Wednesday , August 10 2022

Michigan Wolverines fall in first round of Big Ten tournament in Juwan Howard’s return to sidelines

INDIANAPOLIS — Michigan coach Juwan Howard called his return to the team this week an “emotional ride,” following his first game back on the sidelines Thursday after serving a five-game suspension.

But his return to coaching lasted shorter than he anticipated.

The Wolverines led by 17 points with less than 13 minutes to play before Indiana stormed back to capture a 74-69 victory in the opening round of the Big Ten tournament on Thursday.

“You could see in the first half, we came out with a lot of energy, we got our coach back,” Michigan guard DeVante Jones, who led the team with 18 points, said after the game. “I’m mad that we didn’t get the W for him.”

Indiana outscored Michigan 31-9 over the last 12:52 of the game and snapped a nine-game losing streak against its conference rival. The 17-point comeback is the second-largest in Big Ten tournament history.

Howard resumed his role as coach Monday, meeting with players individually first before leading his team back at practice Tuesday. He apologized during an emotional news conference Wednesday in Ann Arbor for striking a Wisconsin coach in the head during a heated handshake line last month, which led to his suspension.

Howard assumed his role on the sidelines for the first time since Feb. 20, when following a loss to Wisconsin, he struck assistant Joe Krabbenhoft’s head after a heated exchange in the postgame handshake line. Howard said after the game that he felt like he was protecting himself, but he also apologized for his conduct in the postgame news conference. Howard said he is seeking therapy in a move agreed upon with the school.

“Did I get sleep last night? No,” Howard said following the Thursday game. “But I love teaching, I love coaching, I love being here, I miss being with my guys … but now, it’s roll up our sleeves, stay dialed into the competition and continue to grow as a coach and also as a person.”

Perhaps Howard’s contriteness did not reach the fans at Gainbridge Fieldhouse, featuring a large contingent of Hoosiers fans, who booed Howard from the opening introductions and each time his name and face popped up on the video board.

The Wolverines were animated coming out of the locker room, yelling and screaming down the hallway before taking the court before the opening buzzer. One Gainbridge Fieldhouse security attendant remarked that it was the loudest they’d heard any team in the locker room before a game.

“We were just happy to have our leader back,” Michigan center Hunter Dickinson said.

Michigan was on the bubble of the NCAA tournament before this game and now finishes the season 17-14, including the Thursday loss, with an 11-10 mark in the Big Ten, as the team waits to hear its fate Sunday.

“I’m going to wait on Sunday with my players and see where the chips fall at the end,” Howard said. “But at the end of the day, you know, whatever is decided, I’m still proud of how this team, coaches, the Michigan family has been together.

“And we talk about family, we don’t use that word loosely. But our family was challenged throughout the year, and I love how we have been able to stay connected through those times.”


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