Down but not out, Michigan has found a way to secure a Big Ten championship after defeating Minnesota 84-77 on Saturday.
Yesterday's story seems quite similar. When the Wolverines appeared to be falling apart, somehow and someway someone showed up to save the day. On Friday, D.J. Wilson and Zak Irvin made their presence felt and were big factors to the upset victory over Purdue. On Saturday, it was Derrick Walton and Moritz Wagner's turn. While there is one similar thread in all of this, the senior leadership has been critical to this tourney run.
For Walton, who finished the game with 29 points, 19 of them in the first half, it was all about feeding the hot hand and finding the reliable scorer when other shots don't seem to fall.
"It's exciting because you know someone out there is going to get buckets for sure," Wagner said. "People can have bad days and miss shots but we know someone is there who will carry us. We're just very connected and we know each other pretty well. Obviously, Derrick had a pretty good day so we kept finding Derrick and let him do his thing. It's a great group."
What's been the secret to success? Perhaps the Wolverines themselves won't be able to figure it out. However, no matter what it is, they hope to keep the good times rolling as they prepare for the championship game against Wisconsin on Sunday.
Wagner suggests the team is extremely close, which allows the team to tread the waters of adversity.
"It might be resiliency and togetherness with the way we connected out there," Wagner said. "Not only out there but also off the court, I think we're a very special group together. We all love each other and look out for each other. There was a point in this game where they would make a run and we're about to fall apart but we found a way to get back together and make basketball plays."
Despite the victory, Wagner was not satisfied with the defensive effort U-M displayed on the court on Saturday. That message is a far cry from what it was earlier in the season, where the team -- coaches included -- would dream to see a defensive performance like the one the Wolverines displayed today.
It's a clear cut sign that the team is growing up right before our eyes and it couldn't happen at a better time.
"I think we did a pretty good job but there's still so many defensive errors we're making and need to clean up," Wagner said. "We have 24 hours to clean them up, especially individually, boxing out, simple stuff. Stay connected out there."