Michigan Basketball Earns Victory At Rutgers With Defense And Grit
Taking on a team in their house is extremely tough in the Big Ten this year. If that team is 17-0 at home like Rutgers was, it's even more of a hurdle. Finally, doing so without your best player, like Isaiah Livers, seems like an impossible task. Michigan dealt with all of that and still managed to leave Piscataway with a 60-52 win over the Scarlet Knights.
After the game Juwan Howard cited his team's defense as the main reason why U-M was able to hand Rutgers its first home loss of the season. Specifically, he talked about a defense that has gotten much better over the last month.
“Practice,” Howard said with a smile. “Practice and film. And then, I had to go back to the drawing board, along with my staff, and figure out what adjustments we would make. Also, guys are just learning the details of how I teach [defense] — the concepts. That takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight. Yes, we all want to see it happen right away, instant results, because we live in a microwave world, but it takes time to build it. I think our guys are now seeing and buying into defense, defensive concepts, trusting, communicating — good results come from it.”
Immediately after the game on the court with the Big Ten Network, Howard also used the word grit to describe why his team was able to grind out a win in New Jersey. It's a word that gets thrown around a bit in sports, but Howard defined it pretty well.
“Grit comes from within,” Howard explained. “It comes from your heart and your mindset. I think our guys displayed a lot of grit. When you talk about Rutgers, who is a very tough team that plays well at home, they put a lot of pressure on the rim — today we protected the paint very well. They only scored 26 points in the paint.”
Sophomore Colin Castleton, who gave Michigan 10 productive minutes packed with five points and four rebounds, also used the word grit after the game when asked about how U-M scraped together a win without Livers.
“It shows a lot,” Castleton said. “I think a big word we were touching on and talked about was grit. Coming in here with our backs against the wall, them being 17-0 — we knew we could get the job done and we had the confidence that we could come in here and secure the W and we did just that.”
Sophomore David DeJulius cited another, more tangible reason for the victory.
“It shows our depth from the first man to the last man,” DeJulius said. "It’s a testament to our great coaching staff. They’re instilling in us each and every day just a next-man-up mentality. Each and every day competing against one another in practice. It’ll make us better individually and as a collective unit.”
With a massive road win now in the rearview mirror and a pretty hot streak of winning five of its last six games, Michigan is rolling at the right time of the year. Howard knows it and so do his players. Guys like Castleton, DeJulius and freshman Franz Wagner showed a lot of emotion in The RAC last night and definitely seem to understand that postseason play is right around the corner.
“They know what the season means to them,” Howard said. “It’s their season. Let’s be real about it. We’ve had injuries to one of our key players in Isaiah Livers. That’s how seasons go sometimes. You’re going to hit some adversity. How you deal with adversity is how you define who you really are. I think this group sees that we have a lot of season to play. We take it game by game and stay locked in, stay all in. Beautiful things will happen.”
What do you think of the word "grit" when describing the big road win over Rutgers? How big of a win was last night's road victory? Comment below!!!