Thursday, January 5, 2012
Michigan faces tough test at Indiana
By Chantel Jennings
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Then-No. 1 Kentucky wasn't able to do it in December. Last week, then-No. 2 Ohio State wasn't able to do it either. And tonight, the No. 13 Michigan basketball team will try to take down No. 12 Indiana at Assembly Hall.
The Wolverines have won only twice in their past 21 trips to Bloomington. One of those times was in Michigan coach John Beilein's second year as coach.
"To do it again is a big, big challenge," Beilein said. "But it's a great opportunity for our kids to play in a great atmosphere."
The Hoosiers are a tough team this season, and similar to Indiana teams of the past, they've shot the ball well -- 45 percent from behind the arc and 50 percent from the floor.
Beilein noted how impressed he has been with Hoosiers freshman Cody Zeller, but also how important Zeller is to the other players on the court. His presence produces residual effects for teammates' scoring, which has helped four of the Hoosiers average double-figure point averages so far this season.
But Michigan is confident going into its third conference game. The Wolverines have held their two Big Ten opponents to less than 60 points, while Indiana averages 83 points and runs a fast-paced offense.
Senior guard Stu Douglass said they've watched the Indiana-Ohio State game tape and broken down what the Buckeyes did well against the Hoosiers and how Indiana attacked Ohio State. He thought the keys to the game were taking care of the ball and limiting turnovers, because that could produce runs, which are even harder to stop in a place like Assembly Hall.
"It's crazy. There are a lot of tough places to play in the Big Ten," Douglass said. "Indiana is a huge basketball state. ... They feed off the crowd. It doesn't matter if the students are on winter break. Everyone there is loud. They pack that place."
Douglass and fellow senior captain Zack Novak are both Indiana natives, which adds a personal level to the game, but Douglass said they both have to try not to let it affect their play.
During their freshman seasons, when the Wolverines beat Indiana, Douglass and Novak both hit key shots. But since then, the two have gone 0-2 in their home state against the Hoosiers.
"You try not to but it's definitely a little different," Douglass said. "It's a different feeling with all your family there, your friends there, a lot of my friends on the opposing team. It's a little different, but once you get in between the lines it's basically all the same."
The Wolverines need to avoid all the distractions they can. The Hoosiers are 10-0 at home this season.
"The road games are tough, there is an element to it," Beilein said. "You can't have an off game and win on the road very often."
Chantel Jennings covers University of Michigan sports for WolverineNation. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @chanteljennings.