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Posted on Sun, Jan 17, 2010 : 5:33 p.m.

Michigan basketball team holds on to upset No. 15 Connecticut, 68-63

By Michael Rothstein


The Michigan bench and crowd at Crisler Arena erupt as the Wolverines hang on to beat No. 15 UConn on Sunday afternoon.

Melanie Maxwell |

The frustrations of a season of disappointment tumbled out, spilling onto the Crisler Arena floor in the form of Michigan students celebrating a victory they didn’t expect.

The Michigan basketball team finally picked up a non-conference signature victory, a 68-63 decision over No. 15 Connecticut on Sunday afternoon.

Forgotten, for the moment, were losses to Marquette and Alabama in November and losses to Utah and Kansas in December. Michigan (10-7, 3-2 Big Ten) has won four of its last five games and can carry confidence into a week that has road games at Wisconsin and at Purdue.

“It’s big, you know,” fifth-year senior forward Zack Gibson said. “UConn is historically a very good basketball program, and it’s great to get a win like that. We needed that. Our season has been in a little bit of a funk, but we’re on a little bit of a streak here.”

The Wolverines put together their most consistent performance of the season against UConn (11-6, 2-3 Big East), which has lost three consecutive games. They jumped out to a big lead, using a 17-2 run in the first half where the defense was suffocating, 3-pointers were falling and everything worked.

They responded when Connecticut made its run in the second half once senior guard Jerome Dyson - the leader of the Huskies - was freed from his first half foul trouble. Dyson finished with 13 points, one of four Connecticut players in double figures, led by 15 from Kemba Walker.

Michigan only surrendered the lead once and fought back every time Connecticut tied the game. The Wolverines did in on the defensive and offensive ends of the floor, often times because of the Wolverines undersized forward, Zack Novak.

Novak jumped into the lane as Donnell Beverly tried to throw the alley-oop with a little over eight-and-a-half minutes left. The 6-foot-5 forward swatted the ball away. At the time, he had no idea a Connecticut player was lurking behind him to complete the assist.

“Was there someone going up for it?” Novak said. “I was just hoping I didn’t get dunked on for the third time.”

Then, a few seconds later, he crept under the basket, grabbed the offensive rebound off a Laval Lucas-Perry missed 3-pointer and laid it in, giving Michigan the 49-47 lead.

He followed it six minutes later with the biggest shot of the game, a 3-pointer at the top of the key that ignited the Crisler Arena crowd and gave Michigan the lead for the final time, 61-58, off an assist from Manny Harris.

“Michigan needs that,” Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said. “ Harris and (DeShawn) Sims can’t be the only stars in town.”

The confidence Novak displayed spread throughout Michigan’s team. Novak was one of four Michigan players to score 10 or more points, led by 18 from Harris.

The defense forced Connecticut into almost twice as many turnovers (17) as assists. Michigan had 10 steals and two blocks.

And it led to this - Michigan’s fans rushing the floor, Michigan’s players bouncing around on the court and Kathleen Beilein, the wife of third-year Wolverines coach John Beilein, accepting hugs and well wishes from friends and fans from her seat in the stands.

About the most realistic person Sunday was John Beilein, who while he knew this win was important couldn’t say how big the win is for Michigan’s season, especially with the Big Ten’s three top teams - Wisconsin, Purdue and Michigan State - next on the schedule.

“I don’t know,” Beilein said. “I’ll tell you at the end of the year. We have to continue to win right now, and I don’t even want to look at the schedule. Everybody knows what’s coming up.”

More coverage
• A slideshow from Michigan's victory against UConn.

• Notebook: Bench players play big role for Michigan.

• Dave Birkett's view: Michigan keeps NCAA tournament hopes alive.

• Video with Zack Novak on defense.

• Video with John Beilein on Zack Novak.

• Beat writer Michael Rothstein grades Michigan's day.

