Michigan’s recent slip -- losers of three of their last five games, a 9-4 conference record, and dropping from No. 1 in the country down to No. 7 -- has been a tough pill to swallow for the young Wolverines and their fan base. But with a week off after a tougher than expected win over Penn State last Sunday, the confidence is right back where it was at the beginning of the year.
“The thing with us is we don’t want to get down on ourselves just cause we lost a few games,” said freshman guard Nik Stauskas. “We feel like we’re the exact same team we were when they had us ranked number one.”
They're eager to show that feeling on the floor in the five remaining regular season games, beginning Sunday at home against Illinois (20-8). To get ready for this important stretch run Michigan first needed rest. Aware of the physical and mental toll Big Ten play can have on players, especially in a season featuring elite teams and raucous atmospheres, John Beilein scaled things back with his practice schedule.
“We gave them two days off this week,” said Beilein Friday. “Where we usually are at 13 hours of practice going into our last two days to give us three and a half, three and a half combined film, weights -- the whole deal. We’re at nine hours. They have four extra hours this week that they did not use for anything.”
In the hours Michigan spent off the court this week, Beilein hoped to deliver a message in an encouraging, visual way -- by watching film from earlier this season.
The motto? ‘We’ve done it before, let’s do it again.’
“You got to remind me sometimes,” said Beilein. “It is important for us to get that mindset that we’ve had some success doing what we do and keep doing what we do.
It was all defense. It was defensive possessions where we really defended with incredible energy and incredible intelligence in some really tight games. They need to see that.”
Injuries Pile Up
Beilein updated the statuses of junior center Jordan Morgan and freshman guard Caris LeVert Friday afternoon, stating both would attempt to go “full contact” today and tomorrow but that nothing had been decided as far as their availability is concerned for Sunday’s game with the Illini. Both are still recovering from ankle sprains.
A new injury took place in practice Wednesday when redshirt freshman center Max Bielfeldt “stepped on someone’s foot” -- a third ankle issue for a Michigan team that has been relatively healthy the entire season.
Al three players are questionable for Sunday’s game against Illinois (20-8, 7-7) at 1pm/EST from Crisler Center.
To watch video of Beilein from Friday afternoon, press play below.