50/50 Plays, Chemistry Keys to B1G Title

Michigan senior center Jordan Morgan and sophomore point guard Spike Albrecht have come up big in their careers in Ann Arbor. Following a B1G share clinching win over Minnesota Saturday, John Beilein knew exactly what put the Wolverines over the top.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Nearly ready to leave Michigan’s basketball program much better than he found it, senior center Jordan Morgan has been through a lot with the Wolverines.

A low rated 6-foot-8 big man coming out of U of D Jesuit in Detroit, John Beilein saw something in Morgan, offering a scholarship and an opportunity to develop at Michigan.

What’s happened since, not many could have expected.

Morgan has started 113 games in his four seasons, around the program for the last five years in all. In Morgan’s redshirt year, the Wolverines were 15-17, experiencing the losing end of a program on the rise.

Since that time, Michigan has won two Big Ten conference championships, made the NCAA tournament every year, and made it all the way to the national title game last April.

In Saturday’s 66-56 win over Minnesota, Morgan scored just five points but pulled in 10 rebounds including a key put back late thanks to the hustle by sophomore point guard Spike Albrecht.

From a statistical standpoint did Morgan have a big game? No. But then again, that’s not how John Beilein nor the Wolverines judge Morgan’s play anyway.

“Today it was the intangibles that aren’t measured in this stat sheet right now,” Beilein said. “I mean, Jordan Morgan’s 10 rebounds are something but the 50/50 balls that he got, what Spike did, the charge Jordan took; while all those other things were coming out that you’ll all see in this stat sheet, terrific job by guys just getting things done.”

For Albrecht, his story is similar but even more polarizing in less than two full seasons as a Wolverine. A late addition to the 2012 recruiting class for Michigan as the Wolverines looked to add a point guard to possibly replace Trey Burke after his freshman year, Albrecht has quickly worked his way into a key role for Beilein.

This was no more evident than on Saturday night when Albrecht kept an offensive rebound alive by tipping it over a Minnesota defender in the air, keeping his feet in bounds, grabbing the ball and jumping up only to find Morgan for a lay-in in the final minutes of the game.

“It was huge,” Beilein said. “Because you could see that one was going to come down to someone was going to make big shots for us or for them and whoever did was going to win the game. And when you keep possession you keep them from getting that big shot.

“And then Spike ended up hitting a huge one to give us some separation.”

Beilein adding, “The outliers, the guys that no ones talking about that just sort of get out there and just make plays.”

Statistics do help and without 21 points from Nik Stauskas, 13 from Caris LeVert and 12 from Glenn Robinson III, Michigan isn’t in position to beat the Gophers down the stretch.

Seemingly never afraid of the moment or the pressure that comes along with playing high major college basketball, Beilein and Michigan have proven ready for these accomplishments littered with adversity here and there off the court.

While making winning basketball plays on the floor coupled with truly elite talent is a necessary mix for success, it’s the chemistry and brotherhood that can make it that much more special.

“I think we have a really high character kid on the team who sort of has a sense of responsibility for his team and his teammates,” Beilein said. “We practice a lot and we practice hard at these areas but if you don’t have the right people who are really connected it’s hard to do that and I think our staff has done a great job of recruiting the right kids who, as we watch and evaluate, we look for some of those qualities.

“You get in this environment or you go to Michigan State or Ohio State it’s a little bit different now. They’ve just been really good at handling pressure and handling all that comes with playing at this level.”

Now clinching a share of their second Big Ten title in two seasons, Beilein and Michigan aren’t finished just yet. With a road trip to Illinois Tuesday followed by a home finale with Indiana next Saturday, claiming the outright conference championship remains fixated in their minds.

Never the less, the accomplishment to this point puts a smile on Beilein’s face.

“I’m not good at that,” Beilein said. “I’m not good at looking back at that and trying to embrace all that. I sort of focused on let’s just beat Illinois. I know we talk about it all the time and when it sort of happens you don’t really know how to act and that’s who I am I guess.

“But this is incredible at Michigan what we do about prizing a championship in the regular season, I’ve never seen it like this before and we’re all embracing it.

“What’s rewarding is that these guys, they talked about it, they set a goal and now they’ve done, they’re almost all the way there. That’s what’s really rewarding.”

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