Jon Horford's injury puts more pressure on Mitch McGary, Max Bielfeldt moving forward for Michigan
NEW YORK -- Of all the players on Michigan's roster that have shown improvement throughout the season, sophomore forward Jon Horford might have been at the top of that list heading into Saturday.
The 6-foot-10, 250-pound big man finally seemed to be over the previous injuries that cost him most of last season and an early portion of this year, and it was showing.
Horford was very active in limited duty during the first half Saturday against West Virginia, grabbing a pair of offensive rebounds and bringing a great deal of energy to Michigan's frontcourt against a rather rugged Mountaineer squad.
But, in a matter of seconds, that all changed. While fighting for a loose ball -- a hustle play, of course -- Horford took an awkward tumble and dislocated his left kneecap.
"We love Jon so much, everybody on this team," Michigan coach John Beilein said minutes after announcing Horford's kneecap dislocation, which drew audible winces from the media room at the Barclays Center. "He's worked so hard.
"He'll fight through this."
Over the past two weeks, Horford seemed to be carving out a niche as Michigan's third big man, and a huge energy provider off the bench. But it doesn't look like that'll continue for the immediate future.
Beilein said he hopes the injury won't keep Horford off the floor for 2 to 3 weeks, but that's no guarantee.
And now, with Horford out, the pressure to perform up front seems to have shifted heavier onto the shoulders of Mitch McGary and Max Bielfeldt.
Bielfeldt has been sidelined for the past four games due to an ankle injury, but has been full-go at practice of late. He's the natural candidate to take Horford's minutes while he recovers.
Moreover, though, the pressure for McGary to become more consistent seems to have officially cranked up a bit.
The 6-foot-10, 260-pound freshman played with energy against West Virginia on Saturday, but not much control. He went 0 of 3 from the foul line, picked up four fouls in just 10 minutes and grabbed just one rebound.
Horford's injury ultimately puts more pressure on every front line player. Jordan Morgan has to be more careful with fouls, McGary has to play more polished and Bielfeldt has to prove he can handle important minutes every night.
"Mitch was in foul trouble and Max hasn't played because of his injury," Beilein said. "We don't know how serious it is (with Horford), but we don't expect him back quickly.
"Max will have to move right in there, he's been playing well in practice. We feel bad for Jon, but we're excited for Max to have this opportunity."
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