Chicago — Much of Michigan's matchup against Penn State on Thursday in the Big Ten tournament opener had a familiar script.
Michigan fell behind by double digits and rallied to take a lead. The difference this time, though, was that the Wolverines held on for an 83-66 victory over the Nittany Lions.
"Even though it's Penn State, they're a good team and they've been through a rough year," said freshman Mitch McGary, who had 10 points and 11 rebounds.
"They fought throughout the whole game and (we're) just coming back and bouncing back from the Indiana loss. We don't like to lose two in a row, and this is a big statement game."
Next up for Michigan (26-6) is another nemesis: Wisconsin, which took an overtime thriller at Madison on Feb. 9 in their only meeting.
"We know that we can't get relaxed," point guard Trey Burke said. "I think we got a little relaxed at Wisconsin and it allowed them to crawl back in the game and beat us.
"It came back to bite us; if we had that win, maybe we would be Big Ten champs. It'll definitely be motivation but we have to control what we can control."
Instead, Michigan was relegated to the No. 5 seed in the Big Ten tournament and had to play in the opener against a Penn State team it struggled against.
But the Wolverines turned the tables Thursday, cutting their turnovers to four — tying the record for fewest in the tournament — from the 15 they committed two weeks ago.
Now that they've won their seventh straight tournament opener, the Wolverines can focus on getting their mojo back, something lost during their 5-5 run to end the season.
"When we saw our seed and the teams that were on our side (of the tournament bracket), we were happy," Burke said. "We knew we would have a chance to play Wisconsin, Indiana, if we win (today).
"It's a good feeling that we're on the side of the teams that we lost to."
One of the benefits looked to be that Michigan got some of its confidence back.
And it's just in time to face Wisconsin (21-10), which dealt Michigan a wallop with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from almost half court and clutch shots in overtime for a victory,
And even with an NCAA Tournament bid assured, there's still a focus on improving on some of their weaker areas, such as rebounding and defending. The players hear the critics' assessments and use them as fuel.
"I like when people say that — it's motivation for me," McGary said. "I think they said that the game before Michigan State and we went in there and pulled out a victory at home, and (Thursday) was the same thing."
McGary's contributions, along with Jordan Morgan's struggles (four points and two rebounds in 10 minutes), may bring about changes in distribution of the minutes, if not the starters, against Wisconsin.
"We talk about the roster and rotation every day; we'll probably do that again," coach John Beilein said. "But a chance, I'm not going to say we're going to do it or not going to do it. Sometimes a guy, if we do make a change, maybe Jordan will play more relaxed coming off the bench and make some of those shots he missed."
Morgan shot 2-for-6 and missed a few inside shots. But Morgan and Jon Horford combined for 21 points and 16 rebounds.