Michigan looks to start late-season push vs. Rutgers
Time is running out for Michigan to make its case for an NCAA Tournament at-large bid, but the Wolverines have an opportunity to earn a Quadrant 1 win when it plays Rutgers on Thursday night in Piscataway, N.J.
While Rutgers (17-10, 9-7 Big Ten) has a NET ranking of No. 28 and is comfortably in the field, the metrics are less kind to Michigan (15-12, 9-7) despite having the same conference record. The Wolverines entered Wednesday with a NET of No. 62 and just two wins in Quad 1 games, making a late push necessary to even get on the bubble.
Michigan is coming off an 84-72 home win over Michigan State on Saturday, and coach Juwan Howard was thrilled with the Wolverines' improvement on the boards. After allowing 15 offensive rebounds to Wisconsin in its previous game, a 64-59 loss, the Wolverines won the battle on the boards 38-25 and grabbed 14 off the offensive glass.
"We made the conscious effort of being the toughest, the nastiest, the grittiest by going to the glass, by attacking the paint, by getting fouled and going to the foul line," Howard said.
Howard's son and Michigan's second-leading scorer, Jett Howard (14.4 points per game), is a game-time decision to play against Rutgers after picking up a lower-leg injury during the Michigan State game.
"His body language is much brighter than other times when he's been injured," associate coach Phil Martelli told reporters. "But still nothing where you'd say, ‘He's full go,' or anything like that. Not ready for that yet."
Terrance Williams II (6.8 points, 6.1 rebounds per game) has a knee contusion and missed Michigan's past two games, but he practiced in full Tuesday. He's also a game-time call.
Rutgers has its own injury situation to cope with. The Scarlet Knights' best defender and fourth-leading scorer, Caleb McConnell, experienced back spasms before Saturday's 58-57 win at Wisconsin and ended up not playing.
Coach Steve Pikiell told NJ.com that McConnell isn't expected to be available against Michigan.
Cam Spencer snapped out of a shooting slump by going 6-for-10 from 3-point range to fuel Rutgers' win over Wisconsin with a game-high 22 points. That helped Rutgers end its season-high three-game slide.
"I like this group a lot," Pikiell said. "They practice the right way. They're connected. Hit some obstacles. The road is not easy. Everyone in the league has a losing streak. We have got to get through it like everybody else."
Michigan is 15-1 all-time against Rutgers. They split last season's series, with each team winning at home.
--Field Level Media
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