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December 20, 2012

Tough practices drive U-M

Before sophomore point guard Trey Burke left Wednesday's practice session to speak with members of the media, he lost a one-on-one pick up game to freshman guard Caris LeVert.

Burke told the media he hates to lose. And he wasn't leaving the Crisler Center that day a loser.

After he left the podium, Burke went back to the Player Development Center's practice courts to join another pick up game, to cleanse his competitive palate of the bitter taste of losing.

"He is really competitive. He just went back on the court, because he lost to Caris one-on-one," redshirt junior forward Jordan Morgan said. "He didn't want to end on a loss. He hates losing, and we have a bunch of guys who hate losing, and that's what drives us."

That competitive drive - from Burke and other leaders on the team - has started to rub off on the rest of the team.

"That's just how I have been since I was little," Burke said. "I hate losing, so whenever I lose in something. I feel much better when I win. That's just how it is.

"In practice, it's tough. It could be a pick up game, shell drills or anything - we could lose to the Maize team, and Tim [Hardaway, Jr.] and I will get on our team about it. At the end of the day, they're all going to be on our team and we're going to try to beat other teams down the stretch. It's important for us to be as competitive as in a real game."

"I think, as upperclassmen, we're trying to keep this team focused on the next game," Morgan added. "That's all you can really do. We're not looking at our record right now. We're just trying to play our game and play our best basketball. We feel like if we play our best basketball, we can compete with anybody. We can't guarantee a win, but we can play with anybody."

The practices are hard - and that's just the way coach John Beilein wants them to be.

Now sporting a No. 2 record and a so-far unblemished record, the Wolverines are the cream of the basketball crop. And that's a source for motivation for any opponent who faces the Maize And Blue.

"It's great to be 11-0, but we know that the target is getting bigger and bigger," Burke said. "Every team is going to come out with their best shot every single night. It's big for us to be ready for those punches early on, We have done a good job of giving teams our best punch and stretching the lead throughout the game. It's a matter of staying humble and staying focused on the big prize."

"You just have to embrace it," added Morgan. "People are going to want to beat you, and that is something we have to live with. We have to be ready for everyone's best shot, and go into each practice being the best we can be, because we need to compete as much as we can, because everyone is going to want to give us their best shot.

"This program has come a long way, so I know what it's like to not even be in the conversation. We just keep a mindset every day - our coaches coach us every single day to be better and better. They're not satisfied, and we're not satisfied. That's the most important thing: we're still trying to get better. We're playing great, but we're still trying to get better."


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