Going to Nebraska is suddenly a difficult game for UM

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Lincoln, Neb. — So much for this being the easy part of Michigan’s basketball schedule.

Nebraska has opened a whole lot of eyes in the past couple weeks, especially with Wednesday’s 72-71 victory at Michigan State.

Michigan visits Nebraska on Saturday afternoon.

“We have our work cut out for us, without question,” Michigan coach John Beilein said.

“They didn’t back down to the (Breslin Center) crowd, to just a great team Michigan State has. They took every shot Michigan State gave them and they answered back. As you know, a lot of teams don’t do that well at Breslin.

“We’ve had several games up there we couldn’t answer the different charges they make at you.”

Nebraska was led Wednesday by senior forward Shavon Shields, who matched a season-high with 28 points — despite leaving for part of the first half with an injury.

He’ll be a point of emphasis for the Wolverines — hello, Mark Donnal — but he won’t be the only one.

Nebraska (12-8, 4-3 Big Ten) has used a balanced attack to get back in the conference race. The Cornhuskers lost their first three Big Ten games, and have since won their last four, including road wins at Rutgers, Illinois and Michigan State.

“Right now, they’re all scoring,” Beilein said. “Shavon Shields is playing like as good as anybody in the league. What he just did at Michigan State is what few have ever done.”

Michigan (14-5, 4-2) has won just one of its three Big Ten road games, at Illinois. It lost at Purdue and at Iowa.

Beilein said he’s looking at this Nebraska game just like he looked at the Purdue and Iowa games.

That’s how well Nebraska is rolling along right now.

“I think, given our situation, any road game, every game, this would really be a big victory because of the way they’re playing right now,” Beilein said. “It’s no different right now than going to the Purdues, going to the Michigan States, going to those type of places. They’re just really playing well.

“They’ve got the pieces, like all the pieces.”

Slow starts

Michigan struggled out of the gate at SMU and at Iowa.

With what’s expected to be another raucous crowd Saturday, Beilein wants a better first effort.

Before Michigan knew it, it was down 11-0 to Iowa last week.

“Now, coming off that win at Michigan State,” Beilein said, “we’ve got another day where there’ll be a lot of people in the building,” Beilein said.

“I don’t like the way we opened up at Iowa and SMU. Those were two where we had hostile environments. At Iowa, some parts of our defense were really bad.

“We’ll have to come out and play. We’re going to have to be very competitive.”

And the Wolverines will have to do it again without Caris LeVert (lower left leg), who will miss a sixth consecutive game.

Beilein said LeVert now is swimming and working on the treadmill, all new developments, but he still isn’t a full participant in practice. Beilein wants him to practice at least two days in a row before he returns to the court, though he might settle for one.

Slam dunks

As expected, Beilein did talk to Duncan Robinson about cutting down the number of 3-pointers he takes on off-days — after Robinson has had a couple tough shooting games in a row, none worse than his 3-for-10 effort on 3’s in the win over Minnesota.

“I’m telling you, he’ll make a couple hundred 3’s,” Beilein said of Robinson on off-days. “Maybe just make 50.

“He’s gotta make sure he doesn’t overdo that.”

... Beilein said he’s pleased with how Aubrey Dawkins has responded to his new role as first man off the bench. He’s solidified Michigan’s sixth-man role. Now Michigan just needs to figure out who’s seven, eight and nine.

“It’s very inconsistent,” Beilein said.

... Michigan has beaten Nebraska seven meetings in a row, including all five since the Cornhuskers joined the Big Ten.



Michigan at Nebraska

Tip-off: 2 p.m. Saturday, Pinnacle Bank Arena, Lincoln, Nebraska

TV/radio: ESPN2/WWJ

Records: Michigan 14-5, 4-2 Big Ten; Nebraska 12-8, 4-3

Outlook: Nebraska’s leading scorer is 6-7 guard Andrew White III (17.0 ppg), who transferred from Kansas. ... Michigan has played just once at Pinnacle Bank Arena, on Jan. 9, 2014, when Derrick Walton Jr. won the game with a last-second layup. ... Dan Dakich, Andrew Dakich’s father, will be on the call for the ESPN2 broadcast.