As the Michigan men’s basketball team prepares to take on Indiana tonight, the Wolverines without a doubt have their last game against the Hoosiers on their minds.
Where: Crisler Arena
When: Thursday at 9 p.m.
Live Blog: michigandaily.com
The loss in Bloomington only 15 days ago remains one of the team’s worst performances so far this season. Michigan lost to a team playing its first game without its leading scorer, freshman Maurice Creek, who will be out for the remainder of the season.
Of course, Michigan (2-2 Big Ten, 8-7 overall) came out the very next game like gangbusters at Crisler Arena and beat then-No. 15 Ohio State in what was perhaps their most impressive win of the season.
So the question is, which Michigan will show up for the game tonight?
“I think our whole team has been inconsistent,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “That’s what’s been the most frustrating. You don’t know what to expect from each player right now.”
He’s right. The team’s inconsistency from game to game stems from every player not named Manny struggling to perform at a high level every night.
Senior DeShawn Sims has come on strong of late, earning Big Ten Player of the Week honors while averaging 21 points and seven rebounds per game in that span. But he hasn’t exactly been a beacon of consistency throughout the season, laying eggs against Boston College and at Utah.
Redshirt sophomore Laval Lucas-Perry had trouble against Kansas and in Michigan’s first game against Indiana (1-2, 7-8), but exploded against Penn State, tallying 16 points and leading the comeback effort.
Sophomore Stu Douglass, meanwhile, lit up Indiana in Bloomington, notching 16 points. But in Michigan’s last two games against Penn State and Northwestern, he has scored just two and six points, respectively.
And since the Wolverines’ defense usually mirrors their offense, defensive effort has been just as inconsistent as individual offensive output.
“When things aren’t going well offensively, you got to play even better defense,” Beilein said. “From an individual level, that’s the most important thing.”
So what can Michigan do to make sure it comes out with equal effort, game in and game out?
Sims said it’s not a matter of playing harder, but playing smarter.
“I definitely think we’re playing hard,” Sims said. “Smart? In all aspects of the game? Not really throughout the 40 minutes of the game, but I definitely think this team plays hard.”
Sims especially will need to play hard on the defensive end if he’s going to stop Hoosier freshman Christian Watford, a 6-foot-8 forward who scored 19 points in Bloomington, and most of his production came from the post.
Another key to tonight’s game will be the ability of Michigan’s guards to box out. While junior Manny Harris is probably the best pure rebounder on the team, Douglass, Lucas-Perry and freshman Darius Morris all will also need to make sure to get a body on the Indiana guards—sophomore Verdell Jones III and redshirt junior Jeremiah Rivers racked up a total of 17 rebounds in the two teams’ last meeting.
The game tonight kicks off a hellacious stretch of basketball for the Wolverines. After Indiana, the Wolverines play Connecticut, at Wisconsin, at Purdue, and Michigan State.
It would be nice for Michigan to start off that stretch with a win.
“I know this stretch is very important, probably the most important stretch of the season thus far,” Sims said. “We’re looking down the road for any type of hope.”