Not only did Michigan return from Puerto Rico without a championship trophy, it also arrived home with a couple of injuries.
The 22nd-ranked Wolverines are uncertain of the availability of starters Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III for Friday against visiting Coppin State.
Stauskas sprained his ankle late in Sunday’s 63-61 loss to Charlotte in the championship game of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, while Robinson injured his back and was limited to nine minutes.
The 6-foot-6 Robinson was averaging 13.4 points and 6.0 rebounds in his first five games, and his loss could leave a void in the paint with forward Mitch McGary still working his way back to full strength after a back injury.
The Wolverines (4-2) could be in bigger trouble if Stauskas can’t go. The sophomore guard has been Michigan’s most reliable scorer, averaging 22.6 points and connecting on 48.6 percent of his 3-pointers in his last five games.
Caris LeVert is second on the team in scoring but has been inconsistent. He has totaled 10 points on 4-of-14 shooting in two of the last four games after scoring 31 on 12-of-21 shooting in the first two.
Stauskas was named the tournament’s most valuable player despite playing for the runner-up.
The Wolverines fell in the title game in excruciating fashion as Charlotte’s Terrence Williams converted a put back with 0.4 seconds left after McGary put Michigan up on a layup with 9 seconds to play.
Coach John Beilein believes the painful loss will make his team stronger down the road.
“We’re embracing this and saying, ‘What a great opportunity to grow.’ We had adversity like we hadn’t had, and we just kept plugging away,” he said.
Michigan once again showed great resolve Sunday, rallying from 12 down early in the second half after overcoming a 16-point deficit in Friday’s overtime win over Florida State.
”This was a real opportunity for us,” Beilein said. ”We’ve got some real important games coming up and this is a great opportunity for us to learn that each possession is important.”
Michigan’s next game is at No. 6 Duke on Tuesday, and it hosts fourth-ranked Arizona in two weeks.
The Wolverines first turn their attention to a Coppin State team that is off to a solid start after going 8-24 last season – the program’s worst showing since 2001-02.
The Eagles (2-2) have already gone to Corvallis to hand Oregon State its only defeat, and they’re averaging 81.3 points – 17.7 better than last season.
Sterling Smith is averaging a team-high 17.5 points on 58.1 percent shooting and has hit 11 of 22 3-pointers. He had a season-high 22 points in Monday’s 96-79 win over Division II Ohio Valley.
“This seems like the Coppin State teams of old that upset people in the first round of the NCAA tournament,” Beilein told Michigan’s official website. “This is the best team that I’ve seen Coppin State have. This could be a MEAC championship team. They are all playing at a high level.”
Although Beilein feels Coppin State can contend for the Mid-Eastern Conference title, the Eagles haven’t shown they can play with Big Ten teams, having lost all 24 prior matchups. Michigan has accounted for two of those defeats and cruised to a 76-46 victory in the last meeting in 2009.
The Eagles also haven’t had much success against Top 25 teams, losing 39 in a row to ranked foes since beating No. 6 South Carolina in first round of the 1997 NCAA tournament.
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