Michael Rothstein covers University of Michigan basketball for He can be reached at (734) 623-2558, by e-mail at or follow along on Twitter @mikerothstein.


John Agno

Mon, Jan 18, 2010 : 9:38 a.m.

In my opinion, the Michigan basketball coaches rose to the occasion of effective leading the Wolverines on the court yesterday. Perhaps, the coaches received some leadership coaching.... Every player has a coach but not all coaches have a coach. Why is that? The short answer is coachless coaches have bumped up against the glass ceiling. Who are these coachless coaches? In the game of major college basketball, they are the ones whose teams are not invited to participate in the NCAA basketball tournament. Coaches who talk the talk but whose teams can't walk the talk. They have developed a false sense of security, by thinking they know how the world works, which leads to "CEO disease." This disease occurs when a chief executive officer (CEO) or a head coach is isolated from reality because no one (except maybe the media) tells them how and where they need to personally improve. Just as every Olympic and professional athlete has a personal coach, every coach needs someone who can provide reality checks on a week-to-week basis. Getting to that area of self-awareness (where there is great leverage for positive change) requires a trusting and confidential relationship so both the person-being-coached and the coach can say the "unsayable" to each other. This happens because both the person-being-coached and the coach have no other relationship or role in each other's life (that must be protected) and therefore can be completely honest with each other. Coaching is an important part of leadership. Basketball is an intricate, high-speed game filled with split-second, spontaneous decisions. But that spontaneity is possible only when everyone first engages in hours of highly repetitive and structured practice and agrees to play a carefully defined role on the court. Great basketball coaches, military commanders and business leaders know that practice of the rules of engagement coupled with split-second decisions in execution by their team can make the difference between winning and losing. Malcolm Gladwell, in his bestseller, "blink" (Little Brown), tells us that great leaders know that if you can create the right framework (by everyone knowing the rules and practicing them), when it comes time to perform, your players will engage in fluid, effortless, spur-of-the-moment dialogue and action. The leader provides the overall guidance and intent to the team, coaches them in mastering tools and general techniques through practice and then allows them to use their own initiative and be innovative as they move forward. Placing a lot of trust in your subordinates has an overwhelming advantage: Allowing people to operate without having to explain themselves within the rules of engagement, focuses their energy and opens the possibility for extraordinary leaps of insight and instinct in decision-making. When the team is "in the flow," split-second decisions are unconscious flashes of insight that drive extraordinary performance on the basketball court, battlefield or shop floor. It is the leader's job to keep the momentum going; so as not to lose the flow. Insight is not a lightbulb that goes off inside our heads. It is a flickering candle that can easily be snuffed out by external means. Know that these kinds of fluid, intuitive, nonverbal experiences are vulnerable...and...your players can drop out of the "zone" or "flow" when you, as their leader, start to become reflective about this rapid cognitive process.


Mon, Jan 18, 2010 : 7:53 a.m.

To be considered for the NCAA, you need an RPI no higher than 50. Right now, U-M is at around 150. They would have to go on one heck of a run, and the Big 10 teams they will play are a lot better than this over-rated UConn team.


Sun, Jan 17, 2010 : 10:18 p.m.

Seriously? Somebody is on something. UConn has yet to beat a ranked team and now just lost to their second unranked team. 3 losses in a row now. If UM would have played them tomorrow night, UM would have beat another unranked team. As of now this means nothing. And unless Uconn finishes strong, in March this game will still mean nothing.


Sun, Jan 17, 2010 : 6:46 p.m.

Mikea don't forget about Denard Robinson winning the 60 yard dash against Ohio State.


Sun, Jan 17, 2010 : 6:21 p.m.

