The trade winds have shifted around Crisler Arena and have brought with them a new way of thinking and playing.
After last Saturday’s 84-79 win over IUPUI in which Michigan (1-0 Big Ten, 8-6 overall) struggled to put away an inferior opponent, coach Tommy Amaker admitted that it was the type of game that the team might have lost in the past.
Then, to continue the trend of breaking old habits, the Wolverines climbed back from a seemingly insurmountable 15-point deficit with less than six minutes remaining to beat the Badgers, who were beginning their defense of the Big Ten title.
“It was a great comeback from a team that was really (searching) for a reason to come back – if you were to (take a) deeper look into it,” Amaker said of the Wisconsin victory.
Michigan is also on an eight-game winning streak and is playing the type of basketball that fans expected when Amaker joined the Wolverines last year. The winning streak is the program’s longest since the 1996-97 season, the same year that Michigan captured the NIT Championship.
The winning streak and Wednesday’s win “show that we have a lot of character,” freshman Daniel Horton said. “When we started 0-6 a lot of people were doubting us and saying that it is the same old Michigan team – but it is not.
“We are a totally different team from years past and right now we are showing it. We believe in what coach Amaker is teaching us. They tell us if you play hard and give effort, that we have enough talent to win games, and right now that is what we are doing.”
Michigan (1-0 Big Ten, 8-6 overall) is looking to continue its recent trend and prove that it has turned over a new leaf tomorrow against Penn State (0-1, 5-7).
The Nittany Lions entered their Big Ten opener on a five-game winning streak against the likes of Bucknell and Robert Morris, but fell to Indiana by 13 points Wednesday night.
Meanwhile, senior LaVell Blanchard has been the Wolverines’ best performer during the current stretch, and is fourth in the conference in scoring. Blanchard is averaging close to a double-double over the past eight games with 19.8 points and eight rebounds per-game in 31.1 minutes.
“We struggle and get into trouble when we don’t have LaVell doing the things that he is capable of doing,” Amaker said. “We try to do other things or make up for other things, and we aren’t good enough to do (that).”
If the Wolverines are able to get LaVell involved the way Amaker needs him to be, they should be able to come away with a notch in the win column this weekend. Their nine-game winning streak would become the longest for the them since the 1993-94 season, when Jalen Rose and Juwan Howard were playing in Ann Arbor.