Hardaway Maturing In Career Year (w/video)

With Michigan's toughness called into question after a blowout loss at Michigan State, Tim Hardaway Jr. had strong words. Spending a week in practice, he believes the Wolverines are ready to prove something -- starting Sunday afternoon vs Illinois, 1 PM, at Crisler (TV: ESPN).

Last season, shooting 4 for 22 from the field over a two game stretch might send Tim Hardaway Jr. into a slight panic mode, unable to shake off what happened in the past. This year, Hardaway Jr. has a different outlook.

"It happened last year a lot," said Hardaway Jr. "I mean, you're not (always) going to have a good game like I had those three games going into the previous two games. It was bound to happen every once in a while. You just have to move on."

Shooting the ball at a better percentage from the field (46 percent) and from three-point range (40 percent) than he has in his career at Michigan, Hardaway Jr. is clearly in a comfort zone offensively. His coach sees the maturity and focus too.

"It's remarkable how he's rebounding from any adversity this year," said John Beilein. "It's such a great step in the right direction. Even the other day, when he came into practice we addressed a few things in video and he went out and had a tremendous practice.

He knows that he's really a key part of our defense because he's the oldest guy out there playing defense that's ever played for us."

Able to shrug off a missed shot here and there, Hardaway Jr. hasn't rid himself of the nasty taste left in the mouths of the Wolverines after their loss to Michigan State nearly two weeks ago. As Michigan's toughness is called into question, the No. 7 team in the country is hoping to answer critics, and even prove something to their coaches, with five regular season games remaining.

"It's been a weakness out there with everyone saying we can't rebound, box out, toughness on defense," said Hardaway Jr. "I think just taking those to heart and everybody going out there trying to improve on those skills and get back to what we were doing in the preseason.

"We just wanted to go out there and show our coaching staff that we do want to be better on defense and we do want to succeed. And we know that if we want to succeed it's going to have to be on the defensive end."

The response in practice should bode well for Michigan as they prepare to host a hot shooting Illinois team at Crisler Center Sunday.

"It was great to see everyone take on the challenge of ‘alright we're going to learn about defense today' and get back to our principles -- not worry about offense, not worry about shooting (cause) you can do that on your own time," said Hardaway Jr. "Just try to get this part of our game more improved."

To watch video of Hardaway Jr., press play below.

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