Michigan Wolverines Basketball: Back To Doing More, Saying Less
Michigan played hard but got handled by Louisville, struggling on offense in its worst points per possession showing since 2008. The Wolverines drew national attention after winning the loaded Battle for Atlantis Tournament in the Bahamas last week, and then got the Cardinals' attention by their reaction.
"We want it all. We want all the smoke," sophomore guard David DeJulius said after the Wolverines beat Iowa State, North Carolina and Gonzaga in three days.
Louisville players admitted they took that as a direct challenge and used it as motivation.
"We had heard they wanted some smoke yesterday, so they got some smoke. And they got smoked,” wing Jordan Nwora said.
“Yes, sir!” senior guard Fresh Kimble added.
The Wolverines had some looks early, but the Cardinals' tough defense made it hard for them to get in the paint, and most of the shots were contested. U-M looked a step slow, too — unlike Louisville, Michigan played a number of tough teams in the early going while Louisville coasted into the game well rested, playing in front of a sellout crowd of 20,000-plus.
U-M still rallied after falling behind by as many as 15 points in the first half, cutting it to four early in the second. They couldn't get over the hump, however, and fell to 7-1.
“None of us are going to talk about anything before the game, we’re just gonna settle it on the court, and that’s what we did,” Nwora continued. “They said they wanted some smoke, so we went out there and gave it to them.”
“When somebody says, ‘We want all the smoke,’ it’s just basically, they’re ready for anything," Kimble added. "They're ready to take us on. Michigan players were saying that they were ready to face us and whatever we had to bring; they were going to get past that and get the win. So basically they were talking into existence a win, and we’re not about that here. We’re about getting on the floor and playing, and we showed that for 40 minutes.”
Even coach Chris Mack piled in with what some might call a juvenile response, a tweet in which he hash tagged #NoSmokingInTheYum (Center).
To his credit, head coach Juwan Howard gave the Cardinals theirs.
"They do a great job of defending, overall. We knew that their fives like to hedge on ball screens," he said. "Our goal was to make sure that we could get those paint touches that we were comfortable with getting throughout the year, thus far. We practiced it. Unfortunately, they did a really good job of compacting the paint. Keeping us out of the paint from getting downhill.
"... Defensively, they did a good job. Offensively, we missed some shots that normally go in."
They were 4-for-26 at one point, yet still in the game. Nwora, for all the chatter, finished 9-for-23 from the floor.
Howard reflected on the positives.
"We shot 20 percent in the first half, but we were only down 10 points," he said. "Our defense was rock solid. Look at the fact of how we guarded the three-point line, how we cut down the transition buckets, as well as we made them work for every shot. They’re a very good three-point shooting team. Tonight, they only made four.
"We’re one of the best defensive teams, too, in college basketball, and tonight proved it. I’m proud of our guys in how we competed."
And now it's onward, with two Big Ten games on tap starting with Friday's home tilt against Iowa before traveling to Illinois next week. Those are the two big ones, and Howard believes they'll be ready.
"We're one of the most connected groups. This builds character," Howard said. "The best way to learn is sometimes we get punched in the mouth, and our guys will respond. I trust. We all trust."
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