Michigan’s 62-47 victory over Nebraska Wednesday night didn’t exactly go as the pregame spread predicted it would. The Cornhuskers slowed the Wolverines attack, but, in the end, Beilein stood proudly and talked about how his team clawed out a conference win.
Glitz, glamour, sizzle and dunks surround the second ranked Michigan basketball team like the cloud of dirt that follows Pig-Pen in Charlie Brown.
After two blowout victories to start Big Ten play, one on the road at Northwestern and the other against a better than advertised Iowa team, Michigan unexpectly faced it’s stiffest test yet Wednesday night against a Nebraska team many believe won’t put up much of a fight in their relatively new conference.
But that’s exactly what the Cornhuskers did to the Wolverines. Limiting fast break opportunities and playing a tough, containing defense in the half court that forced long, contested jump shots.
In the end, Michigan found enough holes, knocked down shots, and notched a few highlight reel plays to give themselves a 62-47 win, a 3-0 record in the Big Ten, and match the best start to a season in program history at 16-0, besting the 1985-86 Roy Tarpley-led team.
And John Beilein couldn’t be more proud.
“It’s a great win that we had to grind one out,” said Beilein afterward. “My tee shirt is soaked right now, and that’s not what you’d like to do -- I guess that’s too much information isn’t it? But it’s difficult. At the same time it’s one we needed to have. That adversity is the good stuff in the long run.”
Anyone wondering how the young Wolverines would respond when forced to play a slower, grind it out, Big Ten style basketball game all got their answer.
Glenn Robinson III used his energy and instincts on the offensive glass to extend possessions and threw in a high-flying put back dunk just for fun. A key Nik Stauskas three-pointer from the corner in the second half brought the sold out Crisler Center crowd to its feet.
And Mitch McGary, who professes himself as a “Big Ten big man,” hurled his 6’10, 250 pound center body to the court to keep the ball alive for the Stauskas triple … not to mention then diving into a group of three Cornhuskers to secure a jump ball and a huge momentum changing possession on the other end for the Wolverines.
“They could have fussed,” said Beilein. “You could have seen body language that was bad -- I didn’t see a lot of that. Just a couple times where there was frustration. But we went into the huddle and you heard players say ‘Next play, just move onto the next play’.”
Who knows what the tight win over Nebraska really means, but with arch rival Ohio State waiting in Columbus, plus an undefeated start to the season on the line and a school record to go along with that, Beilein, like his team just says “Next play, next game.”
“I probably won’t think about that (the 16-0 record) very much, but that’s a good way to start,” said Beilein. “I like the 3-0 (Big Ten start). I think we’ll know more about this team after we go on the road a few more times and play teams that are playing at a high level on the road.”
“Let’s get to be 4-0 and 17-0, and just see what we can do.”