BLOOMINGTON – Prior to yesterday’s 63-49 thrashing of Michigan, Indiana coach Mike Davis told his players, “We have to make this the hardest game Michigan has played all season.”
The Hoosiers stepped out and did just that, as they ferociously attacked the Wolverines in the first half, forcing Michigan to make uncountable unforced errors and held the Wolverines to a dismal 18 points in the half.
“In the Duke game at least we gave a little effort,” freshman Lester Abram said. ” We didn’t give any effort in this game.”
Michigan came out of the gate ready to play, as it committed just one turnover and went 4-of-8 from the field in the first 5:30 of play to knot the score at nine apiece. But after that, Michigan struggled to do anything right. Michigan’s failure to attack the rim, inability to go to the free-throw line and carelessness with the ball allowed Indiana to take a 14-point lead into halftime.
“We were embarrassed,” Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said. “I though that we played about eight minutes where we showed some toughness and life. I am hoping as we move forward, we understand what it means to play a curtain way and that if we don’t, we are not a team that can compete in this league.”
The Wolverines managed to improve in the second half, in which they tied the Hoosiers in scoring at 31 apiece. A 10-3 run by Michigan helped cut the lead to eight with 10:24 remaining in the game as the Wolverines appeared to be playing in sync for the first time all game. It was during this stretch that the Wolverines showed the fire which has been characteristic of them since they turned their season around following a 81-59 loss to Duke.
Two consecutive three-point plays and a Bracey Wright jumper helped the Hoosiers stretch the lead back to 14. From that point, the Wolverines would never get closer than 10 points, as they returned to the mental lapses and “every man for himself” attitude which had pervaded their play in the first half.
Indiana decided to use a smaller lineup by going with three guards and moving power-forward Jeff Newton to the center position. Davis said he went with the smaller lineup because he thought it would give his team a better opportunity to penetrate against Michigan’s big men.
But what he could not have expected was that his smaller team would out-rebound and out-hustle Michigan on the boards 40-31 and grab 12 offensive rebounds. The Hoosiers also blocked nine Michigan shots and limited them to 22 points in the paint.
The matchup of Newton on Graham Brown was also favorable, as the power-forward used his finesse to put up 20 points on the slower center. Aiding Newton was a shoulder stinger, which limited Michigan’s agile center Chris Hunter to just 10 minutes.
If there is a silver lining to yesterday’s game it is that co-Big Ten leader, Purdue, lost at Northwestern, a place Michigan won earlier this year. Wisconsin joins the deadlock atop the Big Ten at 7-3.