Having just one person absolutely despise you is hard.
Having thousands hate you – well, that’s just downright miserable.
And that’s exactly what life on the road is like in the Big Ten. The Michigan men’s basketball team learned that lesson the hard way on Wednesday night when it fell to No. 2 Wisconsin, 71-58, in Madison.
But the Wolverines have no time to stew over the loss. Michigan faces another road test tomorrow when it travels to Bloomington to take on No. 23 Indiana.
The loss to the Badgers dropped Michigan to 2-4 away from Crisler Arena this season. With the Wolverines firmly entrenched on the NCAA Tournament bubble, Saturday represents another opportunity to capture the elusive marquee road victory – the one that impresses the tournament selection committee come March.
“I think it would be big as a program and as a team to go in on the road, knowing we haven’t had as great as success on the road as we should have,” senior Dion Harris said.
To defeat the Hoosiers, Michigan (4-2 Big Ten, 16-5 overall) must limit the silly turnovers that have plagued it in each loss this season.
On Wednesday night, the Wolverines committed 19 turnovers, including 12 in the first half. The mistakes derailed Michigan after it jumped out to a 9-0 lead.
The veterans were the biggest culprits. The seniors — Harris, Lester Abram, Courtney Sims and Brent Petway – accounted for all but three of the giveaways.
“We need to keep our poise and not turn the ball over,” Sims said following his 16-point, seven-turnover effort on Wednesday night. “I think if we eliminate that, we’ll be fine. When we’re winning and playing well, we aren’t turning the ball over and executing what we do in practice.”
The Wolverines must perform better than they did against the Badgers, because Indiana (4-2, 14-5) is no walk in the park – not by a long shot.
Before their road loss to Illinois on Tuesday, the Hoosiers had reeled off five straight victories, including wins over Michigan State, Purdue and at Connecticut. To make matters worse, Michigan has not won at Assembly Hall since 1996.
Because of the late finish at the Kohl Center on Wednesday night, Michigan’s time to devise a strategy for coach Kelvin Sampson’s squad is limited.
“It’s kind of hard to prepare for the future when you are preparing so hard for Wisconsin,” Abram said.
The decisive matchup in tomorrow’s contest should be the battle inside. Indiana features junior forward D.J. White, who averages more than 14 points per game and leads the Big Ten in blocked shots.
The Wolverines’ trio of forwards – Sims, Petway and freshman Ekpe Udoh – will likely be called on to neutralize White. If Michigan double-teams him, it opens up room for Hoosier guard Roderick Wilmont, a dynamic 3-point shooter.
Most important, the Wolverines must right the ship or risk watching their Big Ten title hopes – and NCAA Tournament dreams – slip away for a ninth-consecutive season.
“Listen, we are in the middle of the conference race,” Amaker said after Wednesday’s loss. “We came here in second place (in the Big Ten), and we’re going to be fine. Just because we didn’t play well tonight, we aren’t ready to tank our basketball team. We aren’t. We are going to go back and compete. We’re going to go to Bloomington and see if we can get a win there.”
Michigan at Indiana
Michigan 16-5; Indiana 14-5
When: Saturday at noon
Where: Bloomington, Ind.