Talk about your bittersweet days.
Hours after inking a five-year contract extension to stay at Michigan through 2026, coach Juwan Howard saw his fourth-ranked Wolverines absorb a 67-65 upset loss in Ann Arbor to unranked Seton Hall.
The folks who were probably groaning most about that turn of events? The UNLV team that hosts Michigan late Friday night in the first round of the Roman Main Event at T-Mobile Arena.
Now in his third season as the Wolverines’ coach, Howard took what John Beilein handed him and has kept it running smoothly with minor alterations. Michigan was a top seed in last season’s NCAA Tournament, reaching a regional final before losing to UCLA, and is considered a national championship contender this season.
“I’m honored to be regarded in such a way that the university wished to continue a lasting relationship with me,” Howard said when the extension was announced. “It was a surprise when Warde (Manuel, the athletic director,) approached me, and it didn’t take long for us to get on the same page.
“I’m grateful to him, our great university and my talented young men who sacrifice every day.”
There’s a decent chance Tuesday’s loss will end up being just a blip on the maize and blue radar screen by March. Seton Hall looked like a team capable of doing more than showing up for one night and upsetting a top-five team. It had the toughness to make winning plays down the stretch.
It wasn’t that Michigan (2-1) completely collapsed on defense.
The Pirates made only 40 percent from the field and 30 percent from 3-point range while being outrebounded 39-33. The Wolverines just didn’t make enough shots when it mattered.
Michigan got 18 points, nine rebounds and four assists from Hunter Dickinson, 17 points from Eli Brooks and 11 points and 12 boards from high-impact transfer DeVante’ Jones.
However, key turnovers hurt the cause down the stretch.
“If you hold someone to (67) points in a game, you’re going to win that game a lot of the time,” Brooks said. “We just didn’t do a good job of valuing the basketball.”
UNLV (3-0) is coming off a 64-62 win over North Dakota State on Monday. The Rebels’ three victories have come by a total of 11 points. None of them have been against an opponent even close to the Wolverines’ caliber.
Bryce Hamilton tallied 17 points against North Dakota State, while junior Donovan Williams scored a career-high 15, including a transition jam that gave UNLV a five-point lead with eight minutes left.
“I go home and I just dream about getting dunks,” he said. “Some people dream about getting steals, blocks, threes, whatever. I just dream about getting dunks.”
Senior forward Royce Hamm Jr. tied a career high with 17 rebounds and blocked the Bison’s last shot with three seconds left.
“To come out on top in three close games when we could have lost all three is just a good feeling,” Rebels coach Kevin Kruger said.
–Field Level Media