I'm not bickering, orlandomichfan. I am very glad U-M rose to the occasion and beat a good UCONN team. I'd like to think the team finally played up to its potential today. I just thought the fans at the game who stormed the court overreacted a bit and acted like this was the climax to the season instead of just a midseason non-conferecne win over a good UCONN team. Like Coach B, I want and expect this game to be a stepping stone to bigger and better things for this team, not the culmination to the season. In other words, enjoy the win, expect to win, and focus on even more important (conference) games. That's all. If you treat this game like the Super Bowl, the rest of the season is likely to go downhill. Oh well, I wouldn't expect some fans to understand.


Sun, Jan 17, 2010 : 5:39 p.m.

Corperryale Fresh! i wanna see shirts next game.


Sun, Jan 17, 2010 : 5:31 p.m.

This team gave the fans a great win! thanks, Not much to cheer about these days.


Sun, Jan 17, 2010 : 5:19 p.m.

Great win! As many have already said, they need to play with this kind of intensity the rest of the way. Also to tulsatom's point, I agree that you should act like you've been there before after a big win, but considering how this team had been playing, not to mention the down seasons in football and an off season in hockey...I completely understand fans storming the court. This win was needed not only for the hoops team, but for the psyche of the entire athletic department and university. Go Blue!


Sun, Jan 17, 2010 : 5:18 p.m.

A big Team Win for Blue! We live and die by the 3's. Today we were ALIVE!!! BTW a "little defense" timely "put backs" and tenacious play for the whole game did not hurt either. The team Bench Play was wonderful. Wright and Gibson has great breakout games. The place was a "rock'en" and it was clear the fans had an effect on both teams. It is a great day for Blue and hopefully a new direction for the team the rest of the season. Wisconsin, Purdue and MSU will be major challenges but after today the rest of the schedule has become a whole lot more interesting. Goooo BLUE!


Sun, Jan 17, 2010 : 5:17 p.m.

A big Team Win for Blue! We live and die by the 3's. Today we were ALIVE!!! BTW a "little defense" timely "put backs" and tenacious play for the whole game did not hurt either. The team Bench Play was wonderful. Wright and Gibson has great breakout games. The place was a "rock'en" and it was clear the fans had an effect on both teams. It is a great day for Blue and hopefully a new direction for the team the rest of the season. Wisconsin, Purdue and MSU will be major challenges but after today the rest of the schedule has become a whole lot more interesting. Goooo BLUE!


Sun, Jan 17, 2010 : 5:02 p.m.

Good weekend get 2 pick ups DG still EE and we beat uconn now just got to keep it rollin. Go Blue


Sun, Jan 17, 2010 : 4:44 p.m.

Nice win Michigan. The best team effort of the season! The defensive adjustments made early in the game were crucial to the great defensive game you played. I may have to give Wright more credit after that game, previously I cringed when he came in. As the season develops the team continues to show improvement in bench contributions. A well played and coached game and It's about time the fans showed up to fill Chrysler.


Sun, Jan 17, 2010 : 4:41 p.m.

Exactly,keep the foot on the pedal-Don't let up!!Play this way EVERY game,with a few more solid rebounds and a few more shots made, we will be tourny bound!!!GO BLUE!!!Nice win.


Sun, Jan 17, 2010 : 4:39 p.m.

Godd win for sure. U-M needs to remember what they did today and try to replicate it as much as possible in upcoming games. The fans at the game who stormed the court at the end of the game bothered me a little bit. I understand the joy and excitement of winning against a good UCONN team, but the fans acted like U-M just won the NCAA tourney or something. Maybe because there hasn't been a lot to cheer about lately in Ann Arbor this win took on added importance. Whatever the case, this kind of win should be expected from a good U-M team instead of fans acting like they just won the lottery or something.


Sun, Jan 17, 2010 : 4:23 p.m.

That inspired play, good defense, good rebounding plus good shooting and hustle play will result in beating ranked teams. Enjoy the moment, but it is not over yet. Play this way until MSU... beat MSU and UM is into the NCAA tourney.


Sun, Jan 17, 2010 : 4:14 p.m.

Now play with that kind of intensity in the rest of your games. Please.