The Michigan Wolverines are Big Ten champs, but that doesn't make them the best at everything.
Michigan put on a phenomenal scoring display in its 84-53 win over Illinois on Tuesday night in Champaign, shooting 56.9 percent from the field and hitting 16 of 23 3-point attempts. It earned the Wolverines their first outright Big Ten regular-season title since 1986. But their postgame locker-room celebration left much to be desired.
Perhaps it was exhaustion from making all those shots, but they didn't seem as excited as they should have been after doing something that hadn't been done in 28 years. There was happiness and smiling and clapping and trophy-raising, but absent was the typical high energy you see in these types of situations.
It was nothing compared to the celebration that followed Northwestern's win over the same Illinois team earlier in the season. If you recall, Chris Collins' first Big Ten win was met with a leaping and screaming bunch of Wildcats.
Even head coach John Beilein used the term "quiet moment."
“We focus on this so much at the University of Michigan — and I think every team in the Big Ten does, they focus on winning the regular-season championship. So it’s hard for me, they asked me that right away, I didn’t even know what to say other than it’s a goal and you accomplished it," Beilein said. "I think there’s a quiet moment there, a humbling moment that you just say to yourself, ‘Wow. We did it. Now what do we do?’”
Now, Michigan's expectations are high, and a Big Ten title won't get them back to the national championship game for the second straight season. It's knowing that fact that was likely the main reason behind their less-than-exuberant celebration Tuesday night.
“We’ve got to keep focus. As soon as you start to get comfortable, as soon as you get content, satisfied, that’s when you lose that edge that you had," Michigan forward Jordan Morgan said. "This is great, we’re happy, but we’ve got more things ahead of us and we’ve got more basketball to play.”
“It feels good. We just understand that we don’t want this to be the high-point of our season," forward Jon Horford said. "We understand what we’ve accomplished, and when it’s all said and done, we’ll celebrate this win again, we’ll celebrate this accomplishment again. But for the time being, we know what’s coming. The road ahead, it’s a long road. We’ve gone through it before, so we know we have to stay focused.”