It took just one possession Sunday evening at Illinois for Michigan to feel the full wrath of excitement and energy that filled Assembly Hall. Draw the defense out, set a back screen -- alley-oop and let the initial shock waves resonate.
But as Michigan responded from that early and nicely calculated punch, it was another blow early in the first half that made a road win seem less likely -- a gruesome ankle turn by Jordan Morgan. Fortunately for the Wolverines a different three-headed monster stepped up inside in freshman Mitch McGary, Illinois native Max Bielfeldt, and feel good story Jon Horford.
"That was a luxury that we had in that game," said Beilein. "We were going to play Max anyhow because he'd been playing well in practice and play with two big guys at time because they traditionally were playing with two bigs. We were really pleased – especially with what we got out of Jon Horford in that particular game."
Horford's Michigan journey has been a difficult process involving setback by setback. Seeing the big bodied redshirt sophomore contribute seven points and four rebounds energized the Wolverines.
"Each time in his career, when he was just about there -- in Hawaii last year," said Beilein. "In the preseason -- injury. Then he's playing -- injury. After the West Virginia game he made a big difference. So I'm really pleased for him."
Tuesday Beilein said Morgan is likely to miss Wednesday night's home game with Northwestern, providing a practice battle between "energy guys" McGary and Horford to see who receives starting honors in the Wolverines final test before heading to Bloomington for a primetime showdown with No. 3 Indiana Saturday night.
"Whoever it is, we'll frame it up as this is a matter of we're in a good situation with either one because both of you are fine players coming off the bench and Max is ready too," said Beilein. "We're not going to put a whole lot into who starts as it's some huge decision we have to make. The minutes are there."
The key for any of the big men on the floor Wednesday will be their presence defensively. Going up against a Northwestern offense as tricky as ever, Morgan has carved out a niche, playing without fouling inside and constantly communicating.
"Jordan Morgan really has learned to be a defensive specialist in some regard and does a wonderful job for us," said Beilein. "That's the last line of defense -- that's the safety in football."
Michigan tips off with Northwestern at Crisler Center at 6:30pm/ET on Big Ten Network.
To watch video of Beilein, press play below.
B's Confidence Rising In Post Play (w/video)
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