It may be fourth straight trip for the Michigan Wolverines to the Sweet 16, but for second year head coach Juwan Howard, it’s his first.
Howard and the No. 1 ranked Wolverines advanced following tonight’s 86-78 victory over the LSU Tigers at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis thanks to strong performances from senior guards Eli Brooks and Chaundee Brown, who each tallied 21 points.
“I’m speechless,” Howard said in the moments following the win. “There aren’t too many times I am speechless. I’m just really proud of their effort and how they stayed the course. LSU came out in the first half playing good basketball and making good shots.”
The Wolverines were able to storm back from a nine-point hole they found themselves in during the game’s 1st half, and subsequently went on a 14-1 run in the second half that LSU was never able to recover from.
“I am so proud of our team on how they competed today,” Howard later said in his post-game interview. “There was a lot of possessions out there where we could have held our head down because LSU made a great run, got the lead early in the first half. But our team stayed the course. Guys really competed extremely hard on the defensive end.”
Howard was quick to praise his team’s bench following tonight’s win, stating that he trusts every member of the team.
“I have trust in all 15 guys,” he said. “They know if you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready.”
Howard was asked how the feeling of advancing to the Sweet 16 compares as a coach as opposed to his time with Michigan as a player.
“To be honest, I don’t look at it in terms of first time when you talk about Sweet 16,” he said. “I take it one game at a time. I’m looking forward to our next opponent.”
For Howard, it was all about the competition. He explained the team’s motto coming into tonight was “Empty the tank”, and it certainly showed on the court.
“Our guys stepped up to the competition,” he said. “That’s why we’re for competitors only.”
Franz Wagner added 15 points and seven rebounds for Michigan, including nine points in the final 4:30 of the game – and you can bet Howard noticed.
“Big time players step up in big time moments,” he stated. “And Franz is a big time player.”
Michigan will await the winner of No. 4 seed Colorado and No. 5 seed Florida State, still in progress at the time of their win.
“Our team threw all the energy out there, laid it all out on the line,” Howard said. “Now they deserve to get some rest tomorrow.”
– – Quotes via Billy Embody of 247Sports Link – –