March 10, 2012

Borton's Blog: Forward focus

No, John Beilein doesn't plan to host a ceremonial burning of all video evidence from Michigan's 77-55 loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals. He insists he'll show it, use it, and move on … quickly.

If the post-game talk among his players is any indication, they'll get past it in high gear as well. That doesn't mean they'll forget hitting just 4 of 25 three-point attempts, falling behind 16-3 off the jump, or seeing OSU big men Jared Sullinger (24 points, six rebounds) and Deshaun Thomas (22 points, six rebounds) dominate the game.

They'll linger on that for a night, at least.

"We'll use it," redshirt sophomore Jordan Morgan said. "We'll watch the film. We'll see the things we did wrong, the things we could improve on. We'll look at the few things we did successfully. We definitely will use it."

"We're going to use this to fuel us more," freshman Trey Burke echoed. "We're going into the NCAA Tournament, and we've got a lot to play for. Our No. 1 goal is to win a national championship. I think we're going to turn things around and come out with a different mentality. It's definitely going to fuel us."

Burke felt the sting of one of the most dramatic turnarounds of fortune he's ever experienced as a basketball player. One night after dropping 30 points on Minnesota (a Big Ten Tournament record for a freshman), he went 1-for-11 shooting versus the Buckeyes, with five points and eight turnovers.

"That's just the way it goes sometimes," Burke said. "You come out one night and have a great game, and then you come out and have probably one of the worst games of your life. We've still got life. We've got games to play, and we're going to learn from this."

Burke went so far as to see the Wolverines came out "flat," but insisted the term reflected more execution than anything.

"It's just missing shots we usually don't miss," Burke said. "Not communicating on defense. Allowing them to hit shots. Flat is really just not coming out and punching a team first, in the mouth … what you saw today was flat, in my opinion."

Meanwhile, Sullinger was sharp, like a guillotine used in executing. He got the Buckeyes going with 16 first-half points, on a variety of head-turning moves.

"Jared, obviously, hit some really tough shots today," Morgan said. "We tried to go at him with the same game plan [as in Michigan's win in Ann Arbor]. He just hit some of the shots we forced him into last time that he wasn't able to convert.

"When you're making him catch it off the block, and he's fading away and shooting jump hooks on the baseline, there's really no way to guard him. You force him into tough shots, and he's making them."

"He was finishing through contact," Tim Hardaway, Jr. acknowledged. "We're boxing him out, and he's under the basket, but he's so heavy and athletic for his size, he just reaches behind the rim and grabs those impossible boards. That's what makes him a great player."

What made Michigan a great team this year - a Big Ten championship team - involved a level of resilience in bouncing back from losses. They haven't strung two in a row all season, and don't expect to start now.

They've got the motivation of the NCAA Tournament ahead of them. They'll face a foe unaccustomed to their style of play, and prepare furiously to meet a higher level of NCAA expectation this season.

This film won't get a long run in the mini theater of Crisler Center. But it will be shown just enough to make some very necessary fixes. Not to mention serving as a motivator.

"It's definitely going to change our mentality," Burke said. "What I love about this team is, we bounce back two times harder. You'll definitely see a different team this week, because we go into practice and we're fighting. We're going to compete."

"We're a resilient group," Matt Vogrich agreed. "We hate losing. There's a sour taste in our mouth right now. We'll bounce back. I'm confident we'll be ready to go, and we're preparing for a dogfight on Thursday or Friday."


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