The Wolverine

February 2018

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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34 THE WOLVERINE FEBRUARY 2018 BY CHRIS BALAS F ew knew what to expect of this Michigan basketball team heading into the 2017- 18 season, head coach John Beilein included. Beilein admitted he was still having a hard time getting a handle on this team even a month into the season, while trying to figure out the right combinations to put on the floor. There were still several question marks after the Wolverines started the year 17-5 overall and 6-3 in Big Ten play. As Beilein pointed out, though, his team couldn't have emerged much better from an eight- game stretch (seven conference con- tests) in only 23 days, one that in- cluded three games in six days and four in nine ending Jan. 21. The Wolverines gritted out a 62- 47 victory over Rutgers that Sunday and expended whatever energy they had left doing it. Rutgers entered the game No. 25 nationally in defensive efficiency, made U-M work for every shot (the Wolverines made only one of their first 11) and were active from the get-go. "As you can tell in this game, we're tired," Beilein said in the postgame. "We're beat. Credit Rutgers for play- ing so tough, not giving us great shots. I'm so glad we could just get through this game and get refreshed, but also with a win. "Do the math, whatever it is … eight games in like [23] days and only one practice before every game but, I think, Michigan State. You're playing and playing. The shooting drills, the repetition drills we do, we haven't done any of them. Hopefully we can get back to that." If anybody looked at that schedule and guaranteed him 6-2 in that span, he'd have taken it in a heartbeat, he added. And the Wolverines' mark in Big Ten play at the midway point was made more impressive by the teams they played — at Ohio State, at Michigan State and Purdue at home, the three teams ahead of U-M in the standings as of Jan. 22. In addition, the Wolverines played Maryland at home only two days after an unbelievably emotional win at MSU, one in which the Wolverines pulled away at the end for an 82-72 road victory. The Spartans, ranked No. 4 at the time, were out-toughed, out-played HALFWAY HOME U-M Is In The Hunt For A Title And An NCAA Berth At The Midpoint Of The Big Ten Season Through 22 games, redshirt sophomore wing Charles Matthews led Michigan in scoring (14.6 points per contest), was second in rebounds (5.2 an outing) and was third in assists (2.9 per game), plus shared the team lead in blocks (14). PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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