U-M Bounces Back Nicely, Learned Key Lessons From The Minnesota Loss
The Michigan Wolverines basketball’s 87-63 destruction of Maryland tonight was a statement game. No, the Terrapins aren’t anything special this year (8-7 overall and 2-6 in league play), but U-M bouncing back the way it did following Saturday’s 75-57 loss at Minnesota showed an incredible amount of mental toughness and grit.
Clubs will oftentimes fall into a rut or a slump following an ugly loss like the one Michigan suffered in Minneapolis, but not Juwan Howard’s crew. They came out tonight with their foot on the gas from the second the game started, grabbing a 17-3 lead before Maryland even knew what hit it.
“Guys were locked in and focused, and it was a carry over from that loss,” senior forward Isaiah Livers exclaimed in the postgame. “This was a great chance to bounce back and we play very well at home, but we knew it’d be a fight.
“We knew those first four minutes would determine the game, and we did great during that time.”
“It was about playing our game and not letting others take us out of it, and that’s what Coach preached,” fifth-year senior guard Mike Smith added. “You learn from every mistake you make and you grow from it.
“We learned from the loss and showed that tonight. We never plan on losing, but it happens and we knew this was a bounce back game. Maryland was going to come out with a vengeance after we beat them [Dec. 31 in College Park], and we figured we’d be in for a dogfight.”
Three-point shooting was the main reason Michigan was able to blow the game open from an early standpoint, with the club finishing a red-hot 12-of-24 from behind the arc. Livers led the way by going four-of-five from deep, while Smith finished close behind with an impressive three-of-five mark.
All of this came just one game after U-M only hit six of its 22 three-pointers Saturday at Minnesota.
“We just shot well and they went in, and we had confidence,” Smith explained. “We knew Maryland would double-team and we practiced for it, and shot shots we always hit in practice — they fell today.
“I always play with whatever the defense gives me, and obviously shots weren’t falling at Minnesota. I played with more confidence tonight.”
Smith was held scoreless for the first time in his career this past weekend, and finished with 11 points and six assists tonight. Though he has been the club’s primary floor general the entire season, Michigan got another key guard back this evening when senior Eli Brooks made his return.
He missed the loss at Minnesota with a sprained foot, but seemed to be his usual self tonight by scoring seven points and handing out five assists in 22 minutes of action.
“Eli spreads the floor a lot and is a deadly player,” junior forward Brandon Johns explained. “He can score on all three levels and opens things up for everyone. [Senior guard] Chaundee [Brown] did a good job taking Eli’s spot [in Minneapolis], and that just shows we have a solid team overall.”
Johns was one of the many Wolverines who enjoyed a successful game, scoring a season-high 11 points in just 13 minutes of action. He also pulled down four rebounds and knocked down a three-pointer, and has fit perfectly into his role of being an energizer and a rebounder off the bench.
“I’ve been playing decent, though there are things I need to improve on and do better,” he admitted. “It’s been a pretty good year so far and is only going up. I’m trying not to be too hard on myself.
“I’ve been trying to be more consistent out there and believe in myself — my players and coaches believe in me, and I just need to find it in myself.”
• Several players admitted after Saturday’s loss the club’s mindset and focus weren't where they needed to be, and the team made darned sure that didn’t happen again tonight.
“Not getting complacent [is what my current mindset is], like I felt guys did on Saturday,” Livers revealed. “If we do that, we’ll lose every night. When we’re all locked in and playing together, guys are just happy — there’s no selfishness on this team.
“Guys don’t talk about getting their shots up, but just winning for their brothers. Everyone has to play their roles and not be vampires, as Coach Howard says — we have to be energy givers.”
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