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What a game. This was probably the most hyped Crisler has been for a basketball game in a very long time. Students arrived hours early and waited in a warming tent for the doors to open. Beilein paid for hot chocolate and pizza and came to talk to the students about an hour before the game started. Inside, it was probably the loudest I have ever heard Crisler and was easily the most "maized out" event I have seen here in Ann Arbor. Oh, and they played a pretty good game too.
Through the 1st half, it looked like this game was going to be a slugfest and the Buckeyes narrowly led at halftime. However, nearing the end of regulation, nobody could make a stop on other side. Burke had a shot to win the game in regulation, but missed it putting the two teams in overtime. Another hard-fought 5 minutes and Michigan came away with a narrow win at home after stopping a late Aaron Craft drive to the basket. This is probably the biggest win the Wolverines have had this season. Yes, they beat Minnesota on the road, but the Gophers probably aren't a Big Ten title threat. The Buckeyes will be this year and probably will finish pretty close to the eventual champion. Plus, beating Ohio is something that shouldn't be underrated. It matters, big time.
Just a few thoughts regarding the team's performance. First, I refuse to critique players or the team after a win over the Buckeyes. If Michigan wins, everything is fine in my book. Anyway, the big player in this game was Tim Hardaway. He was dynamite outside the arch (7-14) and came up with some huge defensive stops late in the game. If there's a player of the game, it definitely goes to Hardaway. He was highlighted as a player to watch in the preview because he needed a rebound performance against the Buckeyes and he got one. Trey Burke also had a pretty good game. What's funny about his performance is that he really wasn't that far off his first game against the Buckeyes stats-wise. The big difference was that Michigan came away with the win. Surely, he played a better game this time, turned it over less, and hit more of his shots, but for those claiming he jacked up too many against the Buckeyes the first time, he essentially shot the same number and more outside the arch this time. That goes to show what winning can do to a news storyline.
GR3 also rebounded from his Indiana game pretty well and came away with 10 points. Stauskas had a great rebound from his first game against the Buckeyes, scoring 11 points and netting 6 rebounds. He also hit 3-5 from outside the arch. Something that seems to translate with Michigan's results. The other player really worth noting in this one is Mitch McGary, who probably had the best game of his career with 14 points, 6 rebounds, 4 steals in 29 minutes of play. He looked alright against Indiana, but he really stepped it up in this one. If Michigan can get even close to this kind of production out of his consistently, he's going to be a huge factor.
This was not a "must win" for the Wolverines on Tuesday night, but if any game this season came close to that measure, it was this one. Michigan needed to "Beat Ohio" and needed this game both for its chances at the Big Ten and to get through its brutal 4 game stretch. If Michigan had lost this game, there was a decent chance Michigan could go 0-4 during this stretch, something that would likely doom their Big Ten chances. The good news is that they came away with a big win. One thing also worth noting is this game in relation to the Thad Matta comments. Matta has been great against Michigan, but this is just another example of how his "dominance" is primarily dominance over really bad Michigan teams. Now that Michigan is relevant, his "magic touch" against Michigan doesn't appear to be so magic. He will still field good teams and beat Michigan, but not like he did in the past. Beilein has built a good team and a good program that is going to compete with the Buckeyes every year.
Tonights game against Ohio State is the closest thing to a must-win the Wolverines have had all season. Will they do it?
Basketball Analyst For BTPowerhouse & Wolverine 247 - Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/tbeindit
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