March 1, 2013
Borton's Blog: No easy way
Tim Hardaway, Jr., and his teammates have their choice for internal motivation for the impending Michigan State game. There's the embarrassment of losing to an 0-14 Big ten team after leading by 15 with 10 minutes remaining, or getting pummeled by the Spartans themselves two weeks ago.
Neither involves a lot of fun memories. But Hardaway - who took on all questions in the bowels of the Breslin after that mind-numbing loss - isn't looking to forget.
"The game in East Lansing is on our minds," he said. "It hasn't gone anywhere. We still remember what happened."
He remembers all too well. Hardaway went 1-for-11 from the floor and 0-for-5 from three-point range while the Spartans ran away with a 75-52 win at home. Afterward, the junior admitted MSU "bullied us" and that same rueful fire remained in his eyes when pondering the rematch.
"We didn't play Michigan basketball," Hardaway insisted. "I said this before - they bullied us on the boards. They did a great job of just crashing the glass, did a great job of playing smart defense and not fouling. Give them credit."
At the same time, Michigan basketball - when it comes to defending and boxing out on the glass - has been tough to define over the long haul this season. Certainly the Wolverines started out dominating teams on the glass, playing solid defense, etc.
But efforts like U-M's against Penn State call the norm into question.
"You just can't do some of the things we did out there last game - get cheap fouls, [not] box your man out, let them get offensive rebounds constantly," Hardaway spat. "It just has to be a learning experience right now. We've just got to stop it."
His head coach is sounding an all-is-not-lost mantra in the wake of the Happy Valley misery. John Beilein sounds clearly annoyed over references to an U-M-MSU game that has lost its luster, even though it features a pair of top-10 teams.
Beilein stressed it's all about March, and March is here. At least one of his veterans has listened well, and sounds ready to shrug off the struggles.
"You could say it's the lowest point, but I've been in situations where this is nothing," Hardaway said. "Freshman year, we had a lowest point where we were 1-6 in the Big Ten, and we didn't even have a chance. We came back and finished fourth in the Big Ten. I wouldn't say this is the lowest point."
That nadir is now to be avoided, with a dicey trio of games to finish the regular season - MSU and Indiana at home, sandwiched around a trip to Purdue's Mackey Arena. Michigan responded well the last time they faced a rivalry rematch at Crisler Center, Hardaway pointed out, the Wolverines stepping up to knock off Ohio State.
While he chose his words carefully, his face clearly indicated he's ready for another.
...More... To continue reading this article you must be a member. Sign Up Now for a FREE Trial