Sunday’s rematch with Michigan State was set to be a measure of Michigan’s toughness and ability to bounce back amid disappointment. Through charges, active hands, and key stops late, the Wolverines sent a message.
Michigan coach John Beilein remembers one other time in his coaching career when a team of his made zero attempts from three-point land. Only difference, unlike Sunday’s 58-57 win over Michigan State, that team took a loss.
“I think I remember it but it was a long time ago,” said Beilein. “About 20 years ago. Canisuis lost to St. Bonaventure and we were 0-for-22. We had beaten them at their place and I’ll never forget it.”
Michigan’s last second win over the Spartans, a game they shot 0-for-12 from three, is one Beilein and the Wolverines won’t likely forget either. Needing to rebound in the worst way after falling apart at Penn State Wednesday night, the rematch with their in-state rival from East Lansing didn’t get off to the start that was expected after the early exit of Nik Stauskas, leaving the game after four minutes with a gaping cut above his left eye from an inadvertent Branden Dawson elbow.
Adding the energy and perimeter defense of Caris LeVert along with active hands, crisp rotations, and several tough charges, Michigan State turned the ball over 18 times allowing Michigan to have several run outs and easy opportunities in transition.
“It was all about grit,” said Beilein. “We’ve been working on it, we’ve been preaching it, and our guys buy into it. They never just go out -- they do all of the things you have to do when you’re tired, when the schemes change, they have to really understand it and understand it better. We changed our ball screen package a little bit from the last game and that was very helpful.”
Not exactly a game to remember for Tim Hardaway Jr. on the offensive end, but defensively, the 6-6 junior battled a much bigger and athletic Branden Dawson, all but taking the former five-star recruit out of the game. Dawson finished just 1-of-4 from the field for two points, five rebounds, and three turnovers.
When it counted most, sophomore point guard Trey Burke made the biggest plays for Michigan. After opening up a 52-42 lead, Michigan State made a run to tie it up at 56, got a stop, and had possession of the ball to hold for the last shot.
But Burke had other ideas, stripping Appling near half court and cruising in for the game-winning dunk.
“He was incredible,” said Beilein. “When we thought, here we go again, the ball is going to either going to go to overtime – would be the good news at that point, right – or we’re going to have probably seven or eight seconds left or get a rebound and go into overtime or they’re going to win the game.
“All of the sudden I take my eyes off it for a second to see their formation and there’s Trey going down to the other end.”
However the win came, Beilein and Michigan were ready to take it and move on.
“We needed something like this,” he said. “Of the top teams in our league, there’s five of them that are up there a little bit separated. And Ohio State is the only one we have a win over going into this game.
“We needed to beat some of the higher teams in this league.”
Michigan now heads to Purdue Wednesday night at 7pm/EST on Big Ten Network before wrapping up conference play at home Sunday against Indiana.
To watch video of Beilein, press play below.