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No. 5 Michigan seeks bounce-back vs. No. 10 Oregon

Michigan head coach Juwan Howard cautions his team from the sideline in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Illinois, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019, in Champaign, Ill. (AP Photo/Holly Hart)

Michigan's basketball team will likely move down in the polls again. But the fifth-ranked Wolverines won't drop too much if they defeat another top-10 team on Saturday.

After losing their Big Ten road opener to Illinois 71-62 on Wednesday, the Wolverines are back in action Saturday afternoon against No. 10 Oregon at the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor.

Michigan (8-2) was unranked heading into the season but vaulted to No. 4 after beating then No. 6 North Carolina and eighth-ranked Gonzaga to win the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament during Thanksgiving weekend. After losing to No. 1 Louisville in their first game with a ranking, the Wolverines bounced back with a home victory over Iowa last Friday and only fell one spot in the rankings.

But with the loss at Illinois, Michigan has lost two of its last three games. Their game against the Fighting Illini was decided in the lane, the Wolverines outscored 44-26 in the paint and outrebounded 44-28.

"Forty-four points in the paint. We're a better defensive team than that," coach Juwan Howard told reporters after the game. "If we want to battle and compete in the Big Ten and have a chance to raise a trophy, we can't allow a team to score 44 points on us in the paint and also give up 16 second-chance points and 15 offensive rebounds. That's a recipe for a loss."

Poor outside shooting sealed Michigan's fate. Forward Isaiah Livers made 2 of 3 3-point attempts, but his teammates were a combined 1-for-15 from beyond the arc.

"The first half, I thought we took too many quick shots," Howard said. "What we're really good at is moving the basketball and making the defense work. My favorite possession was when David Dejulius had the ball in the slot area. He could have taken the shot but he passed it to the corner to Isaiah for a better shot. That's who we are, that's been our identity. Second half, we had some good looks and the ball just didn't fall in."

Unlike Michigan, the Ducks (7-2) have eased into their December schedule. They've only played one game this month, an 89-64 victory over Hawaii on Saturday.

Oregon won its first six games before losing a pair of close games to ranked teams -- a one-point overtime heartbreaker to Gonzaga and a four-point loss to North Carolina. Those defeats occurred in the same Bahamas tournament the Wolverines won.

The Ducks are led by senior guard Payton Pritchard, who is averaging 18.8 points and 6.1 assists per game. He had 20 points and 11 assists against Hawaii as the Ducks shot 62.7 percent from the field. The game was tied at halftime before Oregon erupted for 55 second-half points.

"We got some transition baskets," coach Dana Altman said. "I thought it was important to pick up the pace. I thought our press helped us with that. They just played with more energy in the first half than we did. We were standing around kind of like we practiced (last) week."

Altman was encouraged by the play of another senior guard, Anthony Mathis. He had 11 points and six rebounds after contributing only 11 points and six rebounds combined in the team's three previous games.

"I talked to him a lot about it because I thought when he wasn't shooting it well in the Bahamas, I thought the rest of his game suffered," Altman said. "I thought he played both ends of the court. Six rebounds, we'll take that out of him every time."

Oregon has never played in Ann Arbor.

--Field Level Media