Beilen low-keys Wolverines' poor road record
With five Big Ten road games still remaining on the schedule, the Wolverines are trying to solve the mystery of how to win away from home.
As they completed their first nine games against Big Ten competition with a road loss to Ohio State, the Wolverines could claim only one road win in their first 22 games of the season. They have three neutral site victories, but only a two-point win at Purdue came in truly hostile surroundings.
Michigan coach John Beilein does not want the "road" worry creeping into his players' heads, so he tries to soften the raw numbers on the Wolverines' poor road record with a positive review of their overall performance.
"We've played pretty well on the road," Beilein said as Michigan went through the first half of the Big Ten season spending most of the time in or around first place in the conference. "Unfortunately, the ball just didn't bounce our way enough. And that's what it comes down to in close games. It's not about road or home."
The Wolverines stayed with Ohio State throughout the first half of their meeting in Columbus and were even with the Buckeyes about two minutes into the second half before a big run by Ohio State created a significant gap. In a recent loss at Arkansas, the Wolverines were down by 20 before roaring back to lose by just two points.
"Our kids realize that with good, solid defense and the fact that we have several guys that can shoot or score the ball, we're never out of a game," Beilein said.
The loss at Ohio State bounced the Wolverines out of a share of the Big Ten lead, and with a home date with Indiana and a road game against Michigan State up next, Beilein does not want to put any additional pressure on his team by calling anything a "must win."
"I don't see any games as being critical until you get down to the last couple games, and your back has to be absolutely against the wall before I say something's critical," Beilein said.
Beilein continues to contend that his team does not have a "road" issue, but instead needs to shore up certain areas of its play to benefit its upcoming performances, home or away.
"I don't think we've played that poorly on the road," he said.
Horford's playing status still cloudy
--F Jon Horford's status for the rest of the season continues to be shrouded in doubt and contradiction. The 6-foot-10 sophomore has missed six weeks with a stress fracture in his foot, and although his return to the active playing rotation seemed imminent several times recently, Horford was still in street clothes when the Wolverines met rival Ohio State with a share of first place in the Big Ten on the line. Horford is still a medical redshirt candidate, if he does not play again this season.
-- G Tim Hardaway Jr. was Michigan's scoring leader in the road loss at Ohio State, as he hit for 15 points on 5-of-12 shooting. Hardaway led the Wolverines in scoring for the 12th time in 22 games.
-- Playing in his hometown of Columbus, Michigan PG Trey Burke had 13 points and five assists in the 64-49 loss to the Buckeyes. Burke is the former high school teammate of Ohio State sophomore F Jared Sullinger.
BY THE NUMBERS: 0 -- Michigan senior G/F Zack Novak played 33 minutes in the recent Big Ten road loss to Ohio State, and failed to score for the first time all season, missing all four shots he took from the field. Novak averages around 10 points per game.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Defensively I thought we had a great start, but the things we could control a little bit we didn't do. We got 10 offensive rounds but didn't get to the line. They just got fouled more than we did. If you let this Ohio State team get comfortable, they have too many bullets in that gun." -- Michigan coach John Beilein on his team's loss at Ohio State
THIS WEEK'S GAMES:
--vs. Indiana, Feb. 1
KEY MATCHUPS: The Wolverines go into this game needing a bounce-back win and knowing they will have to control Indiana freshman C Cody Zeller, one of the emerging stars of the Big Ten. Michigan F Jordan Morgan gets the first call on defending Zeller, with help expected from F Evan Smotrycz. Senior G Verdell Jones III is the take-charge player for the Hoosiers, and Michigan sophomore G Tim Hardaway Jr. matches up best with Jones.
--at Michigan State, Feb. 5
KEY MATCHUPS: The Spartans are led in scoring and rebounding by senior F Draymond Green, who has surprising quickness at 6-foot-7 and 230 pounds. Michigan will switch off as it tries to wear Green down and limit his effectiveness, and the Wolverines expect to use both G/F Zack Novak and F Jordan Morgan against Green. The more important matchup might come out front where Michigan freshman PG Trey Burke goes head-to-head with Michigan State sophomore PG Keith Appling. Burke should have the edge, with his ability to punish defenders with the drive, then utilize a deadly step-back jump shot.
FUTURES MARKET: The Wolverines are paying very close attention to the rapid development of committed recruit F Mark Donnal from the Toledo, Ohio, area. Already about 6-foot-9 at just 16 years old, the high school junior is expected to grow another two inches or so before he arrives in Ann Arbor for the 2013-14 season. His game is evolving as well, with Donnal expanding his shooting range and playing strong against constant double-teams. His spring and summer ball is played with Indiana Elite South, an AAU team coached by ESPN college basketball analyst and former Hoosier Dan Dakich.
--G Eso Akunne has had surgery on his injured left foot and is expected to miss six to eight weeks. With Akunne out, G Matt Vogrich moves up in the playing rotation, along with G Carlton Brundidge.
--F Jon Horford remains in limbo while his recovery from a stress fracture in his foot is assessed on a daily basis. Horford has been practicing with the team for several days, but has yet to dress for a game since missing about six weeks with the injury. If he returns to the court this season, a medical redshirt is no longer an option.
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