Going back to the early-season Iowa State and Duke games, these young Wolverines were a bit startled in those hostile environments. However, since those games they have showed a toughness usually exhibited by more experienced teams. What this team don't have in experience it does have in being battle tested -- not just this year but in the latter half of last season right down to the tournament run. The surprise is how they are picking up wins -- but the players seem to understand just why that is. After the big road win last night, they talked about it.
"I can't help but credit that to probably the tough games we have had to play so far," said Jordan Morgan. "We have been in hostile environment at Iowa State and Duke. Those are some hard places to win, and with this young team we were thrown in the furnace a little bit. And it has prepared us for this moment. When teams go on these runs now, we stay composed and stay prepared. These young guys have grown up so fast -- it is impressive."
"Early in the year we had huge games on the road which really gave us our experience to come in today and play the way we did and stay the course," said Caris LeVert.
The Wolverines tend to start out the games playing very well; then somewhere towards the middle things started turning in favor of the opposing team. It is the second half where these Wolverines are building the reputation as a tough team that can finish games.
Certainly one part of this that has to be mentioned is how the coaches are making halftime adjustments. Playing in a hostile environment you have to keep your cool and relay the right message verbally to get the players back in a positive place.
"The coaches were positive," Levert said. "We were rushing things offensively, and we knew if we changed some things around and if we took our time we would get easy buckets. I thought we were very competitive out there tonight."
The team has really gelled together quite nicely, and now have a purpose as to why they are play this way and for who they are playing for.
"We have bonded together as a team," said freshmen point guard Derrick Walton. "We just try and play for each other -- at the end of the day we came out of all of this successful. Playing in those games early in the year, they have become the norm for our team."
All the excitement about three straight wins over top ten opponents is very good for the Wolverine. Coach Beilein is excited about it too, but he reminds everyone of what is ahead and not to dwell on this too long.
"I know we beat three really good teams and this is a step in the right direction with a long way to go," Coach B said. "Our kids are excited about it because of the atmosphere that is up here. We will take the win and we will move on. We have Purdue Thursday and that is who I am thinking about now ... we just take it game by game."
Clearly that is what this young team has been doing -- taking things one game at a time -- but Coach Beilein and staff has to admit, this has been a pretty impressive run. He will let them celebrate this for a day and then get right back to building more of that mental toughness they continue to show at the end of games.
U-M shows mettle down the stretch once again
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