Column: Michigan finally finds its adversity, so what happens next?
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- For a half second Sunday, it looked like Michigan was going to get away with it.
After sleepwalking through the game's first 13 minutes and falling down 21 points in nearly a blink of an eye, Trey Burke rose for one final heave that seemed impossible two hours earlier.
And then the basketball Gods stepped in.
Burke's shot went up, it went down and it came back out.
A lesson in college hoops karma: You can't start that poorly on the road against a good opponent and live to talk about it, not in this league.
But what transpired Sunday during Michigan's 56-53 loss at Ohio State doesn't much matter now. What matters, for the Wolverines now, is what comes next.
"We've done a good job of learning from our wins," Michigan junior forward Jordan Morgan said. "And now, we'll have to do an even better job of learning from a loss."
Morgan's right. Because Thursday at Minnesota, things don't get any easier.
They might actually get tougher.
Prior to Sunday, Michigan had to nitpick at itself to find faults in its game. Maybe it hadn't brought a full 40 minutes of focus in a blowout victory. Maybe its transition defense fell asleep up 25 late in the second half. Maybe its free throws weren't perfect.
But, after Sunday, Michigan doesn't have to nitpick anymore -- because the mistakes the Wolverines made in the first 13 minutes against Ohio State could provide John Beilein with enough lessons for an entire month.
Michigan hadn't seen a road test this season like the one it faced in Columbus. In the end, it failed that test. And the next one it faces Thursday at Minnesota's Williams Arena might be even more difficult.
The Wolverines didn't respond to Ohio State's early intensity, its early physicality and its early desire. And, in the Big Ten, if you can't bring it early on the road -- you may as well stay home.
And though Michigan outscored Ohio State by 18 in the final 27 minutes of the game, the Wolverines' shot selection down the stretch was anything but ideal with the game on the line.
"We haven't faced adversity like this (yet) this year," Michigan point guard Trey Burke said. "With the team we have, with how young we are, we're obviously disappointed.
"But we have to watch film, make the adjustments we need to make. We'll go into Minnesota better."
Michigan did not lose back-to-back games during the regular season a year ago, a big reason why the Wolverines finished with their first Big Ten regular-season title share since 1986.
Four Big Ten games into 2012-13, the Wolverines have finally found the adversity that evaded them for the season's first two months. Lose at Minnesota -- who is unbeaten at home this year -- and suddenly that 16-0 start becomes completely overshadowed by a 3-2 league record.
As for the loss of a possible No. 1 ranking? That might have meant something to a starved fan base, and it probably would have been cool for the players. But it really doesn't matter now.
What matters are the Big Ten standings -- and Michigan's one more loss away from the early middle of the pack.
So, what happens next?
Will Michigan prove that Sunday was one 13-minute aberration and get back to playing the way it did for the season's first 16 games?
Or will the early mistakes at Ohio State rear their ugly head again in a louder, perhaps more intense environment in Minneapolis?
After a 16-game winning streak and the best start to a season in program history, the Wolverines are finally going to get their first gut-check of 2012-13.
"This is terrific for us, every coach will tell you that," said Beilein, who seemed to have no concern about how far his team falls in both major polls Monday afternoon. "(Losing) happens. And the teams that really prosper from it are the ones that get better from it.
"We had not played a top 20 team on the road yet, and I think we've got three or four right in a row. ... You've got to adjust to it."
Will Michigan learn its lesson?
We'll start finding out in four days.
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