Michigan hopes to rebound from 1st conference loss
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP)
For the first time since the start of Big Ten play, Michigan has to recover from a loss.
That leaves coach John Beilein a bit uncertain about how his team will react.
''You do not know,'' he said. ''That's the beauty of coaching 19-year-old kids.''
Michigan's unbeaten run in conference play came to an end Sunday in a 63-52 loss at Indiana. The Wolverines have reached the halfway point of their Big Ten schedule tied for first, exceeding expectations after losing big man Mitch McGary to a back injury. Now, however, they're in the middle of a five-games-in-13-days stretch that leaves little time for major adjustments along the way.
''We're in a week right now where we can't practice as long,'' Beilein said. ''It's difficult, but we just keep moving on.''
The 10th-ranked Wolverines (16-5, 8-1) host Nebraska on Wednesday night.
Michigan has been able to replace McGary, who is out indefinitely, while Nik Stauskas, Caris LeVert and freshman Derrick Walton have all contributed on the perimeter. The Wolverines lost guards Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. to the NBA after last year's Final Four run, but Michigan has remained difficult to defend.
Indiana, however, shut down Stauskas, who scored only six points on 1-for-6 shooting against the Hoosiers. It was a rare off day for the 6-foot-6 sophomore.
''He's a focal point of our offense, but I believe he understands now, he's a focal point of people's defense,'' Beilein said. ''That's what you get.''
Indiana limited Stauskas, and Glenn Robinson III's impact was minimal as well. Beilein pointed out that it can be hard to make adjustments from possession to possession in basketball.
''It's a flow sport. You don't have huddle time - `Oh, I see what they're doing, let's run this from our other play list.' You don't have that opportunity,'' Beilein said. ''You don't have huddle-ups that last 30 seconds and you can redirect. Flow sports, it's difficult to change.''
Nebraska (11-9, 3-5) was one of six Big Ten teams with exactly five conference losses heading into Tuesday night's action - only Michigan, Michigan State and Iowa have fewer. It's been teams like Nebraska, Northwestern and Penn State - who are unheralded but capable of an upset - that have made this conference race so fascinating this season.
The Cornhuskers nearly knocked off Michigan last month, but the Wolverines were able to come away with a 71-70 win on the road.
''We're playing a team, Nebraska, it's experienced - it's probably one of the older teams as far as age, in the league,'' Beilein said. ''They've always been talented. Now I see a newer chemistry with them, that they're playing as well as anybody in the league right now.''
Beilein said Nebraska's Terran Petteway might become the best player in the league. Stauskas, of course, may also have a claim to that honor - at least based on his performance so far this season. The question is whether anyone else in the Big Ten can copy Indiana's blueprint and keep Michigan's sharp shooter in check.
''That's the conundrum we go through every game. It's, `How are they going to play Nik? How are they going to play Glenn? How are they going to play the ball screen?''' Beilein said. ''We have to be able to adapt.''