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January 24, 2013The Wolverines were sitting in the Value City Arena locker room, facing their first disappointment in a season of thusly unprecedented success.
Michigan had just fallen 53-50 to archrival Ohio State, snapping a 16-game winning streak to start the season. Veterans like redshirt junior Jordan Morgan had tasted this type of heartbreak before, but a large faction of the roster - freshmen Glenn Robinson III, Nik Stauskas, Mitch McGary, Spike Albrecht and Caris LeVert - were experiencing their first-ever collegiate loss.
"One of the messages we wanted to get across was, 'It sucks, this feeling sucks, but it's much worse to have this feeling in March and know you can't do anything about it because the season is over,'" Morgan said. "We learned from it. It's a lot better to have this loss now, and we can go right back on the road and play another really good team.
"The other veterans and I echoed that point - we had to put it behind us. It sucks, but we can't dwell on it."
The Wolverines certainly bounced back from the disappointing loss, beating No. 12 Minnesota in Minneapolis, 83-75, four days later.
For his efforts against the Golden Gophers, junior guard Tim Hardaway, Jr. received Big Ten Player Of The Week honors.
Of the 23 players who have claimed Big Ten Player or Freshman Of The Week awards, nine have been Wolverines.
Although it's nice to get the accolades, Michigan is not overly concerned with them right now.
"To be honest, most times what happens with Big Ten Player Of The Week or Freshman Of The Week, Coach Beilein usually forgets about it and doesn't say anything until like a month later," Morgan said. "It's like, 'Oh year, I forgot to say, Tim has won five Big Ten Player Of The Weeks. I forgot to tell you guys.' Oh, thanks.
"We just really try to focus on what is ahead of us. What we're doing right now, and that's practice and then film at 4:30, and a game tomorrow. We're just focused on getting better. It might sound like we're just saying it, but that is really what we go into practice with every day. We just want to become better players. We look at every game like a must-win."
They used it to work on some team-specific drills, as opposed to solely game preparation.
"We took some time to get back to fundamentals, things we might have spent more time on earlier in the season," Morgan said. "Basic stuff like closeouts, being in the gaps, that kind of get lost in the shuffle of guarding all these motions and things that all these offenses run. We're getting back to the basics of how to guard a ball screen and things like that. Just refocus on our fundamentals.
"We spent one day on offense and one on defense, and we were able to just focus on Michigan and getting better as individuals and a team. We got some rest in after that and then refocused on this next game.
"Coach B talks to us about it. He does a good job of laying it out for us and letting us know what we have ahead of us. Preparing ourselves mentally for what we have coming up. We have a strong group of guys, so that shouldn't really be a problem. The coaches and trainers and strength coaches will find a way to manage any fatigue we might run into. And the coaches do a good job of keeping us focused from one game to the next."
"I have talked about it with Eso [Akunne] and some of my other teammates about it," he said. "If you look at how far we have come, not just as a team. If you look at our facilities, or team chemistry, we have come so far from what it was when we got here. And there is a lot to be said about what the coaches have done and what the school has invested in this program. It is a big deal."