Michigan played very well on Saturday as well as it has played all season but Vermont isn”t exactly Indiana. The Wolverines” first game against a non-Big Ten opponent since the last calendar year was as good, statistically, as coach Tommy Amaker could have hoped. Other than allowing the Catamounts 25 rebounds under the Michigan basket (where the Wolverines collected just 23), Michigan posted numbers that should warrant optimism. Six Wolverines scored in double-digits and a seventh freshman forward Chuck Bailey had eight. The Wolverines shot 54.2 percent in the game (40 percent from the 3-point line), had 16 assists (a statistical category in which they have lately been struggling) and controlled the game for the entire second half.

“I think this was a good step for us especially coming off the terrible loss at Ohio State,” senior tri-captain Chris Young said. “It was definitely beneficial.”

That 22-point loss in Columbus last Thursday was Michigan”s worst of the Big Ten season. After keeping the game close for the better part of the first half, the Wolverines fell apart. The Buckeyes made a small run to end the first half, followed by a 19-6 run to begin the second. Michigan”s dominance in the second half against Vermont was reminiscent of what happened to them two days earlier in Columbus. The Wolverines scored the final six points of the first half, then went on a 14-0 run to begin the second to put the game out of reach.

“We really had it clicking,” Amaker said of the second-half run. “I was pleased with that effort in the first four minutes.”

But executing their revenge for the Ohio State embarrassment against a team from the America East conference does not quite satisfy the Wolverines. The question is whether they will be able to take all the positives from Saturday with them to East Lansing on Wednesday, when the Wolverines battle Michigan State. Michigan is grateful that its capacity for a breakdown on the glass was exposed out of conference.

“I think this is a game where we learned a lot,” senior tri-captain Leon Jones said. “Michigan State is probably one of the best rebounding teams that we”ve seen in the past few years, so hopefully we can work on (rebounding) in the next few practices and into State.”

The last time Michigan played a nonconference game in the middle of the Big Ten season was in 1994-95, when they played at Crisler against Big East power St. Johns. That game was sandwiched between two wins at Indiana and home against Wisconsin. But that team ended the season 11-7 in the Big Ten, whereas this team is struggling to find .500. The hope is that this game against Vermont and another nonconference game at Colorado State in February will serve as opportunities to stay on track and avoid any kind of losing skid in the midst of a grueling Big Ten schedule.

“I think it”s a good break from the same old thing,” Jones said. “I kind of like playing someone that”s not in our conference in the middle of the season.”

When the Wolverines travel to Fort Collins, Colo. to take on the Rams, they will be playing their fourth game in 10 days.

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