How Michigan Basketball Is Handling Its First Real Bout With Adversity
No. 7 Michigan Wolverines basketball (11-1, 6-1 Big Ten) is looking to do something that it hasn't all year — bounce back from a loss. The Maize and Blue rattled off 11-straight wins to begin the season, before falling at No. 23 Minnesota over the weekend.
The Gophers came out looking for revenge, and so will Maryland Tuesday night at Crisler Center, after the Wolverines picked a New Year's Eve win over the Terrapins in College Park, 84-73.
The last meeting between the two teams was contentious, with Wolverines' freshman center Hunter Dickinson making his homecoming to the DMV area, after playing his prep ball at Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha. The 7-foot-1 star picked up a technical foul in the game, for apparently making comments towards the Terps' bench after scoring, and emotions were high on both sides in general.
"I think we’re going to come into knowing that they’re going to come in and instantly make a statement," fifth-year senior point guard Mike Smith said. "We went in there and beat them, and they want to come here and beat us.
"At the back of their mind, they’re going to want to play really hard, so we’re going to have to know that they’re coming for our heads and we have to buckle down and get ready for a dogfight, because they’re a really good team. I think it’s going to be a dogfight for sure."
After being humbled in the 18-point loss to Minnesota, Michigan knows it has raise its game once again, not wanting to turn one loss into two. Smith insists the Wolverines have taken the first setback of the year in stride. If anything, Smith believes the team has grown closer after going through its real bout with adversity.
"You get closer. For anything in life, when you lose or you go through a battle with your brothers and things don’t go well, you end up growing closer," Smith said. "A lot of teams that I’ve been on in general, when you lose, people point fingers. At the end of the day, even when we were down 20 and the second team was in, we were up clapping for everybody. We wanted to see them succeed because we know how much time they put in and they want to be out there.
"I think this is going to help us become closer and want to win more and to fight for each other."
Following the Minnesota game, head coach Juwan Howard's message to the media, and likely to his team, was simple: Michigan had to learn from the mistakes (the Wolverines turned it over 20 times and looked lost at times without senior guard Eli Brooks, who was out with a foot injury), and use the film to improve.
After a couple days of studying the film while preparing for Maryland, it appears the Maize and Blue have learned their lessons and are now looking forward to implementing some adjustments against Maryland.
"It wasn’t like we weren’t locked in going into Minnesota," Smith said. "It’s just ... they played well, and we didn’t play at our best.
"We watched more film. We watched what we did wrong, what we could’ve done better. We learned from it.
"Everything in life you learn from mistakes, learn from losses. In order for you to be successful, you have to learn. I think we learned a lot about our team and a lot about what we have to do and what teams are going to try to do to take us out of our offense and try to exploit things they think are weaknesses.
"I think the last two practices have been really great. Looking forward to going out there and playing against Maryland who is definitely going to have a chip on their shoulder playing against us again. Go out there and compete.
Michigan Basketball Missing Eli Brooks In The Backcourt
As mentioned, Brooks missed last game with a sprained foot. Michigan's best defender, Brooks was not able to match up against Gophers' redshirt junior Marcus Carr, who played a key role in the game over the weekend after being contained by the Michigan senior in the first meeting. Offensively, the Wolverines surely missed Brooks' stability and consistency. Smith explained just what it was like playing without what Howard calls "the head of the snake."
"I think just being out there in general, he has an effect on the game," Smith said of Brooks' presence. "He may not be the most vocal but he’s more of an action-type person that we look forward to. He brings that energy. He may not be the most expressive, he may not show any expression or emotion all the time.
"You know when he’s out there, he’s out there. Obviously, we missed him the last game. We missed him in practice. Just him being out there, that’s kind of what we noticed. Him not being out there."
Smith notched a career-high 10 assists at Minnesota, but was held scoreless on six shot attempts, including two missed three-pointers. Despite being an effective distributor in the contest, Smith doesn't believe he did enough.
"I think just lead more," he said of what he could've done better. "I think I did a poor job of leading the team, regardless of scoring. I think I should’ve led more and be more vocal. I take accountability for that. Being a point guard and an older guy on the team, I think I fell short doing that for the team."
Tip on Tuesday night is set for 7 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1.
• Talk about this article inside The Fort
• Watch our videos and subscribe to our YouTube channel
• Listen and subscribe to our podcast on iTunes
• Learn more about our print and digital publication, The Wolverine
• Sign up for our daily newsletter and breaking news alerts
• Like us on Facebook