Michigan has regained its swagger and its place in the Top 25.
The 19th-ranked Wolverines have won five straight Big Ten contests and seven of their last eight following a four-game losing streak in mid-January.
The current stretch began with their first road win of the season against Nebraska on Jan. 28. They’ve subsequently won three more away games, including a 71-63 triumph at Purdue on Saturday.
With four conference games remaining before the Big Ten tournament, the Wolverines will try to keep the good times rolling when they host Wisconsin on Thursday in Ann Arbor.
“I think it’s just part of the process,” freshman forward Franz Wagner said to the Detroit News. “During the course of the season, you’re going to have some highs and you’re going to have some lows. We’re doing a better job now of staying connected, especially on the road.”
Michigan (18-9 overall, 9-7 Big Ten) began the season unranked but quickly jumped into the Top 5 after winning a Thanksgiving tournament in the Bahamas, handing Gonzaga one of its two losses in the process. The Wolverines gradually slid out of the poll over the next two months before re-entering the rankings this week.
“I thought in the Bahamas we looked like an offensive team,” associate head coach Phil Martelli said to the News. “Now, I think we look like a winning team. There’s a synergy here about being a winning team and expecting to win. In the Bahamas, we were literally just better offensively than the other teams we played against.”
The Wolverines haven’t given up more than 68 points since a 72-63 loss to Penn State on Jan. 22. Offensively, their balance makes it impossible to focus in on any particular player.
Michigan has had six different players lead the team in scoring this season. Wagner came to the forefront against the Boilermakers by scoring a career-best 22 points.
“I’m super proud of him,” junior forward Isaiah Livers told the News. “Coming in as a freshman playing 30-plus (minutes) on kind of an inexperienced team — not a lot of guys played last year that much. He’s coming in and you don’t even think he’s an underclassman when he plays out there because he plays with so much emotion.”
Wisconsin (17-10, 10-6) has also perked up this month, winning four straight and five of its last six.
The Badgers topped Rutgers on Sunday, 79-71. Junior forward Micah Potter, who missed 10 games due to eligibility rules, led the way with 18 points and nine rebounds.
“You can see how much he helps, not only with points and numbers, but with depth,” junior guard Brad Davison said. “It allows (forward) Nate (Reuvers) to get a little more rest time. And it allows us to do more things. It allows us to play different styles and go big. It makes us more of a mismatch for teams to defend.”
Davison reached a personal milestone against the Scarlet Rutgers, scoring his 1,000th career point.
“Growing up, a dream of mine was to always play at the Division I level. I never really went into details after that,” he said. “To me, I’m more focused on winning. But it’s super cool.”
–Field Level Media