ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- It’s kind of like the loss that keeps on giving.
Michigan coach John Beilein said his team probably wouldn’t have beaten Wisconsin on Sunday without its loss to Indiana just three days before.
And after a thrilling overtime finish in Crisler Arena, it seems there’s a pretty good chance that without that same defeat that the No. 13 Michigan basketball team wouldn’t have come away with a 66-64 win over Northwestern on Wednesday.
"It definitely [helped us]," senior guard Stu Douglass said of the Indiana loss. "Just sticking together. … We gutted it out. They were just as tired. We had to stay tough."
Sophomore guard Tim Hardaway Jr. said he thought his team benefited from the defeat by using it to see how the Wolverines’ rushed play against the Hoosiers hurt them.
A few times the Wolverines rushed shots against Northwestern, but for the most part, they remained patient on offense. That patience and composure as a team was particularly evident in the defensive effort of Michigan, which didn’t allow any field goals in the final eight minutes of regulation.
"Poise and composure plays a big part in the game of basketball," Hardaway Jr. said. "I think we’re showing that right now. … We just wanted to focus in on being patient and being poised and just playing smart."
That growth in poise was perhaps best displayed by freshman point guard Trey Burke who was perfect from the free throw line in overtime (6-for-6) and finished with 19 points, seven assists and just one turnover in 45 minutes of play.
In the Indiana game, Burke was 0-for-3 from the free throw line and had four turnovers. Douglass said Burke took those missed free throws pretty hard, especially considering the Wolverines lost by just two points.
"He’s not going to live that down," Douglass said of Burke’s free throws. "Trey has that competitiveness. He wants to win. He has the will to win that helps us down the stretch."
Beilein said he saw maturity in his team and its ability to close out a close game. But that doesn’t mean that Beilein and his staff won’t pull negatives from the game and find teaching moments in the win.
Redshirt sophomore forward Jordan Morgan picked up a technical foul in the final minutes of regulation and in the waning moments of overtime, with a three-point lead, Hardaway Jr. fouled junior guard Alex Marcotullio on a 3-point attempt, giving the Wildcats an opportunity to force double overtime.
They were two mistakes that ended up not being as costly as they could’ve been, but they highlighted a game that showed there’s still plenty of progress to be made.
"Hopefully [the win] will give us a lot of confidence but make us a better team," Beilein said. "We learn in both victory and defeat. It’s easy to learn from defeat. It’s harder to learn from victory. We have to find ways to do that."