Michigan desperately needs a quality win to enhance its NCAA Tournament resume. A road victory against No. 15 Indiana on Sunday would certainly fit that requirement.
The Wolverines (17-13, 11-8) find themselves on the bubble, despite a winning record in Big Ten play. They carried a three-game winning streak into their road matchup against Illinois on Thursday but lost in double overtime 91-87.
“If the situation was different, I think (Thursday) would be one of those moral victory losses where (you’re upset but) you can hold your head up,” center Hunter Dickinson said. “But we already had too many of those early on. So we can’t have them now.”
Dickinson did as much as he could, scoring 31 points and grabbing 16 rebounds. Michigan rallied from a seven-point deficit late in regulation but gave away a seven-point advantage in the first overtime session.
All but three of Michigan’s losses this season have been decided by six points or less. It also had a nine-point overtime loss to Iowa.
The latest defeat added to the Wolverines’ frustration.
“It’s about how you bounce back,” Dickinson said. “That’s what separates the good from the great; guys who took a hit on the chin, fell down and got back up and kept fighting. For this team, we’ve been getting hit down all year, but we’re just trying to realize the season isn’t over.”
That’s also the message from coach Juwan Howard.
“We’ve all done a little soul searching and it seems like everybody knows their role and has a collective agreement to play hard, play defense and play together,” he said. “We’re in a good spot. I don’t think it’s a moment to freak out or panic. We’ve got another opportunity, we just need to get prepared.”
The Hoosiers (20-10, 11-8) will look to bounce back from a home loss to Iowa in their home finale. Indiana defeated Big Ten regular-season champion Purdue 79-71 on the Boilermakers’ home court Feb. 25 but fell apart against hot shooting Iowa 90-68 on Tuesday.
“We left our game in West Lafayette and it’s unacceptable the way we played (Tuesday),” Indiana coach Mike Woodson said. “I apologize to our fans. I’m the coach. I’ve got to get them ready to play, and that was a (horrible) performance.”
The Hawkeyes shot 55.6 percent from the field and made 13 of 23 3-point attempts.
“It was just a full meltdown of our defensive game plan,” Hoosiers forward Trayce Jackson-Davis said. “They exploited it and they took advantage of it and they hit shots.”
Jackson-Davis had a typical statistical performance — 26 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, four steals — but his teammates shot 15-for-42 from the field.
“A game like this, you have to wash it out because we have got another game Sunday, and we’ve got to get ready for that and prepare for it,” Jackson-Davis said. “So, we’ve got to have a quick mentality, quick turnaround and get ready to work in practice.”
Indiana squeaked out a 62-61 victory against the Wolverines in Ann Arbor, Mich. on Feb. 11. Jackson-Davis had 28 points and 11 rebounds and the Wolverines went scoreless in the last five minutes.
— Field Level Media