After Jordan Morgan suffered a scary looking ankle injury early in Michigan’s win at Illinois Sunday night, John Beilein had a decision to make in the days leading up to Wednesday night’s contest with Northwestern -- if Morgan can’t go, who gets the start?
Morgan, held out of all live contact drills Monday and Tuesday, was forced to sit as his ankle continues to heal, leaving Jon Horford and Mitch McGary as the two primary candidates to start at the five in his place. Unsure of which way to turn after both reserve big men competed well in practice, Beilein said the decision to start Horford was made for him.
“Talk about sacrifice, here’s how part of the decision was made -- we were still here, because of this prep, we were still here last night at eight o’clock,” said Beilein. “Kids had study hall before practice, then we practiced, they ate, then we had some more film to watch.
And I said to Mitch McGary, I said, ‘Mitch what do you feel about tomorrow? I don’t know what to do yet, you’ve both practiced well.’ He said, ‘Coach, I’ve been coming off the bench for two years -- I’m cool with coming off the bench.’ And that really helped us make that decision.”
For McGary, who came to Ann Arbor as a highly publicized, nationally ranked recruit, to step aside, continuing his role within the team and allow his redshirt sophomore teammate, who’s been through so much disappointment in the maize and blue, speaks volumes about this teams chemistry.
“Jon was elated by it obviously,” said Beilein. “But if it had been the other way, Jon would have done the same thing.”
The smile on Beilein’s face discussing Horford’s play Wednesday night couldn’t be hidden. Horford not only got the start but also was a real plus inside on both ends of the floor for Michigan, compiling 10 points, seven rebounds, and three blocks in twenty minutes of play.
“People need breaks sometimes to get an opportunity and he really performed well,” said Beilein. “He’s not been healthy in two years really -- not what we envisioned for him. He’s doing a better job playing big and was huge tonight. He got a couple rebounds only Jon Horford can get.”
While Morgan’s status will continue to be evaluated in the days leading up to Michigan’s marquee matchup with No. 3 Indiana Saturday night in Bloomington, having the size, athleticism and attitudes of McGary and Horford ready to contribute should provide some level of confidence for the Wolverines with Hoosier sophomore center Cody Zeller waiting for them.
To watch Horford speak after the Northwestern win, press play below.