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Juwan Howard ‘surprised’ by lack of communication from Michigan basketball

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Howard vows to fix what ails his team and will not let this spiral, he says.

Penn State v Michigan Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

Juwan Howard and the Michigan Wolverines struggled again on Wednesday night, losing a 72-63 decision to visiting Penn State in Ann Arbor. The loss dropped the Wolverines to 2-5 in conference play and have now lost four of their last five games.

There seems to be a bit of frustration in the air at Crisler Center right now. Howard attributes issues on both ends of the floor currently to a lack of communication, which has caught him off guard considering how close his team appears to be with each other.

“I know it’s very challenging to come up here and have to talk about that,” Howard said after Wednesday night’s game. “We’re having a lack of communication, and we’re not communicating enough. I don’t understand why at times I see our guys, excuse me not see, but hear, our guys in a locker room with a lot of energy and they get along very well with one another, that they talk to each other. You know, I don’t see him always picking up the phone. And, you know, like, sometimes you see guys texting each other and they standing right next to one another. But this group, they like they enjoy playing with one another.

“So it’s too late in the season for, you know, having to beg our guys to communicate on defense, and then adjust on the defensive and offensive end, too. It just so happened that it’s...it’s a lost art in the game and we have to bring it back. Yes, I’m old school. But in order for us to forge ahead and move forward and improve communication has to be a part of the process.

“That has surprised me that, you know, some of our guys don’t like talking on defense or assume that a player knows exactly what the other opponent is going to do and assume that your teammate knows that he’s got to pick him up on a defensive end. And there’s a lot of guessing going on. And I just don’t understand.”

Brandon Johns had mentioned in one of the postgame scrums that a lack of confidence may have hindered Michigan’s chances at a win on Wednesday night and Howard picked up on that and explained what that may have meant from his point of view.

“I think it was a problem of when you see that you’re down and you got hit in the mouth. And the score is not in your favor and you don’t see that you know, you can’t break through an opponent and they’re just pretty much being able to score at times when you’re trying to go back and score and then (they) come back and score again,” Howard said. “And then you look up and you’re like, ‘wow, you know, we’re still down eight or nine’ and you know, your huddle becomes quiet. And you know guys start to overthink, overanalyze.

“And so that’s what I think Brandon is speaking of that, is there some doubt within? I don’t know. I’m assuming that it’s not, you know, but I will make sure it’s my job to make sure that there’s no doubt within this group. I’m gonna continue, keep forging here, keep teaching them and keep coaching them and also leading them because that’s what they need. They need a guy who they can trust as being a head coach, to lead this group and I will do that job for sure.”

The Wolverines have not lost three games in a row in a season since the 2015 campaign that saw them miss the NCAA Tournament entirely. Howard says his team will continue to work through its issue and he promises he has it handled.

“Oh, man, I got that under control,” Howard confidently said. “You can trust me on that one. There is not going to be any doubt in that locker room. We will not lose trust in one another. There’s a lot of season to be played. You learn from games like this. No one said we will win every game this season.

“Yes, our goal was to win every game this season. Our goal was to protect home court and have an undefeated record at home. But that has not happened. We will keep and continue to keep grinding throughout the process and growing and staying together and play hard.”