The Wolverine

February 2018

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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36 THE WOLVERINE FEBRUARY 2018 points per game) earned his way into a starting role beginning Jan. 13 at MSU with three straight double-digit scoring games, though he failed to replicate it in any of the next four. That's pushed fifth-year senior Duncan Robinson to the bench. Rob- inson was shooting only 37.1 percent from long range through nine league games, but his 12 points on 4-of-8 three-point shooting were key in the win over Rutgers. He needs to hunt his shot, not apol- ogize for taking it, Beilein noted, but he'll be critical in where Michigan finishes in the Big Ten. "He's accepting that role well," Abdur-Rahkman said. "It's not like he's never been in the role. He was last year, and I think he's flourishing now." The sophomore Simpson, mean- while, has grabbed the starting point guard spot, averaging 6.2 points, 3.5 assists and 2.7 rebounds per game while shooting 44.4 percent from long range and also providing sti- fling defense. Matthews (14.6 points per game), Wagner (14.3) and Abdur-Rahkman (10.5) were providing the bulk of the scoring, as expected, while Poole (6.3) and sophomore Jon Teske (3.9) were also regulars in the rotation, though Beilein was still trying to figure out the backup point guard minutes be- tween graduate transfer Jaaron Sim- mons and freshman Eli Brooks. As pleased as he was with the de- fensive improvement, Beilein wasn't happy with his team's offense. The Wolverines were 51st in adjusted of- fensive efficiency (112.2 points per 100 possessions, adjusted to strength of schedule) after finishing fourth nationally last year (122.3). "I love the way we're growing, but it's not fast enough," Beilein said. "It was a very frustrating game for me [against Rutgers]. Some things we did not do, but we will keep work- ing at it." RESTED AND READY They were finally going to get a chance to recuperate and practice more often with the toughest part of Michigan head coach John Beilein said he wasn't surprised that Ohio State and Purdue were atop the league at the half- way point. "They're seasoned a little bit with a great freshman big man," Beilein said of the Buckeyes. "But I've never seen any- body annihilate people the way Purdue is right now. They're very, very good. "Any of the teams with two or three losses, we're all fighting. Those teams are not even close to people right now. They're winning those games, and every- body's got to keep fighting." As of Jan. 22,'s Jerry Palm had Michigan as a No. 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament and's Joe Lunardi had the Wolverines as a No. 8. Here's a look at each of the Big Ten teams near the halfway point and what they've got left (through games of Jan. 22): 1. Ohio State (18-4 overall, 9-0 Big Ten) Remaining Schedule: Penn State, Indi- ana, Illinois, at Purdue, Iowa, at Penn State, at Michigan, Rutgers and at Indiana. Summary: The No. 13 Buckeyes are the surprise team so far and playing as well as anyone in the conference. They'll be hard to catch given their remaining schedule, but they have to go to Purdue for the only meeting between the two. 2. Purdue (19-2, 8-0 Big Ten) Remaining Schedule: Michigan, at Indiana, Maryland, at Rut- gers, Ohio State, at Michigan State, at Wisconsin, Penn State, at Illinois and Minnesota. Summary: The third-ranked Boilermakers are the best team in the league, and get both Michigan and Ohio State at home down the stretch. They have to go to Michigan State, however, and Indiana is not an easy place to play. 3. Michigan State (18-3, 6-2 Big Ten) Remaining Schedule: Wisconsin, at Maryland, Penn State, at Indiana, at Iowa, Purdue, at Minnesota, at Northwestern, Illinois and at Wisconsin. Summary: Don't count the No. 6 Spartans out … they do get Purdue at home. They still have to prove they can play well on the road, though, and still have some games in tough venues. 4. Michigan (17-5, 6-3 Big Ten) Remaining Schedule: at Purdue, Northwestern, Minnesota, at Northwestern, at Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio State, at Penn State and at Maryland. Summary: No. 25 Michigan's Big Ten title hopes are probably John Beilein has been impressed with head coach Matt Painter's Purdue squad, which defeated U-M 70-69 in Ann Arbor Jan. 9 and was 19-2 overall and 8-0 in the Big Ten as of Jan. 22. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN Big Ten Should Be A Fight To The Finish

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