ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Every game is one step closer for No. 15 Michigan and its goal of a Big Ten regular season championship. And on Sunday, the Wolverines will have to take one more major step when they play host to No. 21 Wisconsin.
And while Michigan (18-6, 10-2 Big Ten) will look to sweep the Badgers in conference play -- after winning at Wisconsin, 77-70, last month – Wisconsin still presents many “challenges” said U-M coach John Beilein, at Friday’s press conference.
“They give you a lot of challenges,” Beilein said. “We were very fortunate there to get that W (at Wisconsin). (We) got out very comfortably, but they came charging back. A Nik Stauskas step back three was a big difference in that game. So we’re going to have to make tough shot like that again. And we can. But their job is not to let that happen.”
Beilein was quick to praise the Badgers overall on their season so far.
“They’re good,” Beilein said. “They are really good.”
And on Sunday, he’ll see if Michigan is better.
Tip-off is scheduled at 1:06 p.m.
Robinson III shooting woes
Glenn Robinson III shooting struggles have continued as of late. He shot a combined 4-of-17 form the field with 11 points in Michigan’s road games at Iowa and Ohio State.
But while his shots aren’t falling at the moment, Beilein has made it clear he is still giving his talented sophomore guard the green light to shoot at will – base on what he sees form him in practice.
“If I didn’t see what I see in practice some days – he wouldn’t be shooting three’s or even 15-footers,” Beilein said. “But in some games it has been difficult. I think the better start he gets off to, the better he usually is. So he’s got to wipeout whether he has a good start or a bad start.
“He’s just got to continue to look at the basket, be aggressive, and … say ‘if my shot is not dropping, how can I help my team in other ways?’ Grabbing more rebounds, just locking up on man. There is other ways you can help the team win, even when you don’t feel it.”
Freshman Zak Irvin has been a spark off the bench for the Wolverines this season. He has scored in double digits in three straight games, the longest streak of his brief career.
But it’s Irvin’s ability to make the three-point shot, which has really benefited Michigan. He is shooting 47.8 percent in league play, and his shooting 10-of-17 from three-point range during his current three game stretch. With his shooting ability, combined with the rest of the shooters U-M has on the court, it can’t be “fun” for opposing defenses, said Beilein.
“There is scenarios when he is in the game when we have four 40-percenters out there at one time. Guy who can on any night shoot 40-percent from three,” Beilein said. “That’s not fun to guard. So that really helps us.
“The guy coming off the bench and hit his first shot (at OSU) – is big too. That’s really been important. He’s given us energy off the bench every time. As I’ve said before, his defense is getting better and better as well.”
Beilein announced last week that Mitch McGary had started his rehab on his lower back.
On Friday, Beilein praised the Michigan medical staff on their work with McGar.
“We are working with the doctors hand and hand to make sure there is a schedule going,” Beilein said. “In our run right there, It wasn’t like I was in the training room. I know he is still involved with rehab. And he’ll be involved with us sometime.”
And when asked if there was a chance McGary could return this season?
Beilein replied: “That is not in our plans right now. But you would never know. But I don’t think anybody is planning that right now.”