The Wolverine

January 2024

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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38 THE WOLVERINE ❱ JANUARY 2024 BY CHRIS BALAS E arlier this year, St. John's head coach Rick Pitino lauded Michi- gan basketball after it pounded his team at Madison Square Garden. Though he had yet to see all the Big Ten teams, he admitted, he figured there couldn't be many better than U-M. But the Wolverines failed to compete at the same high level following that Nov. 13 victory, with too many lapses leading to inconsistency. They suffered a bad home loss to Long Beach State Nov. 17, lost two out of three at the Bat- tle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas (to Mem- phis and Texas Tech, pulling out a win in between against Stanford), and fell at Oregon by three points in overtime. The biggest setback, however, was a Dec. 5 home loss to Indiana, a 78-75 de- feat in their Big Ten opener. The Wol- verines gave up 52 points in the paint and — once again — faded in a tight game down the stretch. "I still think that their awareness, the way they speak to each other [needs to improve]," associate head coach Phil Martelli said after the game. "In those moments, it's not just hearing the noise of the crowd, but you have to listen to the instruction. And all of us — not players only, all of us — have to do bet- ter. We need one to break through. We need a breakthrough one where I would say, 'Wow … it does come out on the right side.'" The team got it four days later in a win at Iowa, a 90-80 victory that improved U-M's record to 5-5 overall and 1-1 in the Big Ten. Michigan hammered the Hawkeyes in the second half, playing some of its most inspired basketball in weeks and dominating most of the last 20 minutes. Sophomore forward Tarris Reed Jr. scored 19 points and looked like the player many expected him to be on both ends of the floor. Several "outliers" came to play, too. Senior Terrance Wil- liams II's 3 triples were key, including a few early that helped the Wolverines stay in it. Sophomore point guard Dug Mc- Daniel and grad forward Olivier Nka- mhoua didn't score in the first half, but Michigan still led by two points at the break. They combined for 23 points in the second half, while graduate guard Nimari Burnett hit two big triples, and redshirt sophomore Will Tschetter con- tinued his inspired play with 10 points and 6 rebounds. Only a late run from the Hawkeyes made the score respectable. "The key to me was transition de- fense, transition defense, transition defense," said Martelli, still subbing for Juwan Howard after the head coach's heart surgery. "We committed to that … "So, our transition defense and our shot challenges — even at the rim — were really what set this apart. And I'm always one to pass the praise. [Assis- tant] Saddi Washington is the defensive coordinator — he's worked with these guys for three days on what we would face. And Howard Eisley did the scout- ing report." They played with a sense of urgency essentially knowing an 0-2 start in con- ference play would be tough to over- come, especially after last week's home loss to Indiana. "Road wins are like a game and a half, but we're coming in here having given away a home game," Martelli said. "In- diana earned the win, but when you lose a home game in this league, it's really quite a setback. "… The second half, the ball moved, ❱  MICHIGAN BASKETBALL Key Road Victory At Iowa Ends Three-Game Losing Skid Sophomore forward Tarris Reed Jr. scored a season-high 19 points in U-M's 90-80 win against Iowa Dec. 10. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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