No. 5 Michigan hasn’t exactly looked like Michigan the past two games out. A loss at Wisconsin saw the Wolverine offense fall flat, unable to rally at the Kohl Center. The maize and blue survived Tuesday’s game vs Minnesota by the skin of their teeth, needing a Charles Matthews buzzer beater to cancel out a late 10-0 run by Minnesota (Michigan went 0 for 6 and missed two free throws during that run.) John Beilein told media members Thursday that his team is leaning into the adversity it has been facing.
“I think it happens to most teams sometime during the year. We just came off Northwestern game where we played really well.” – Beilein said Thursday afternoon. “In both of them (the two games since) we didn’t play well but we were 1-1, I do think you go through these periods where it’s not the right matchup, somebody has a slight injury. You’re on the road in an environment and you’re not comfortable, and all of a sudden you look like a shell of who you can be.”
Beilein cited a multitude of factors aside from Michigan’s shooting percentages that have ailed the Wolverines during this slow offensive period. Whether it be coaches needing to make adjustments or players making minor adjustments like setting a screen better, the coach insisted the team is working on it in practice despite a busy week that has featured three games in six days after a five bye.
“I think we just haven’t hit some shots,” remarked center Jon Teske regarding the team’s slow down. “We’ve had a lot of good open looks, we missed 27 three’s last few games and that’s not us. Coach B is saying we’re saving them for tomorrow. We’re gonna knock down those open shots and come back ready to play.”
Charles Matthews said after the Minnesota game that Michigan did not appear to be playing as freely on offense as it had earlier in the season. Teske pointed to a lack of execution.
“Down the stretch at Wisconsin, we struggled that last 3 or 4 minutes of the game. They were up 3 or 4, we didn’t execute well, and that is why they won.” Teske said. “This last game we didn’t execute as well but we learned from Wisconsin, we did just enough to win, and all those Big Ten games down the stretch are gonna come down to the last three or four minutes of the game, it’s how you execute.”
Sophomore guard Jordan Poole has fallen victim to the offensive slump himself. Across his last four games, he is shooting only 11 for 36 from the floor and 3 for 17 from three-point range. His confidence remains unfazed and similar to Ignas Brazdeikis’ rebound performance against Minnesota, Poole remains confident in his ability and that the shots will start falling again for him, and the rest of his team.
“I really don’t feel as if we’re trying to prove to people we can shoot again. We are just trying to find ways to win a game.” Poole responded when asked about his shot not falling. “We know that sometimes there are gonna be games where we make shots, there are gonna be games where we don’t. We find ways to get to the basket, get defensive stops, get in transition. It’s just the task that comes with playing college basketball.”
As the Wolverines head to Assembly Hall, the Hoosier’s home floor has been a house of horrors for Michigan under Beilein. In 12 seasons as coach, Beilein has won only twice in Bloomington: 2009, and on the Wolverines most recent trip in 2017. Indiana is mired in a five-game losing streak that began during its last meeting with Michigan on January 6. In that time, the Hoosiers have lost at Maryland, Purdue, and Northwestern in addition to dropping a home tilt with Nebraska. The road hasn’t been friendly to Michigan in Big Ten play, with struggles at Illinois before locking up a win, a close shave at Northwestern, and a loss at Wisconsin. Friday night marks the Wolverines fourth conference road trip and a chance to make a statement with a win in a hostile environment, something the team hasn’t done since that win over Northwestern back in early December.
“I mean we want to come out hard,” Teske said. “We’ve gotta show right away that defensively we’re gonna be there, obviously gotta knock down open shots. It’s a great place to play, we played there my freshman year. The young guys gotta be ready, hostile environment, they’re a very good team and well coached. We gotta go in there ready to play.”
Michigan already has one win against Indiana in the bag dating back to January 6th. The Wolverines got Juwan Morgan and Romeo Langford into foul trouble early and earned a 74-63 victory at home. Michigan will look to complete the season sweep over the Hoosiers for the second time in three years Friday night. Beilein joked that he has not coached in a Friday night game since he was a Division II coach but that he was excited for the raucous atmosphere that comes with playing in Bloomington. Moreover, he is excited for his team to get a chance to correct some of the errors that have plagued it over the last 80 minutes of basketball in game action.
“You gotta get yourself out of it, I can remember times over my career that all you needed was to get a W, or one guy make one shot and the whole season could change,” Beilein said. “I hope as long as we’re learning from it, we have to look at it from an educational standpoint. Are we learning from it? Or is it something that is just happening and we need to say “why is it happening?” what are the solutions? Embrace the solutions.”
No. 5 Michigan (18-1, 7-1 Big Ten) takes on Indiana (12-7, 3-5 Big Ten) Friday night at 6:30 PM EST inside Assembly Hall in Bloomington. The game will be broadcast on FS1 with Gus Johnson and Jim Jackson on the call. Be sure to follow @WolverineLounge and @ByJaySarkar on Twitter for in-game updates and more.