Michigan looks to reestablish itself as tourney contender vs. Rutgers

·2 min read

Michigan has been surprisingly ordinary during the first two months of the season. With the bulk of its Big Ten schedule the rest of the way, the Wolverines will try to reestablish themselves as an NCAA Tournament team.

Michigan will play Rutgers in Piscataway, N.J., on Tuesday night.

The Wolverines (7-5, 1-1) began the season ranked No. 6 but haven't been able to string more than two wins together. They dropped two of their last three games in December, including 85-71 to unranked Central Florida on Thursday.

Michigan fell apart in the second half after leading by four points at halftime.

"The second half came around, and we weren't contesting as much," guard DeVante' Jones said. "We started losing our assignments, weren't rotating, stopped talking as a team. ... As a whole, we lost our composure."

UCF shot 72 percent from the field in the second half and made all eight of its 3-point attempts.

"There were some shots where we lost our man and gave up some open looks," Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. "It was just more turnovers down the stretch that hurt us."

Rutgers (7-5, 1-1 Big Ten) has the same record as Michigan but did get a signature victory on Dec. 9 by knocking off then-No. 1 Purdue. The Scarlet Knights then lost to Seton Hall but bounced back with victories over Maine and Central Connecticut to wrap up their non-conference schedule.

"I thought we came out ready, we're getting better -- 25 assists on 35 plays is off the charts, and I love that," coach Steve Pikiell said after the 79-48 win over Central Connecticut. "I thought we rebounded (Saturday), a little bit of sloppy play down the stretch, but we played good basketball, everyone contributed, we got everyone in the game, and now we've got to get ready for what's next.

"We need everyone to show up on Tuesday; we have a huge game against Michigan. It's one of the best teams in our conference."

The Scarlet Knights are led by the combination of Ron Harper Jr. (14.9 points, 7.4 rebounds per game) and Clifford Omoruyi (12.4 points, 7.3 rebounds).

Omoruyi recorded his third career double-double on Saturday with 19 points and 12 rebounds.

"I think we've shown we can be really good," Pikiell said.

--Field Level Media