrisbur@umich.edu”>chrisbur@umich.edu.

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