Commentary

Wolverines must prove mettle on road

Beilein believes winning away from Ann Arbor requires fewer turnovers

Updated: November 29, 2011, 4:34 PM ET
By Chantel Jennings | WolverineNation

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- On Friday, the No. 15 Michigan basketball team had practice, game tape and weight lifting sessions after leaving Maui on a red-eye flight Thursday.

"I didn't sleep on the way home and then we stayed up and practiced," senior guard Zack Novak said. "We pretty much just toughed it out that first day and then tried to get right back on our normal practice schedule."

[+] EnlargeJohn Beilein
AP Photo/Eugene TannerJohn Beilein believes a road win can build his team's confidence.
The Wolverines were able to take Saturday off and enjoy the football team's win over Ohio State, but by Sunday, they were practicing again. And by Monday night, the team had left for Virginia for the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

The Virginia game is the capstone of the Wolverines' four-game road stretch before they come back to Ann Arbor to face Iowa State Saturday. No player on Michigan's roster has ever played four straight away games, but Novak said it's not a problem for the Wolverines.

"Everybody's got to travel," Novak said. "It's part of what you sign up for. You just have to be tough and get through it. It's not as bad as everyone makes it out to be."

Michigan coach John Beilein pointed out that while the Wolverines traveled to Maui, it wasn't a true road game as the fan base at each game was almost evenly split between each team. However, his squad will get a taste of what it feels like to play on another team's floor Tuesday night.

"It's hard, but it's something we have to do," Beilein said of road games. "It's something we have to do nine times in our league. … There are some times you just have to be able to do this and it's a part of the process."

Novak said the key to winning on the road is not throwing up too many quick shots or turning the ball over too much. When that does happen, the Wolverines allow the opposing team to score more quickly, shifting momentum.

Beilein agreed and said that the Wolverines' backcourt is going to have to step up and handle the ball well.

"I try to figure out if we have success on the road, why we have it, and I think it's low turnover numbers," Beilein said. "A turnover leads to a fast-break layup or a fast-break dunk, it changes the energy in the game. But if you only turn it over eight or nine times in a game, that limits those times for momentum."

In Maui, Michigan averaged 12 turnovers per game. And Beilein mentioned that because of Virginia's defensive scheme, the Wolverines might only have 50 offensive possession, so few turnovers will be key.

After the Virginia game, the Wolverines will play six home games and one neutral-site game at the Palace of Auburn Hills. Beilein said it's important to pick up a true road win earlier in the season so players experience what it feels like to win on the road. In last year's Big Ten/ACC Challenge Michigan beat Clemson 69-61, which gave his young squad confidence playing outside of Ann Arbor.

"You have to get a couple of these to get more," Beilein said of road-game wins. "It can be very contagious and you just need to win one."

Chantel Jennings covers University of Michigan sports for WolverineNation. She can be reached at jenningsespn@gmail.com or on Twitter @chanteljennings.

Chantel Jennings | email

Oregon/Pac-12 reporter