The Michigan Wolverines snapped a five-game losing streak last night, upsetting the No. 11 Wisconsin Badgers, 72-68. After a season full of disappointment, having a moment of relief, no matter how brief it is, is crucial for the Wolverines.
“It’s a great feeling,” Tarris Reed Jr. said after the win. “It’s a great feeling to get that win to get in that win column. Like you said, the second half lulls, it sucked it kept happening but this one felt great, I can’t lie.”
This season has weighed on these players; you can see it in their body language on the court. While this season hasn’t gone as well as the guys had hoped, Reed said he’s been turning to a higher power to help him get through it.
“For me man, it’s my faith in Jesus,” Reed said. “It’s been a rocky rollercoaster. You win some games, feel like you have more control, and we lose. Just putting my trust in Him and believing in Him, that’s the biggest thing. He’s my fuel. When I get tired on the court I just lean on Him.”
It was looking like another second-half collapse was in store, as the Wolverines went on a six-minute long field goal drought while the Badgers constantly got to the rim and getting five straight layups to open the second half.
Howard called a timeout during that run, and after the Badgers took the lead, the Wolverines locked in and got stops when they needed to. Oftentimes this season, we’ve seen Michigan lack energy in the second half, but in this one, they battled and picked up a win because of their complete performance.
“I feel like our energy level on the offensive and defensive end, I felt like we executed more on the offensive end,” Terrance Williams II said. “We weathered the storm, we stayed head up, we stayed focused and we came out together with it.”
Weathering the storm helped the Wolverines pick up their first win in a close game (six points or less) since they beat Stanford by five in the Battle 4 Atlantis.
While the 8-15 hole may be too big for the Wolverines to dig themselves out of, winning a close game against a good Wisconsin team is still impressive, and speaks to how this team finally overcame their own mental demons.
“It’s more the mental stability part,” Howard said. “I have to commend our guys for being so competitive and caring, which they should. At times, you would have emotions that go throughout the game because basketball is a very emotional game. When teams make runs, there are times when trust is lost. There are times when doubt creeps in. But we talked about this over and over...but tonight was a different story and it’s great that our guys responded when they needed to.”
It’s no secret that the vibes around Michigan men’s basketball haven’t been great, so for Howard, it was nice to see happy players in the locker room after the victory.
“It hurts my heart to walk in a locker room to see guys with their head down, guys with their eyes red,” Howard said. “It hurts my heart to see those sad faces, and tonight it was nice to see guys with a smile on their face, noisy in the locker room in a positive way instead of in a negative way.”
The icing on the cake in this one was the Wolverines coming out victorious on Howard’s 51st birthday. To not only snap the losing streak, but also having it be against Wisconsin of all teams, must have been a boost for Juwan.
“It feels great, very nice win,” Howard said on picking up a win on his birthday. “The fellas said ‘hey, this is a birthday gift for you,” and it’s nice to know that our guys, with a smile on their face.”
“Happy Birthday, Coach,” Reed said. “Gave him a great birthday gift.”