After Michigan's win over Wofford on Thursday, the team turned their attention to the Texas Longhorns. Most of the conversation turned to Texas center Cameron Ridley and how tough he was going to be on Michigan. On Michigan's off day, Wolverine big man Jordan Morgan was asked time and time again how to handle Ridley -- what was the game plan to defend him. Listening to all of this, at some point he had to get sick of hearing about it--and certainly a chip developed on his shoulder to do something about it.
"He had a big old fashioned Pringles chip sitting right there on his shoulder," said Michigan assistant coach Bacari Alexander after Morgan's 15-point, 10 rebound performance this evening. "I am guessing that it the was red hot flavor -- because he played with a sense of urgency, he played with a high level of passion, and he played with extreme toughness today."
Coach Alexander had made it a point the past couple days to let Morgan hear about what Ridley could do and what he might do to the Wolverines. Alexander kept feeding his senior center motivation until he'd had more than enough.
"I will admit that I was spearheading the Ridley cheerleading team," Alexander said. "Jordan Morgan at one of the team meals said, 'Okay, enough of that, coach." It is that kind of reverse psychology that we use to inspire our student-athletes. All I feed J-Mo is 'ALPO' -- and that is the type of dog food that is sort of an acronym. A for aggressiveness, L for laser sharp focus, P for passion, O for outstanding effort. It was very important that he had that eye of the tiger because for him there is no tomorrow."
Morgan's sense of urgency may have had a lot to do with a conversation that he had with Bacari Alexander recently leading up to senior day.
"Jordan shared with me that once he got to senior day he felt that every game was critical for him because it was his last 40 (minutes). So in a joking manner I gave him a mantra. I said, similar to Michael Jackson's last music tour, it was called the "This is it" tour. This is it for J-Mo too. He is playing with a level of urgency right now that's like the hour glass effect."
In addition, Morgan has played against some very tough big man in the Big Ten this season: Frank Kaminsky - Wisconsin, Adrien Payne - MSU and A.J. Hammons - Purdue. All have prepared him well for playing against Ridley. And today the senior out of Detroit was the best big man out on the floor. He was clearly the more active of the two teams' centers.
"I kind of took this one just a little bit personally," Morgan said after the game, "just because everyone was questioning how we were going to be able to handle someone like that. I have seen a lot of great post players, especially in the Big Ten. I had a guy tell me the other day how the Big-12 is the best conference in the country -- I had never heard that before. It's fun -- you see teams like this and hear all that stuff, and you go out and show them how we won the Big Ten and how we have been winning all year."
Morgan's teammates had a lot of confidence that there senior leader would step up to the challenge on both ends of the floor.
"Yeah, we had no doubt that he was going to come in and play great defense," said Caris LeVert. "And he got some easy baskets on the offense end. He really played a great game."
This time last year Morgan was not even a big part of the team -- his role had diminished with the rise of Mitch McGary. And so, Head Coach John Beilein said, Morgan went to work last summer.
"This game last year Jordan didn't even play the sweet sixteen game. He couldn't have been lower in his life. So he spent his summer dedicated to this day -- getting his mind together on what is really important in his life. We would not be here in the position we are in without that man Jordan Morgan, our captain."
And so the big senior has proven once again just how important he is to this team. Today he rebounded better; scored better and played better then Cameron Ridley. Jordan Morgan is taking advantage of his opportunities and performing in a way to show he doesn't want this to end. He didn't start the talk about going head to head with Ridley, but he most certainly but an end to it.
VIDEO: Michigan assistant Jeff Meyer breaks down the Wolverines 79-65 win over Texas…