The Big Ten’s trip to the Nation’s Capital proved to be monumental for Michigan. The Wolverines won their first Big Ten title (it should be noted that the 1998 title was vacated). It didn’t come easy. They had a plane mishap and didn’t allow them to get here until the morning of their first game.
But, four games later, they were raising the Big Ten trophy after their 71-56 victory over Wisconsin. Tournament MVP, Derrick Walton Jr., led the Wolverines with 22 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists. After the game, Walton took time to reflect on their accomplishment. “To finally do this, do something that hasn’t been done in so long, it’s something that will stick with you for a really long time.”
He was asked about a conversation he had with Coach John Beilein where he predicted this would happen. “I told Coach B (Beilein) — we rode to the airport about two weeks ago and I told him I really want to win this tournament. We haven’t done it in a long time. It wasn’t about me. I just wanted to win this for my teammates and for the great coach I have. I just wanted to do something special for my team.”
The road to the Big Ten Championship didn’t come easy. It started with their plane running off the runway so they didn’t arrive until the day of the Illinois game. After a 20 point victory over the Illini, it was time to face Purdue.
In what might’ve been the best game of the tournament, the Wolverines prevailed in overtime, 74-70. DJ Wilson outplayed Big Ten Player of the Year, Caleb Swanigan, scoring 26 points and grabbing 8 rebounds. With the thoughts of the plane incident still fresh on their minds Wilson said “We face adversity well.”.
Then came Minnesota who was minus Akeem Springs due to injury. Michigan led the majority of the game limiting the Gophers bench to two points and prevailed 84-77. Moritz Wagner scored 17 points and Walton, who led Michigan with 29 points, scored or assisted on 18 of U-M’s last 20 points of the game. Only Irvin’s last two free throws were the exception.
That set Michigan to pull off a rare ‘four wins in four days’ accomplishment in the Big Ten tournament. But, with the NCAA Tournament over the horizon there isn’t much time to celebrate. Their next opponent is already in Coach Beilein’s mind. “All right, how can we find ways to stop Oklahoma State? How to also score against Oklahoma State.”
Marcus “Mook” Washington is the host of Making The Cut. Follow Mook on Twitter: @mtcwithmook and IG: MTCWithMook