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February 11, 2014 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2014-02-11

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8 - Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Bring on the Buckeyes: 'M' faces road test

Sophomore forward Nik Stauskas was shut down by Indiana and Iowa, and Michigan's offense struggled as a result.

Wolverines hope to
retain first place in
season's lone game
against Ohio State
By DANIEL WASSERMAN
Daily SportsEditor
Since the start of the 2011-
12 season John Beilein's teams
have lost just 24 times.
It's an impressive mark for
the Michigan
men's basketball Michigan at
coach,
especially Ohio State
considering that Matchup: Ohio
a majority of his State 19-5;
team's games Michigan 17-6
came against Big When:
Ten opponents, Tuesday 9 P.M.
widely Where:Value
considered City Arena
to be the bestT
conference in TV: ESPN
the nation over
that stretch.
But even more impressively,
just two of those losses were
followed by another loss.
So, ifhistoryis anyindication,
the Wolverines should be
riding high . when they enter
Columbus on Tuesday night to
take on an inconsistent Ohio
State squad. The 22nd-ranked
Buckeyes, once the No. 3 team
in the nation before losing
four straight and five of six in
January - including a shocking
home loss to Penn State - have
welcomed in the new month
with an unblemished 3-0 record
in February.
Beginning Feb. 1, Ohio State
knocked off a pair of ranked
foes, Wisconsin and Iowa,
before dismantling Purdue on
Saturday.
The same month, though,
hasn't been as kind to Michigan
(9-2 Big Ten, 17-6 overall).
After the Wolverines' 10-game
win streak was snapped at
Indiana on Feb. 2, Saturday's
loss at Iowa was embarrassingly
uncompetitive. For a team
struggling away from home
this month, Tuesday night
represents Michigan's third
road game in 10 days and its

fifth game in 13 days,
These clusters of games in
such a condensed timeframe
are so troublesome to Beilein
that the coach is addressing the
issue, saying that he'll "continue
to have conversations with
the Big Ten about it." In the
meantime, Beilein is doing his
best to simply readyhis team for
its next opponent.
"We're going to be as ready
as we can be," Beilein said.
"It's very hard to get better
when you're just preparing for
a game."
After the Wolverines were
carved up defensively on
Saturday, especially in their
transition defense, Beilein said
all he truly wants is to have
some time to hold a couple
of fundamentals-oriented
practices rather than focusing
almost exclusively on game
preparations. But he also
acknowledged that after losses
like the one at Iowa, sometimes
getting back on the court
quickly can be a blessing.
"It is a beauty that one of
the good things in basketball
is you play sometimes two or
three times a week. One of
the bad things in basketball
is sometimes you play two or
three times a week," he said.
"You either get over a loss or you
get your momentum going."
Thanks to Michigan State's
loss on Sunday, Michigan will
still hold a share of the Big
Ten's top spot when it takes the
floor against the Buckeyes (6-5,
19-5) in a primetime, nationally
televised spot.
At 71.9 points per game, good
for ninth in the conference, Ohio
State's offense stands in stark
contrast to Iowa's top-ranked
offense that ran circles around
the Wolverine defense. Taking
after its best player, Aaron Craft
- perhaps the best perimeter
defender in the country, but at
times a complete non-factor on
offense - the Buckeyes' defense
is good enough to keep them in
any game, but their offense can
be enough of an eyesore to lose
very winnable contests.
Michigan shouldn't have
to worry about another
opposing player lighting it up

