Before yesterday’s 83-49 win over Norfolk State, Michigan coach John Beilein told sophomore guard Manny Harris he needed to grab at least 10 rebounds.
The 6-foot-5 guard grabbed a career-high 15, to lead the Michigan basketball team, which had 53 total rebounds and outrebounded the Spartans by 16.
Despite the Wolverines’ success this season, they have struggled on the boards.
Michigan won the rebounding battle just once this season, against Michigan Tech. Coincidentally, the Wolverines’ worst performance came in their upset win over then-No. 4 UCLA when they were outrebounded by 13. Against Duke, Michigan lost the battle down low by 12.
“One of the things is we weren’t playing UCLA or Duke,” Beilein said. “That’s a big reason why we got 53 rebounds. I don’t think we’d get 53 rebounds against those teams. (Norfolk State’s) coming from a mid-major league and they don’t have some of the same athletes.”
Michigan also won the battle on the offensive glass for the first time this season, grabbing six more than Norfolk State.
Since returning from New York, the Wolverines have put an increased emphasis on boxing out and playing physical in the post.
“That’s what we’ve came back and focused on,” senior forward Jevohn Shepherd said. “A lot of drills, a lot of body slapping.”
Michigan’s rebounding translated to production on the on the offensive end. Players moved the ball up the court quickly after a defensive board, which led to points in transition. Harris led the way with 10 defensive rebounds, often breaking quickly down the court.
“When Manny Harris can get 10 defensive rebounds,” Beilein said. “That’s the greatest fast break that you can have.”
Big man on campus:: With about five minutes left in the first half, the Crisler Arena crowd let out a cheer for one of its biggest players, literally.
7-foot freshman Ben Cronin took off his warm-up jersey and headed onto the court. Before last night, Cronin had only played a few late-game minutes against Northeastern and Michigan Tech.
In the stands, a group of students wore shirts that said “Cronin’s cronies.”
“It felt pretty good,” Cronin said. “I’m just focusing more on doing what I got to do, so I’m just excited to get in.”
A hip injury kept Cronin from practicing all summer. Beilein even considered redshirting the freshman.
Last night, Cronin’s presence was immediately felt — for good and bad.
On defense, Cronin’s lanky frame forced Norfolk State’s big men to rush shots, and he limited their second-chance opportunities. On the other end, he scored two points, but missed two easy baskets and caused a turnover that led to a breakaway layup for the Spartans.
Cronin would’ve liked to have played better, but he was happy his fans got to see him play.
Mistaken identity:: When freshman Stu Douglass shoots the ball, Michigan fans yell “Stu.”
Douglass’ popularity among Wolverine fans has risen since he nailed a clutch 3-pointer against UCLA last Thursday.
But there’s another freshman guard from Indiana that Michigan fans should take notice of — Zack Novak.
Sometimes when Novak gets the ball, fans mistakenly yell “Stu.” They’re not the only ones.
“It’s been happening ever since we’ve gotten up here,” Novak said. “At this point, we’re both used to it.”
Novak led Michigan with 10 points in the first half, shooting 4-5 from the field with two 3-pointers.
“He could really shoot the ball,” Beilein said. “He goes, and all the sudden you’re playing in high school and the next the next thing you know you’re in (Madison Square) Garden being guarded by Duke and UCLA.”
He finished with 10 points, but shot the ball just twice in the second half. Douglass, who had just three points in the first half, caught up in the second, and finished a point shy of Novak.