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December 2, 2013

U-M ready to run at Duke

If you like fast-paced, high-flying basketball, you're going to love Michigan's Big Ten-ACC Challenge showdown at Duke Tuesday night.

Stacked with a roster full of athletic, speedy guards and freshman sensation Jabari Parker, a small forward, the Blue Devils have thrived when they have gotten out in transition this year, creating huge momentum swings off turnovers and rebounds.

The same can be said for the Wolverines, who are at their best when they can find sophomore Mitch McGary or Glenn Robinson streaming down the court or a deadeye shooter in the corner for a quick three before the defense can adjust.

Facing Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium, the gut reaction may be to try and slow the game down and work the halfcourt a little more. But that that's not Michigan's game.

"Our game is to run," Robinson said. "We like to run, get out in transition and get early, easy points. That makes our offense flow a little bit. We have smart point guard who know the pace of the game and when to slow down if we need to."

That may be helped by Michigan's length and size, especially compared to Duke, whose tallest regular contributor is 6-8 Parker.

The Blue Devils are averaging 32.6 rebounds per game - compared to 33.4 per game by their opponents.

On the other hand, the Wolverines, for whom rebounding was a major concern before the season (and for good reason, seeing that Wayne State outrebounding them in a preseason game), have found some rhythm in the rebounding department since McGary, 6-10, reentered the lineup after recovering from a sore back.

Michigan is averaging 39.6 rebounds per game, compared to 32.9 by their opponents.

"We're looking to maybe go inside a little bit, feed Mitch, feed the post," Robinson said. "Especially running the floor, that will open up things. We have to go inside, because they aren't very tall, not a lot of shot blockers. We have to attack the rim."

McGary's presence around the basket, in the halfcourt and in transition could cause serious problems for the Blue Devils, who are still trying to figure themselves out in the paint.

McGary has been back in the lineup for five games, and the rest of the team is starting to gel around him, specifically freshman point guard Derrick Walton, who is starting to see how he can play off McGary on the offensive side.

"Mitch does some things a lot of bigs can't do, like running the floor," Robinson said. "He's very athletic for his size. Especially Derrick hasn't played with him a lot. Mitch hasn't practiced too much, but as he keeps practicing, keeps progressing and getting in shape, he's looking better each day, and the team chemistry is going along with that."

The Wolverines also have fifth-year senior forward Jordan Morgan, 6-8, and redshirt junior forward Jon Horford, 6-10, who could take advantage of their size in the post.

Regardless of Michigan's size advantage, Parker is going to be a load for the team to handle.

"He's a great player, a great scorer and he's an overall talent," Robinson said. "Defensively, he is also very good. He is the key to their success and their offense. Around him, they have a lot of great players. It's not just him. There are other guys we'll have to focus on, also. I know Jabari pretty close. We're good friends. I know he's a great player. I've been to camps with him. I can't wait to match up with him one more time. We're friends off the court. We step on, and we're competitors."

The Wolverines will have to control their emotions, as well, playing in front of one of the most hostile crowds in America.

Guys like Robinson got plenty of experience last year, but Walton and freshman guard Zak Irvin will be stepping into a new and wild atmosphere.

"Coming in my freshman year, if we played a game like this, I would have been happy, excited, nervous," Robinson said. "Now, I'm more level-headed. We have played games like Kansas, Syracuse. We have played in those types of games and those types of arenas where the crowd is going to be in the game and on our backs about everything. It's a great game for us, especially the freshmen."


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