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February 1, 2014

News & Views: Beilein ready for Bloomington

Michigan coach John Beilein and the Wolverines practiced in Ann Arbor Saturday morning before traveling to Indiana for Sunday afternoon's matchup with the Hoosiers.

News: Indiana's Yogi Ferrell has taken big strides this season, transforming from a role player into the focal point of the Hoosier offense. He is fifth in the Big Ten in scoring (17.3 points per game), fifth in assists (4.0 per game) and sixth in three-point field goal percentage (41.4 percent).

Beilein: "He had such a great team last year. Four other guys who started with him were terrific, and he did a great job of fitting in before standing out. Now, he has the personality of a four-year starter. He's running plays, taking shots, controlling the offense. He has really been impressive. He got a lot of minutes with us on the USA basketball, which I think helped, too. He is playing at a really high level right now."

Views: The Wolverines will have to keep Ferrell in check Sunday afternoon, because the Hoosiers rely on him so heavily for their offensive production. Ferrell has scored nearly 120 more points than Indiana's No. 2 scorer, Noah Vonleh (11.8 points per game.

Ferrell is a high-volume shooter, so the Wolverines aren't going to completely blank him. In the Hoosiers' first 21 games this season, Ferrell has accounted for 22.8 percent of the team's attempted field goals and 21.6 percent of the team's field goal makes.

For comparison's sake, the Wolverines' top scorer, sophomore guard Nik Stauskas, has accounted for 18.7 percent of the team's field goal attempts and 19.1 percent of the team's field goal makes.

If Michigan can slow Ferrell down, it will go a long way toward a win.

News: The Wolverines are an impressive 4-0 in conference road games, with a 63-60 win at Minnesota, a 71-70 win at Nebraska, a 77-70 win at Wisconsin and an 80-75 win at Michigan State.

Michigan already has as many road wins in Big Ten play as it did all of last season. Sunday, the Wolverines will put that unblemished record on the line at Indiana's Assembly Hall, one of the toughest venues in the country.

Beilein: "There is only one place in the league that we have not been able to win, and that is Columbus. The ball has bounced our way.

"There are a lot of loud places in the country that we have played at. It's hard to know the decibel levels, who has the loudest, but I think the atmosphere at Assembly Hall gets as loud as any of the places in the country: Duke, Michigan State. It's as good as it gets for the home team, and it is really hard on the away team."

Views: The Wolverines have never finished with a record above .500 in road games during Beilein's tenure.

After an 0-2 start on the road this year - a 77-70 loss at Iowa State and a 79-69 loss at Duke in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge - it looked like this wouldn't be the season they accomplished that particular feat.

But since the start of Big Ten play, the Wolverines have been fearless away from Crisler Arena, rattling off four-straight wins. Michigan has to go at least 2-3 its five remaining road games to finish above .500 in true road games.

That starts Sunday, at Indiana, which may be an easier 'W' than in previous years. The Hoosiers are 2-2 in conference home games, with losses to Michigan State, 73-56, and Northwestern, 54-47.

After that, the Wolverines' road schedule is as follows: at Iowa Feb. 8, at Ohio State Feb. 11, at Purdue Feb. 26 and at Illinois March 4.

News: Freshman point guard Derrick Walton, Jr. is quickly coming into his own.

Beilein: "You have to have thick skin, and you have to have a really high IQ to be a freshman point guard and have success. It's very rare that they start, and it's rare that they have a good assist-to-turnover ratio and hit from deep consistently. Derrick is somewhere in between. He has shown flashes where he has played beyond his years.

"The minutes he has been able to play has really slowed the game down for him. That is the biggest difference I have seen him in him."

Views: In the nonconference season, Walton had moments where he looked great, but he was inconsistent - and turned the ball over far too often. But the rookie has really settled down to become a reliable playmaker whose defensive skills have become an asset for the Wolverines.

In Big Ten play, Walton is scoring 9.9 points per game, and in eight games, he has posted just 12 turnovers to 22 assists.

And he is proving to be deadly from outside. In nonconference play, Walton hit 12-of-36 three-point shots (33.3 percent). In eight Big Ten games, he is 9-of-16 from downtown (56.3 percent).


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