Michigan outlasted Rutgers, 58-45, at Jersey Mike’s Arena on Thursday night. The Wolverines were without Jett Howard, and the offense wasn’t always clicking, but they found a way to secure the win on the road against a solid Rutgers team.
Nothing about Thursday night’s game would be described as ‘good basketball,’ but nonetheless, Michigan improves to 10-7 in Big Ten play and picks up a much needed Quadrant 1 victory in the process.
Here are three takeaways from the hard-fought victory.
A win is a win
Michigan didn’t play a great game of basketball. Fortunately for the Wolverines, Rutgers didn’t come to play, and the Wolverines were able to take advantage.
Regardless, it still goes down as a win in the record books for U-M. The Wolverines are now 10-7 in the conference and are tied for third place in the Big Ten. It’s been a wildly abnormal season in what is normally the best basketball conference in the country, but this year that’s not the case.
There is still a slight glimmer of hope that Michigan could make a late push toward the NCAA Tournament, and Thursday night’s win was a step in the right direction.
Was it really suffocating defense? Or did Rutgers just play a horrific offensive game? Either way, holding a team to 45 points is an impressive feat. Rutgers didn’t do itself any favors at the free throw line, as the Scarlet Knights left 11 points at the free throw line.
Michigan reached double-digit steals for just the second time this season, thanks to a career-high five takeaways from Dug McDaniel.
If Michigan can ride this defensive momentum into the final three games of the regular season, things could be trending upward for the Wolverines.
Too early to kiss the double-bye goodbye?
After Michigan’s back-to-back losses to Indiana and Wisconsin, the Wolverines’ chances at a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament were looking awfully slim. However, Juwan Howard’s team has now put together back-to-back wins, and it’s, once again, tied for a spot among the Big Ten’s best four teams.
U-M is one of three teams tied for third place in the Big Ten at 10-7, along with Maryland and Indiana. The Wolverines will play host to Wisconsin for senior day on Sunday, and they very well could find themselves in position for a double-bye following that game.
It’s worth noting that Michigan travels to Bloomington, Indiana on Sunday, March 5 for the regular season finale. It’s not unlikely that the Wolverines and Hoosiers could be battling for a spot in the top four and the coveted double-bye in the following week’s Big Ten Tournament.
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