NCAAB: With Big Ten play ahead, Michigan faces Central Michigan

Michigan gets a chance to scrape off some rust before its Big Ten schedule begins in earnest this weekend.

The Wolverines play their final nonconference game on Thursday against Central Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich.

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Michigan (7-4) hasn’t played since an 80-76 loss to North Carolina on Dec. 21, in a loss that was characteristic of the team’s first two months. The Wolverines have taken care of business against lesser opponents while losing close games to quality teams.

“That’s probably the most frustrating part about it,” Michigan freshman guard Jett Howard said. “We feel like we’re better than a lot of these teams. We put in a lot of effort and time and it’s the same result, so you can understand why we’d be frustrated. The ball doesn’t always roll our way, it’s not always going to go the way we want it. We’ve just got to keep working hard.”

Coach Juwan Howard got heated at one of the officials late in the game and had to be restrained. Neither team held a double-digit lead but Michigan trailed the entire second half.

“There are some plays down the stretch, like the other games that we played — Kentucky, Virginia — and there are always areas where we can get better,” Howard said. “There were plays that we didn’t finish.”

The Chippewas (4-8) enter Thursday’s game on a four-game losing streak. They also haven’t played since Dec. 21, when they fell to Youngstown State 76-65.

Central Michigan’s top player, guard Kevin Miller, has missed the last seven games due to an undisclosed injury.

“We are searching right now with who I think is the best player in the MAC not playing,” Chippewas coach Tony Barbee said. “Without him on the floor, we are playing a lot of guys out of position. Injuries are part of the game so we’re trying to get this learning curve sped up. … Without him, we get disoriented and disjointed. We are not the same team without him.”

Michigan is 22-3 all-time against Central Michigan.

–Field Level Media

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