ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Moral victories aren’t a part of John Beilein’s DNA.
Even so, without the services of future NBA first round pick Caris LeVert and starting point guard Derrick Walton Jr., Michigan has pushed through adversity in admirable fashion despite losing four straight, most recently a 64-52 overtime loss at Illinois Thursday.
Now getting set to fight off a season sweep against in-state rival Michigan State Tuesday night at Crisler Center, the Wolverines press on.
“It was tough but we’ve got to regroup and that’s just the way it goes,” Beilein said Monday. “You look at that game and (Kendrick) Nunn makes a three in the corner and makes a driving lay-up going to his right hand which we want him to go.
“And Spike has one going in and out and Zak back rims one. If that changes we get a big win and we’re sitting here all giddy about our win. That’s the nature of the game for us right now.”
In the first meeting with Michigan State this season, a 66-56 loss for the Wolverines, Michigan pushed the Spartans to overtime scoring five-points in the closing minutes of regulation. The Wolverines were helped by a surprising 18-point performance by Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman.
This time around, Beilein expects Michigan State to employ a different type of game plan for the freshman guard.
“I’m sure they’ll prepare for him and they’ll probably put a better defender on him throughout,” Beilein said. “I forget who was guarding him and I’m not sure how many times he scored on that particular defender cause they do switch on screens. They know he had 18 on them, they’ll be into him.”
Beilein once again confirmed Michigan would be missing Walton Jr. Tuesday against the Spartans, not offering any further comment on a timeline for a return from a foot injury.
That means more of the onus will continue to be put on the shoulders of junior Spike Albrecht. Albrecht scored 18-points as well back on Feb. 1 in East Lansing.
In Michigan’s loss at Michigan State, the Wolverines were outrebounded 43-29, the Spartans also managing to collect 13 offensive rebounds.
“You’d like to make up for the rebounding by having better possessions offensively and not turning the ball over,” Beilein said. “We’ve been really good at being able to negate rebounding disadvantage and not so good at it so far this year. But sometimes we’re really going to have to rebound and the ball is going to have to bounce our way.
“There were several rebounds at Michigan State where the ball was 20 feet in the air and it was Spike and Dawson going for it at the elbow and we’re not going to win that one. That’s where we really miss Caris and Derrick in long rebounds.”
Valentine scored 17-points over the Buckeyes including a three-pointer in the closing seconds to seal the win for Michigan State.
“He’s got the rare combination of he really rebounds, his three-point shot right now is as high a level as it is in the league and he really can see the floor,” Beilein said.
“So a big guard that can see the floor, that’s (Nik) Stauskas like a little bit and Caris like, they come off a screen, they’re 6-foot-5, they see it all and he had a good jump shot but he wasn’t shooting 40-percent like he is right now.”
Now barely over .500 at 13-12 including a 6-7 mark in Big Ten play, Michigan is aware of the challenge ahead with Michigan State, hoping to close out a victory instead of falling just short once again.
“They seem to have a really good flow about them right now and they’re healthy,” Beilein said. “We’re going to have to play a whale of a game. So it should be a great game, I know we’ll have a huge crowd, it’ll be very loud and these games have been so competitive at both places.
“We’re really going to have to bring our A-game to stay in the game and who knows. We’ve been able to do that, winning them is another thing right now.”