As Michigan looks to rebound from one of its worst performances of the season — an 83-61 shellacking at the hands of Penn State — Phil Martelli came away impressed with Tuesday’s practice.
“We had a long, focused film session, and I thought a very spirited workout with regard to the challenges that we’re gonna face at Northwestern,” Martelli said. “… I thought for two days before the game, it was focused, which it needs to be. Now it has to be better. It has to be better today.”
Thursday’s matchup with the Wildcats — who currently reside in third place in the Big Ten — poses a number of challenges, as Martelli alluded to.
In the first matchup between the two teams, Michigan committed 18 turnovers, including eight from its starting backcourt of Dug McDaniel and Kobe Bufkin. That’s not a coincidence, considering Northwestern’s defense is predicated on forcing turnovers; the Wildcats force 15 turnovers per game, the second-highest mark in the conference.
To prepare McDaniel and Bufkin for the high-pressure onslaught that awaits, Michigan’s scout team has adjusted.
“You have to change their mindset,” Martelli explained. “They’re no longer just guarding how they would normally guard Kobe or Dug. You have to dive passing lanes, switch aggressively. If you foul, you foul. And I’m not saying that Northwestern fouls. But for our guys — Cooper Smith, YoYo, Ian (Burns) when he’s healthy — you have to go for the ball. … This team is actively and aggressively seeking to steal your ball.”