The ability to adapt shown by the Michigan Wolverines in their 58-57 win over the Michigan State Spartans proves the Maize and Blue have what it takes to succeed during March Madness.
It was a downright gritty game. A team that can turn out wins by wide margins, Michigan had to fight tooth and nail every minute of the game.
It did just that.
The most obvious talking point coming out of Sunday’s contest is Michigan’s inability to make a single three-point shot. The Wolverines went 0-12 in their long-range attempts.
Instead of continuing to go for those shots, head coach John Beilein and his squad adjusted their game on the fly. Michigan offense is often heavy on three-pointers, but attempts from the perimeter made up only a fifth of its field-goal attempts.
When it became clear three-pointers weren’t the key to beating their Big Ten rival, the Wolverines simply changed it up.
They brought the ball closer to the hoop. They sunk about 53 percent of their shots from inside the three-point line, which is just barely short of their 11th-best 54.9 two-pointer percentage. Most of those attempts came from in the paint, too.
But the Wolverines did more than take some shots from the paint to edge out the Spartans.
They stepped up their defense and turned it into an offensive force. Not only did Michigan force plenty of turnovers, but quick transitions allowed it to score baskets on the Spartans.
The biggest of those turnovers was Trey Burke stealing the ball from Keith Appling and dunking it to give the Wolverines a two-point lead—a lead they would hang on to until the end.
Such a big win will give Michigan plenty of momentum heading into its final two games of the season—especially their last one, which is a home game against Big Ten-leading Indiana.
The month of March will present a plethora of challenges for Michigan. Each team it meets will bring a different game to the table. It just so happened that Michigan State’s game took away the Wolverines’ coveted three-pointer.
But Beilein’s boys overcame. If they can adapt their game to meet the challenges of second-ranked Indiana and beyond, March could be a successful month in Ann Arbor.