like Michigan State's Garry
Harris, Indiana's Yogi Ferrell
and Iowa's Roy Devyn Marble
have in the past few weeks,
but it's Craft's ability to take
the Wolverine of his choosing
- likely sophomore guard Nik
Stauskas - out of the game that
has Beilein worried.
Stauskas is far and away
Michigan's best offensive
weapon, but in two losses last
week, he was held to just 16
combined points on 4-of-12
shooting as he struggled to fight
out of ball denials.
Stauskas should see a large
dose of Craft, who averages 2.6
steals per game, but Ohio State
can also throw guard Shannon
Scott, who averages 2.0 steals
per game, at the Mississauga,
Ont. native. Together, the duo
form one of the best defensive
backourt pairings in the
country - "as good as I've ever
seen," Beilein said.
On Saturday, Stauskas
showed visible signs of
frustration as a hostile crowd
- aided by his poor shooting
night - compounded into an
afternoon worth forgetting.
It has become apparent
that Michigan's offense goes
as Stauskas does. Learning to
handle that load physically,
but perhaps more importantly,
mentally, will be the key going
forward.
"When you put up the
numbers that Nik's put up this
year ... you've got to be ready
to take the other teams' best
shot," Beilein said. "You have
to be emotionally really strong,
especially on the road where
you are the villain, you are not
being applauded by everybody.
"So staying emotionally
calm through all that is
challenging for everybody. It
was for (former guard Trey
Burke), it will be for Nik - it's
part of the process."
NOTES: Of the Wolverines'
last eight games, five have been
against ranked teams. ... Zak
Irvin is shooting 53.3 percent
from 3-point range over the
past two contests. ... Michigan
split the season series with Ohio
State last year.

LeVert's offensive
role, assignment on
'D' have hampered
his performance
By DANIEL WASSERMAN
Daily Sports Editor
If there was one Iowa player
Michigan couldn't afford to lose
sight of, it was senior guard Roy
Devyn Marble.
Marble, the Hawkeyes'
leading scorer, should've been
the focal point of the Wolverine
men's basketball team's defense,
the first one to be picked up in
transition, and perhaps even
shadowed and defended the
way opposing teams have been
forced to treat sophomore guard
Nik Stauskas.
But there he was on Saturday,
time and time again, racing
down the floor in transition
unmarked and open for
uncontested 3-pointers. He
sunk six of them in total, each
in the first half, for 22 first-half
points - more than enough to
suck the life out of Michigan.
Marble - who grew up in
Southfield, Mich., about a half
hour from Ann Arbor - was
held to just four points after
halftime, but the brunt of the
damage was already done
against the team that passed
up on the local product, as
Michigan folded, 85-67.
It was the third consecutive
weekend that the 15th-ranked
Wolverines could do little to
slow an opposing team's leading
scorer; for the second-straight
weekend, it landed Michigan in
the losing column.
Two weeks ago, Michigan
State guard Gary Harris went
off to the tune of 27 points,
though the Wolverines pulled
off an impressive come-from-
behind win in East Lansing.
The following weekend,
Indiana's Yogi Ferrell took his
turn scoring 27 points, shooting

a lights-out 7-for-Sfrom beyond
the arc in Michigan's first Big
Ten loss of the season.
If there was a defensive bright
spot in the stretch, it was the
Wolverines' stifling of Nebraska
guard Terron Petteway, who
averages close to 18 points per
game but was held to just five
points in Michigan's blowout
win last Wednesday.
ButonSaturday,theWolverines
again were unable to contain the
player who was presumably at
the top of their defensive keys
to victory. For sophomore guard
Caris LeVert, Michigan's best
perimeter defender, Marble
represented another player he was
tasked with guarding who didn't
seemto miss.
LeVert, Stauskas and
Michigan coach John Beilein
were each quick to isolate
Marble's performance from the
other two.
"I think on Yogi, we did
a really good job at making
him shoot contested threes,"
Stauskas said on Saturday. "I
think a couple times, we just
missed (Marble) in transition
and he got off to a hot start.
That's what got us today."
Added Beilein: "Someone
said to me, 'It's like Yogi Ferrell
all over again.' No, we had
someone close to Yogi Ferrell.
Somehow, (Marble) just got
open, and we've got to figure out
what happened."
There's certainly something
to be said for the Hawkeyes'
transition offense - "one of the
best teams in the country at it,"
according to Beilein, who then
called his own team's transition
defense "very average."
But Marble's success wasn't
limited solely to the game's
up-and-down tempo. On
multiple half-court possessions,
he was simply given too much
space, or he created it himself
by utilizing the motion offense,
resulting in open threes.
But in both instances, either
in transition or half court sets,
thgre's a4n underlying narrative

