BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - At times Saturday night, you could almost mistake this game against two college basketball titans for a classic Ali-Frazier fight; all you could do was sit back and watch, as two glistening heavyweights traded blows.
But one - Indiana - certainly came out after the initial bell with a little more fire.
The Hoosier offense could not be stopped in the early goings, hitting six consecutive field goals - including three three-pointers - to start the game. By the time Indiana tallied its first miss of the game, nearly five minutes had already ticked off the clock.
"They just hit shots [in the opening minutes]," sophomore point guard Trey Burke said. "We played pretty good defense, and they just hit shots. They went on a run as soon as the game started."
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The Hoosiers collected that miss by way of an offensive rebound by Christian Watford, and the put-back pushed the lead to 20-7.
In this game of titans, the first punch was a doozy. The Wolverines never recovered - and never reclaimed the lead - suffering their second loss of the season, 81-73.
In both of Michigan losses, including a 53-50 contest at Ohio State earlier this season, the Wolverines fell behind by huge deficits in the opening minutes. The Buckeyes opened a 29-8 lead before Michigan clawed back. The Hoosiers led by as many as 15 in the first half Saturday.
"That is something that we are going to continue to make adjustments on and get better at," Burke said. "We want to come out and throw the first punch. Indiana is a really good team, and playing a good team on the road, you're going to get everybody's best shot.
"I think we all tried to make plays to get us back in the game, in the second half. That is just something we're trying to get better at. We'll continue to learn. When teams go on runs, we have to respond with poise. On the road against a team like Indiana, you have to stay poised when they go on runs. I think we did a good job with that at times, but Indiana is a heck of a team. I am glad we got the opportunity to play them tonight, and we will move on and get better from it."
Glenn Robinson Held In Check: In his short time as a Michigan Wolverine, freshman forward Glenn Robinson III has become one of the most consistent offensive weapons on the roster.
Until Saturday's loss at Indiana, Robinson had bolstered the Wolverines' offensive output with at least eight points in every Big Ten game, including six games with at least 10 points.
But the Hoosiers held him in check, limiting Robinson to just two points on a disappointing 1-of-6 shooting performance, adding a put-back dunk in the final minutes to avoid a goose egg on the box score.
Robinson's field goal percentage (16.7) against Indiana marks a career low. Before Saturday, he hadn't shot worse than 27.3 percent in a game this season and had made at least 37.5 percent of his shots in every Big Ten contest. His two points is also a career low.
"We've got to continue to try, both the coaching staff and guard play, to recognize what people are doing and how we can get Glenn even more involved," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "It's difficult. They were locking the rails on him and Nik [Stauskas] and not letting them get the ball, putting good pressure on it. They have a good defensive team, but a couple guys really in one-on-one matchups are exceptional.
"We have to get him the ball first to have him more aggressive, and that's a work in progress … We have to put him in opportunities where he can be successful."
As Beilein mentioned, the Hooisers played very aggressive defense along the three-point line, siphoning off the touches that Robinson and the sharpshooter Stauskas usually get.
Stauskas went 1-of-8 from the field in the first half, including an 0-of-4 mark from beyond the arc. He was limited to just two shot attempts in the second stanza, making both (a three-pointer and a dunk).
"We need to get them involved within our offense," Burke said. "Indiana held the rails tonight, kind of made us try to win the game from the point guard and center positions. We have to continue to try and get them good looks within our offense. Indiana did a good job of denying them. It was tough getting them the ball."
McGary Steps Up Inside: Freshman forward Mitch McGary has given the Wolverines solid interior minutes all season, backing up redshirt juniors Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford.
But until Saturday, McGary had never played more than 20 minutes in a single game. With Morgan still nursing an ankle injury sustained last weekend against Illinois, McGary played 28 minutes against the Hoosiers, racking up 10 points (which ties a career high) and seven rebounds.
Perhaps even more impressively, he held all-star center Cody Zeller in check, defensively, for large stretches, with physical play inside.
"That's Big Ten play," McGary said of the physicality. "I wanted to make Cody shy away from contact, and I think I did that pretty well. Overall, he did pretty well, but the physicality got into him a little bit, shook him up a little bit in the first half. He played well."
Zeller ended with 19 points and 10 boards - and benefitted from several putback opportunities.
"He didn't get too many easy buckets, but offensive rebounding was big," McGary said. "I made a few mistakes boxing him out, when I was trying to help on shots, and he got easy buckets there."