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December 1, 2012One road test down, nine more to go. The Michigan basketball team was tested in an opponent's barn for the first time this season and escaped with a 74-66 win.
But it wasn't easy. The Wolverines shot 49.1 percent from the field (26-of-53), just the second time all year they've been held under 50.0 percent shooting (the shot a season-low 46.0 percent in last week's win over Pitt).
And Michigan committed 13 turnovers, which ties a season high. The Wolverines have now committed double-digit turnovers in just three games all year.
And the Wolverines once again struggled to close out the game. After allowing N.C. State to make it close in Tuesday's 79-72 win, Michigan looked sluggish in the waning minutes again.
Bradley hung tough all game, but with 3:34 to go, sophomore point guard Trey Burke hit a layup to put Michigan up 70-54, seemingly putting the game out of reach.
But the Braves surged back, helped by a quick 11-0 run over the next three minutes.
The Wolverines hung on.
"To see the crowd there today, to see Bradley basketball in that situation, playing Michigan, I enjoyed being a part of it," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "The crowd was so hostile, but Saturday basketball in December, it's officially the turnover. It's basketball season - let's play."
And now, the young team - which played freshmen Glenn Robinson III, Nik Stauskas, Mitch McGary, Spike Albrecht and Caris LeVert and redshirt freshman Max Bielfeldt in their first significant road minutes - have a feel for life away from friendly fans.
Beilein said this was invaluable experience for Michigan.
"There is not any genius in it, other than saying, 'We want a home and home that won't take us to the other side of the country,'" he said. "If you have the Michigan brand and this early season ranking, it's going to bring people. But this was a terrific environment today for us to learn and get better."
The Wolverines struggled at times, thanks to Bradley's keen focus on sophomore point guard Trey Burke and junior guard Tim Hardaway, Jr.
The two combined to shoot just 9-of-22 from the field, and Hardaway was held off the scoreboard until late into the second half. Burke finished with 16 points, and Hardaway added nine.
"Their two guards were doing a tremendous job on Trey and Timmy," Beilein said.
So they turned to Stauskas for offensive production.
"We said, 'Let's put Nick more in it.' We wanted to get off to a solid start defensively, and Nick proved he can do that today," Beilein said.
Stauskas, who earned the start, finished 8-of-15 from the field - including 4-of-5 from three-point range, and finished with a game-high 22 points.
Bielfeldt played nine solid minutes, finishing with two points. He is a native of Peoria, Ill., the home of Bradley.
"He and Jon [Horford] go at it every day," Beilein said. "As far as the third guy playing big, I almost asked Jon to step back today. Max is going home, so let's put him in there. Jon is a good teammate, and I think Max answered the bell."
The battle for playing time between the four bigs - redshirt junior Jordan Morgan, freshman Mitch McGary, Horford and Bielfledt - is still very intense.
"There is competition from all four of them every day," Beilein said. "We don't want to take Glenn Robinson off the floor too much. If we move Glenn to the three, then it's taking time from Nik. We're trying to find what the right fit is, but those four are trying to get the minutes of three."
Beilein has also been wrestling with the decision of whether to redshirt LeVert, who played in his first game Saturday. LeVert finished with seven minutes played, one assist and one rebound.
"Caris, our intention is not to just burn [the redshirt] for two minutes a game," Beilein said. "We want to put him in there in the top eight or nine, and hopefully get him even more minutes than that. And he really wanted to get in there. If he didn't want to, we wouldn't have done it. He was really anxious to.
"I think we saw some things in the North Carolina State game. One of his roles will be to be a defensive stopper and guard some people. We also want to make sure Tim gets more rest. He needs three or four minutes of rest per game. We don't want to drop off on defense, and Caris can do that."