that has seemingly emerged:
LeVert's increasing role on
the offensive end is seemingly
detrimental to his defense. In
games against the Spartans,
Hoosiers and Hawkeyes,
LeVert averaged 17 points per
game while attempting 11.7
field goals per game, almost
four more than his average
in the Big Ten prior to the
Michigan State game.
It's clear that LeVert has
become the Wolverines'
secondary option on the
offensive end, and while
Stauskas sputtered for six and
10 points, respectively, against
Iowa and Indiana, LeVert
was thrust into the role of
Michigan's go-to scorer.
But despite a significant
upgrade in the amount of time
spent with the ball in his hands
attacking the rim - against
Iowa, he shot 11 free throws -
he's still tasked with defending
the opposing team's most
dangerous player.
It wouldn't be a stretch
to question whether his
propensity to draw fouls
is taking a toll on his body,
as evidenced his defensive
matchup shooting at surefire
rates in the aforementioned
three games.
His 6-for-12 shooting mark
in Iowa City doesn't stand
out, but considering that after
each of his six misses, he had
to then had to recover and
attempt to mark Marble in
transition - more often than
not, he struggled to find him -
it certainly offers another part
of the story for why his defense
may have slipped.
The soft-spoken LeVert is
never one to make excuses -
"It's pretty frustrating," he
said, before going on to say
that, "They're all great players."
But the numbers make it clear
that going forward, Stauskas'
offense needs to pick up.
Michigan can't beat good
teams by relying on LeVert to
carry it on both ends of the loor.

Sophomore guard Caris LeVert has accepted a larger workload on offense, but that has affected his perforrance on D.
Aaron, master of his Craft

By DANIEL FELDMAN
DailySports Writer
With a medley of awards
for academic and athletic
achievement, the reigning Big
Ten Tournament MVP returned
for his senior season to win a
national championship.
In October, the Daily sat
down with
Ohio State B I
guard
Aaron Craft
at Big Ten
Media Day
in Chicago
to talk about his last go-round
with Ohio State, his final
battle against Michigan and
the lessons he picked up while
living with roommates. Oh, and
tacos, too.
The Michigan Daily: It feels
like you've been at Ohio State
forever, according to Michigan
fans. This is your last season.
Are you angry it's your last one
against the Wolverines?
Aaron Craft: If anything, I'm
a little upset we don't go to Ann
i

Arbor this year. I was looking
forward to that opportunity. I
have a losing record there, so
I wanted to find a way to even
that up. But we're excited. You
know, we've been here for four
years - we've been here for
the long haul - and we think
the best is ahead of us, so we're
going to make the best of this.
TMD: Two years ago, when
talking about Michigan and
Ohio State, the matchup was-
Trey Burke against Jared
Sullinger, since they grew up
together, and then last year it
evolved into a battle of point
guards between you and Burke.
What do you see it as this year?
AC: I think it's just going to
be a battle. You know, you had
the freshmen last year that were
great (who now) have a year
under their belt. They've been
in the battles - they've gone
to the National Championship
game. They're only going to get
better. (Michigan has) great role
players, which is great for any
team. So I'm excited. I always
love playing in this conference

because you play against great
players - some of the best in
the country - and some of the
best teams, and Michigan is
obviously one of them.
TMD: One point of emphasis
this year for the sophomore
class is bonding together. One
of the things you do with your
roommates is a weekly taco
night. Would you suggest they
try that?
AC: Yeah, whatever they need
to do. I think they do a pretty
good job of hanging out together
and enjoying themselves. I
would recommend spending
some time away from them, too.
You spend a lot of time with the
team inside the gym, and getting
away helps, too.
TMD: Is there a certain type
of taco you like to make - one
that separates itself from all
the rest?
AC: We just get after it. We're
eating them tonight and I'm
excited because I haven't had
them in a while with practice
and things. It's going to be a
good day.

PAUL SH ERa
Sophomore forward Nik Stauskas was held scoreless when Michigan last played Ohio State at Value City Arena.

I

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