The Wolverine

March 2016

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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BY JOHN BORTON L ife seemed to be humming along so smoothly for the Caris LeVert-less Wolver- ines. Sure, they wanted to have him and his preseason National Player of the Year candidate persona on the floor, making threes, plays and memories. Without him, though, the Wolver- ines were 7-2 through the first half of the Big Ten season, including a vic- tory over then-No. 3 Maryland and no bad losses. The buzz surrounding John Beilein's crew involved getting LeVert back and making a run at the Big Ten title. Then came the forgettable first week of February, which will live in the Michigan basketball conscious- ness like the Super Bowl postgame in the private ruminations of Cam Newton's public speaking professor. Indiana and Michigan State roared through Crisler Center like twin tor- nados, taking down everything in their path — including any dreams of conference title hopes. The Wolver- ines actually fashioned a 15-4 lead on the Hoosiers, before Indiana scored the final 25 points of the first half and breezed out of town with an 80-67 win that wasn't as close as it sounds. Michigan harbored hopes of re- demption against its in-state rival — at least for the opening minutes. But with MSU's Bryn Forbes knocking down 7 of 9 first-half three-pointers and the Spartans racing to a 44-28 lead, even Tom Izzo's hair went from on fire to merely smoldering. No need to burn out early. Michi- gan didn't have the defense or the shooters to stay with a team knock- ing down 64.0 percent of its shots, including 63.6 percent (14 of 22) from downtown. Afterward, both squads stood 7-4 in the Big Ten, but the Spartans seemed to ascend past a U-M bi- plane headed earthward and trailing smoke. Beilein didn't pull any punches. "We just can't compete with those teams — the elite teams — with the state of our team right now," Beilein SCRAMBLE down the STRETCH Wolverines Absorb Hits At Home And Fight Back

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