You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 9:58 a.m.

Narrow win a lesson for young Michigan basketball team heading into tough Maui Invitational

By Nick Baumgardner


Michigan coach John Beilein communicates with his players during the Wolverines' 59-55 win over Western Illinois on Thursday at Crisler Arena.

Jeff Sainlar I

If the Michigan basketball team was looking for a splash of cold water in its face, it got it Thursday, courtesy of Western Illinois.

The 17th-ranked Wolverines have shown struggles in each of their four tests this season, if you count an exhibition win over Wayne State.

But on Thursday, Michigan found the task of getting out of its own way to be difficult for a full 40 minutes. A lesson the youthful group hopes it learns from before opening the 2011 Maui Invitational on Monday against No. 10 Memphis.

"We needed a game like that to kind of wake us up a little bit," Michigan sophomore forward Jordan Morgan said of the team's 59-55 win over the Leathernecks. "But not just to wake us up, but get us used to playing in situations where we have to knock down free throws late and get key stops and key baskets.

"We needed to feel that pressure when the lights were on."

In an eight-point exhibition win over Wayne State, Michigan led by as many as 14 points in the first half, seizing control of the game before eventually allowing the lesser opponent to creep close toward the end.


Game story: Michigan continues offensive woes in 59-55 win

Notebook: Jordan Morgan turns in best game of the season vs. Western Illinois

Photo gallery

Boxscore | Big Ten standings
Against Ferris State to open the season, the Wolverines struggled for the game's first 20 minutes, but used a 24-3 second-half run to grab a 27-point victory. Against Towson on Monday, the Wolverines started the game out 21-0 before giving in a bit after halftime.

But against Western Illinois, the game was in doubt from wire-to-wire. Michigan never led by more than nine, and for the first time this season found itself in a situation where it had to make plays in crunch time.

"We've had some suspense in the second half," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "We'll have to learn from it and get better, that's part of this thing."

Beilein cautioned all to remember just how young his group is when judging their early play. Michigan started a freshman, three sophomores and a senior Thursday.

Young or not, the Wolverines know they'll need to figure out their issues in a hurry, or Michigan's trip to Maui might end up a bust.

After facing a top 10 team in Memphis, Michigan will either play Tennessee or Duke on Tuesday. From there, the other side of the bracket includes Kansas and Georgetown.

All considerably bigger tests than the Wolverines have welcomed into Crisler Arena so far this season.

Rather than focusing on the negatives from Thursday, though, Beilein's bunch seemed content on taking away whatever good it could grasp from the narrow victory.

"We just need to stay poised when things don't go right. Sometimes we get down on each other when things don't go right, but tonight we did a great job in the second half of staying together as a team," Michigan freshman guard Trey Burke said. "I think it brought us closer. Someone would make a turnover, I'd do something wrong and someone would yell at me.

"But during a timeout, they'd pick me back up. We did that well tonight."

It may be too early for negativity. Michigan's still undefeated and the season's just three games old.

But Maui won't be nearly as forgiving, and inconsistent play could make it much more difficult to find the silver lining in lackluster performances.

"We're going to learn a lot about them," Beilein said of Maui. "It's going to be very difficult.

Nick Baumgardner covers Michigan basketball for He can be reached at 734-623-2514, by email at and followed on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.



Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 2:57 a.m.

Hey cutty and Macbre, i bet you're the same guys who don't like Denard at QB? You probably cheered hard for him today though????? ALL IN for michigan football and basketball. support the coaches and players. As far as this basketball team, it's early in the season, the team is still trying to find out about itself. Judge this team first in late december, then again in late february. You will see progress. This team will finish top 3 in the big ten and go to the sweet 16 this year. And yes, if Hardaway comes back to join McGary, they are a legit final four contender next year.

Macabre Sunset

Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 8:50 a.m.

Comments like this are beyond boorish. ALL IN for whatever. I assume those who call for it are Buckeyes in disguise, because refusing to recognize problems is a good way to help your rivals. I do not advocate removing Denard at this stage, to address your straw man. Moving forward into 2012, though, he has to take better care of the football. He knows this, and he's a good kid who works hard.

Macabre Sunset

Sat, Nov 19, 2011 : 9:11 p.m.

Western Illinois had an RPI of 336 out of 345 Division I teams last season. This was as shocking a result as anything we've seen in a long time. I hope Beilein can turn it around, because this game indicates a 40-point loss to Memphis is entirely possible.


Sat, Nov 19, 2011 : 7:04 a.m.

Its funny about a week ago,when the one Kid signed the letter in intent.You Michigan fans had the Team going to the FInal Four next year.You keep talking about how young you are. Coach B has been up there 4 years now,its time to start beating some people.Ranked 17th thats a gift to begin with.I watched Beilein at WVU.It goes one way,and one way only.If his Teams hit the 3,they have a good chance of winning,if not its ugly.High Reward,High Risk.Look how many close games he has lost already since he has been there.He's a classy guy,runs a nice program.He's a teaser Coach,what i mean by that,he will win a few games,but will never get you over the hump.It will always be,wait till next year,or this and that.Plus he has never stayed anywhere longer than 5 they say He knows when to Hold them,and then to Fold them.