Just when it looked like the pieces might be fitting together, everything exploded.
The Michigan men”s basketball team seemed to be building towards an impressive finish to the Big Ten, and then the 91-64 defeat by Michigan State in Crisler Arena Tuesday seemed to ruin any progress.
Michigan now has to escape a week”s worth of distractions following such a gory loss and concentrate on tomorrow”s opponent, No. 10 Wisconsin. The Wolverines and the Badgers will square off at 12:15 p.m. in Crisler.
“You have to let the Michigan State loss go,” junior Leon Jones said. “We have to set some new goals for the year and make sure we win the rest of our home games.”
For the second straight game, Michigan will face a team looking to make amends for a disappointing loss. Michigan State lost to Ohio State last weekend, and now Wisconsin is coming off a surprise 58-44 loss to Butler.
The Badgers are a crafty group of veterans, and the Wolverines have yet to beat a top-10 team this year.
Wisconsin is led by three seniors in leading-scorer Roy Boone, center Mark Vershaw and defensive specialist Mike Kelly.
Boone averages 14.3 points per game while Vershaw nets 9.4 per game.
But with Wisconsin, defense supercedes scoring. The Badgers boast the best scoring defense in Division I, allowing just 56.5 points per game.
A slower tempo may play into Michigan”s hands the Wolverines have gone 3-1 in the Big Ten when holding their opponents under 70 points.
Michigan is also looking forward to a less hostile home crowd, after Michigan State fans filled the upper bowl of Crisler on Tuesday.
“I think it”s disappointing that we didn”t fill out the crowd with Maize and Blue, but it”s something you just have to deal with,” Jones said.
Brian Ellerbe has said that he thinks even an NIT berth would be a good experience for his young team. But if Michigan is going to have any postseason hopes, it needs to win more than half of its remaining games. The Wolverines have at least nine Big Ten games remaining, depending on how far they advance in the conference tournament.
“We”ve got to protect our home court now. Definitely it”s going to be hard (to put the Michigan State loss behind us),” Michigan sophomore LaVell Blanchard said.
“But we have to do it, we don”t have a choice.”