A 7:45 a.m. wake-up call threw a curveball to the Michigan men’s basketball team. But maybe that’s just what the Wolverines’ struggling defense needed.
Against Iowa on Sunday, Michigan surrendered just 49 points and collected a season-high 12 steals in a game that started at 11:30 a.m.
In the Wolverines’ three prior games, their defense struggled early. In the first half, Wisconsin shot 65 percent on Dec. 31, Illinois shot 59 percent on Jan. 4 and Indiana shot 50 percent on Jan. 7.
But it was a completely different story against Iowa.
The Hawkeyes, third in the Big Ten in field-goal percentage, made just a half-dozen shots in the first half against Michigan’s tenacious 1-3-1 zone defense.
“Just come out and jump on them from the start,” said sophomore forward Manny Harris, who matched his career-high with four steals, of Michigan’s game plan.
Michigan coach John Beilein left the game pleased with what he saw defensively.
“I am really proud of the way we defended tonight and defended well enough that we could actually get into some transition baskets,” Beilein said.
Welcome Back: Michigan’s 1974 Big Ten Championship team was honored at halftime of Sunday’s game. The team, led by All-American Campy Russell and coached by Big Ten Coach of the Year Johnny Orr, tied Indiana for the conference title.
At the time, only the conference champion went to the NCAA Tournament, so the two teams played a one-game playoff in Champaign. Michigan won the game and went on to beat No. 3 Notre Dame in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Russell led the team with 36 points and 18 rebounds.
According to Russell, this year’s team looks familiar.
“I think this team is kind of reminiscent of a team that we had. When you look at it and you say, ‘Who are those guys?'” Russell said. “But once you start playing, once you see how hard they’re playing and how willing they are to sacrifice for each other, that says to me that you got a good team.”
After the game, two members of the 1974 squad talked with Beilein about the game and complimented his team’s effort.
Specifically, Beilein used the 1974 team to describe the hustle of fifth-year senior C.J. Lee.
“You know Steve Grote would have done that with Campy (Russell), C.J. (Kupec) and all those guys, they would have done those same things,” Beilein said. “It is just huge.”
Fresh start: In the three-game stretch with Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana, Harris was a combined 13-for-40 from the field and was held below his season scoring average (18.6) in each game. It was his worst stretch of the season.
Harris scored 18 points Sunday, but it was his 6-for-12 shooting that shows he’s back on the right track. It was the first time he hit half his shots since Dec. 20 against Eastern Michigan.
“It feels good every game out,” Harris said. “But some games you just don’t have your best game. Today, I did a little bit better than I usually do.”
A fan of Beilein: Iowa guard Devan Bawinkel can’t say enough about Michigan coach John Beilein.
Bawinkel appeared in 20 games under Beilein at West Virginia and averaged less than two points per game. He was recruited by Beilein out of Winnebago High School in Illinois and was drawn to Beilein’s unique offense, winning tradition and character. But when Beilein took the Michigan job after the 2007 season, Bawinkel decided to leave West Virginia.
The junior tried to transfer to Michigan, but it didn’t work out due to scholarship numbers and Bawinkel ended up at Iowa.