U-M Prepares For EMU's Zone, Experience

Michigan (6-2) will look to rebound against Eastern Michigan (7-1) tonight at home.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan lost arguably the biggest upset of the young college basketball season, when the Wolverines fell to NJIT, 72-70, on Saturday.

The loss, however, remains a strong topic for the Wolverines after dropping out of the top-25 for the first time this fall.

“It happens, it happened to us – that’s it,” U-M coach John Beilein said.

Beilein further compared the upset loss to his players carrying around suitcases. With the luggage instead being filled with clothes, was filled exams, girlfriend problems or any other things that can fill a young college players mind beside basketball.

“In a quick transition game when things don’t go well, we did not respond when things weren’t going well,” Beilein said. “We carried it around in our brain. As result, we were a step slow. And not as confident as we need to be.”

Michigan (6-2) will next play host to Eastern Michigan (7-1) today at 9 p.m. at Crisler Center. The Wolverines hold an 27-2 edge against their cross-town rivals. The last time Eastern defeated U-M was Dec. 17, 1997, when EMU great Earl Boykins led the Eagles to an 89-83 OT upset of the Wolverines.

EMU runs almost an identical 2-3 zone that U-M faced last week against Syracuse. And it’s not by accident. EMU coach Rob Murphy is an former assistant under Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, and is currently in his fourth-season at Eastern Michigan.

Like Syracuse, the Eagles present challenges with their frontcourt. Starting forwards Mike Samuels (6-foot-11, 4.5 rpg), Anali Okoloji (6-foot-8, 5.5 rpg) and Karrington Ward (6-foot-7, 7.3 rpg) should present problems with their length against the smaller U-M lineup.

While U-M was able to hold on at beat Syracuse, 68-65, last Tuesday, the familiarities with the zone could be a good or bad thing, Beilein says.

“The good news is it’s very similar to what Syracuse plays,” Beilein said. “The bad news is it’s very similar.”

But the biggest challenge for U-M might not be EMU’s zone, but its experience. The Eagles start fifth-year senior Mike Talley (10.3 ppg, 4.0 assists), graduate transfer Okoloji, senior Ward (13.6 ppg), fourth-year junior Samuels and third-year sophomore Raven Lee, who leads EMU with 16.4 ppg.

“And will see this all year long. And it’s never going to be an excuse. But it’s the challenge of having a ton of third, fourth and fifth year players,” Beilien said, talking further of the Eagles experience: “They have depth. They really put together a good run here. They gave Dayton a heck of a game for the whole game. So that’s just going to be another challenge, just the physical bodies how big they are inside.”

Injury Update Derrick Walton Jr. scored 16 points Saturday, despite being an game-time decision in U-M’s loss to NJIT.

But still seems to be dealing with his injured toe, which has hampered him the past week and half.

Spike Albrecht, who was seen rubbing his hand during Saturday’s game, is fine and has reported no injuries, Beilein says.

“Spike is probably all banged up,” Beilien said. “He doesn’t talk about it. So I don’t talk about it. He just plays on.”

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