It was bound to happen sometime.
The 10th ranked Michigan Wolverines came into Sunday’s matchup with unranked Indiana in sole possession of first place in the Big Ten and a sparkling clean record. But the Wolverines will leave Bloomington with their first loss and a tie with rival Michigan State as Indiana upset Michigan 63-52 at Assembly Hall.
Indiana was led by sophomore guard Yogi Ferrell, who knocked down seven three-pointers en route to a 27-point performance. Perhaps Ferrell’s biggest contribution was on the defensive end where he held Michigan’s leading scoring Nik Stauskas to only six points.
It was a game Indiana desperately needed to have as the Hoosiers had lost three of their last four and were in danger of falling further down in the Big Ten standings. A loss to the Wolverines would have only put them one game ahead of last place Illinois. But the Hoosiers protected their turf and kept pace with the log jam in the middle of the Big Ten standings.
It’s been a struggle for Tom Crean‘s squad after losing their top four scorers from last season, but Indiana is quietly hanging around. Currently a bubble team, the Hoosiers were certainly on the outside looking in before tip-off. But after registering another signature win over a top 10 opponent, Indiana has a chance to bring itself right back into the NCAA Tournament conversation with crucial games at Minnesota, home against Penn State and at Purdue before facing their next ranked opponent, Iowa, on Feb. 18.
As for Michigan, a loss after a 10-game winning streak always stings, but a road loss at Indiana is nothing to be ashamed of. After a stretch of defeating three top 10 teams in consecutive games and storming up the rankings, the Wolverines had a bulls eye on their back coming into Assembly Hall and it was heard as the fans were amped up from the opening tip.
These are the types of games that Michigan should come to expect from now on. When the Wolverines went to Madison and stunned Wisconsin and then defeated Michigan State in East Lansing, Michigan was the underdog. Now that they have proved to be an elite team in the Big Ten, teams are going to come after Michigan with their best and the Wolverines have to be prepared. We’ll see how John Beilein‘s troops respond as Michigan returns to the Crisler Center on Feb. 5 to dual with Nebraska.
Many expected the loss of preseason All-American Mitch McGary to hurt the Wolverines, but in reality, it was addition by subtraction. When healthy, McGary is a difference maker on both ends of the floor. But when he tried to play through the nagging back injury earlier in the season, you could tell he wasn’t the same. Now that the Wolverines have adjusted to life without their star center, Michigan has finally found its identity.
And that identity happens to be a legitimate contender for both a Big Ten Championship and a Final Four appearance.