The TSX Files: U-M post-Arkansas/pre-Purdue

While Beilein did not get the desired result at Arkansas in the final score, he might have watched his team mature and better prepare itself for not only the Big Ten challenges ahead, but also for the conference tournament and the NCAA gathering beyond that.

GETTING INSIDE Tough road stretch continues for Wolverines

With four of the next five Big Ten games coming on the road in what will certainly be crazed environments, Michigan got another exam with a rare long road trip in the middle of the conference season. Head coach John Beilein took his Wolverines to Arkansas, hoping the arduous journey would toughen his troops for the upcoming Big Ten battles.

While Beilein did not get the desired result in the final score, he might have watched his team mature and better prepare itself for not only the Big Ten challenges ahead, but also for the conference tournament and the NCAA gathering beyond that.

After watching Arkansas hit its first 11 shots and streak out to a 29-10 lead, the Wolverines started crawling back in it. They still trailed by 16 early in the second half, but cut the lead to just two and had freshman point guard Trey Burke's 3-point try to win it just miss at the end.

The 66-64 loss had plenty of sting to it, but with road trips to Purdue, Ohio State, Michigan State and Nebraska lined up in the next 17 days, the Wolverines might have demonstrated they are a bit tougher than some thought.

Beilein pursued the difficult matchup with the Razorbacks for the expressed purpose of facing off "against a high-level team." He got just that from Arkansas, and Beilein came away from that venture with a strong picture of what it will take for his team to collect some wins on the road in the remainder of the Big Ten season. "If you're going to win on the road, you have got to have so much more talent than the other team, or you've got to play your best game," Beilein said. "That's pretty much what it comes down to."

Novak shines in loss at Arkansas

--G Zack Novak was Michigan's scoring and rebounding leader in the tough two-point road loss to Arkansas. Novak hit 5-of-7 from outside the arc and 6-of-9 shots overall. He was Michigan's rebounding leader with three offensive and five defensive rebounds. Novak added an assist and a steal in the game.

--Michigan senior G Stu Douglass drew the starting assignment at Arkansas, his second straight game in the starting lineup. Douglass had been very effective coming off the bench this season and giving his team a lift with energized play and strong three-point shooting. But when sophomore F Evan Smotrycz hit a shooting slump, a change was made prior to the recent meeting with Michigan State. Douglass scored the game-winner in that contest, so he was back starting on the road trip to Arkansas that followed. Douglass went just 2-of-10 from the field and had five points against the Razorbacks.

--Michigan has had a difficult time on the road in the 2011-12 season. The Wolverines have dropped true road games to Virginia, Indiana, Iowa and Arkansas, and fallen to Duke on a neutral floor at the Maui Invitational. Going into a tough stretch where they will play four of their next five Big Ten games on the road, the Wolverines are 12-0 at home.

BY THE NUMBERS: 37.5 -- The Wolverines have tried to be patient while they wait for sophomore G Tim Hardaway Jr. to snap out of his prolonged shooting funk. Hardaway is hitting just 37.5 percent from the field in Big Ten play, and a miserable 19 percent (8-of-42) from outside the arc in conference games.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "You have to have adversity to grow; it's the best way that people get better. You don't want to go through that, but it's essential. That's why you see so few teams go undefeated. It's not about how good they are; it's that you don't grow as much in victory as you do in defeat." -- Michigan coach John Beilein on his team growing through difficult experiences


--at Purdue, Jan. 24
KEY MATCHUPS: The Wolverines catch a Purdue team smarting from a recent 25-point loss at Michigan State, and a Boilermakers' star, senior F Robbie Hummel, coming off a game in which he failed to make a shot for the first time in his career. Michigan will likely have G/F Zack Novak matched up with Hummel, and assigned to keep Hummel from making a quick recovery offensively. PG Trey Burke and G Stu Douglass will need to prevent Purdue senior G Ryne Smith from giving the Boilermakers an effective inside/outside game. Smith has 53 triples this season.

--at Ohio State, Jan. 29
KEY MATCHUPS: Like every team that faces Ohio State, the Wolverines must first figure out how to deal with the load in the middle -- Buckeyes' sophomore F Jared Sullinger. Michigan F Jordan Morgan draws that duty, but will need help from F Evan Smotrycz and both G/F Zack Novak and G Tim Hardaway Jr. If Sullinger posts his customary double-double, the Wolverines are in trouble. Out front the intriguing confrontation between Ohio State's dynamic sophomore PG Aaron Craft and Michigan freshman PG Trey Burke adds some spice to this game. Burke is a Columbus native and former high school teammate of Sullinger.

FUTURES MARKET: The Wolverines have the highest expectations for recruit C Mitch McGary, a 6-foot-10, 245-pounder who is ranked first at his position in the nation. McGary, an Indiana native who is spending this season refining his game at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire, had considered Duke and Florida but ultimately gave his commitment to the Wolverines. Michigan has been forced to go small in its lineup and play 6-foot-8 F Jordan Morgan as its defacto center, but a legit big man like McGary will give the Wolverines the opportunity to do a lot more with their front line personnel.


--F Jon Horford continues to rehab his injured right foot and could return to the active rotation as soon as the upcoming Big Ten road games with Purdue and Ohio State. Horford had missed the past 11 games with a stress fracture. Since he has played in only nine games this season, he is still a potential redshirt candidate.

--F Evan Smotrycz was a Michigan starter for the first 18 games this season, but after he dropped into a serious shooting funk, Michigan coach John Beilein made a change, moving Smotrycz to a back-up role. Smotrycz came off the bench in recent games with Michigan State and Arkansas, and had four points against Arkansas and five against the Spartans.

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