Michigan appeared unbeatable while toying with top-10 opponent Wisconsin last week. Saturday’s 18-point loss to Minnesota dispelled that notion.
The No. 7 Wolverines will try to bounce back from their first loss of the season when they host Maryland in Big Ten action Tuesday in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Wolverines coach Juwan Howard said he wasn’t stunned by the sudden turn in fortunes.
“We never thought that we would be 27- or 28-0 or whatever,” Howard said. “We always looked at it as one game at a time. You learn from (losses) and we expect to be better next game.”
Howard felt his team was well prepared Saturday, but the Golden Gophers simply outplayed them. The Wolverines (11-1, 6-1) never led and Minnesota pulled away to a 75-57 triumph. In stark contrast, Michigan had overwhelmed the Badgers 77-54 in its previous outing.
“We were ready to go,” Howard said. “We were just playing a team that played better and Minnesota was very good defensively and offensively. Yes, our defense wasn’t bad at all. We made them shoot for 4-of-18 from 3. (But) when you turn the ball over 20 times as a team … they scored 23 points off of turnovers, it’s just hard to win.”
Michigan did not have a hard time in the first meeting with Maryland thanks to Hunter Dickinson, who registered 26 points and 11 rebounds in an 84-73 victory on Dec. 31 in College Park, Md.
Dickinson was held to single digits for the first time this season by the Golden Gophers. He took only five shots while scoring nine points and also made five turnovers.
“We didn’t do a very good job of competing,” Howard said. “That means me included.”
Starting guard Eli Brooks sat out with a foot injury and he’s questionable to play on Tuesday.
“It is not a surprise to the team or the staff that Eli Brooks means a lot to this group,” Howard said. “With his leadership and also his play on both ends of the floor, you can see that he was truly missed.”
One of Maryland’s top players, Eric Ayala, has missed the last two games with a groin injury. He could return to action on Tuesday, according to coach Mark Turgeon.
“If everything goes well, we plan on playing him Tuesday night,” Turgeon said. “It’s a tough injury. So we’ll see.”
Ayala is averaging a team-best 14.0 points per game. He had 16 points and three assists in the first meeting with Michigan.
Maryland routed Division II opponent Wingate 100-58 on Friday. Its conference game against Nebraska, scheduled for Saturday, was postponed due to the Cornhuskers’ COVID-19 issues.
By playing Wingate, the Terrapins avoided having a nine-day gap between games. Their last Big Ten outing was on Jan. 10 when they edged then-No. 12 Illinois 66-63.
“I feel like it was good for us to play this game so that we can be able to prepare for the next one,” forward Galin Smith said after scoring 13 points against Wingate.
Turgeon emptied his bench, using 14 players. None saw more than 26 minutes of action. The player who received the most court time, Aaron Wiggins, racked up 21 points, six rebounds and three assists.
–Field Level Media