John Beilein, Trey Burke, Zack Novak and Tim Hardaway Jr. were invited into the interview room after Michigan’s overtime win against Minnesota. Here’s what they had to say:
THE MODERATOR: We’ll ask Coach Beilein to make an opening statement, then go to questions for the student-athletes. Coach?
COACH BEILEIN: Minnesota, in the beginning of the first half, just showed incredible quickness. We were– I think it put us back on our heels immediately. We hadn’t seen that, that type of defense, and it was great to start the game. And it took us a while, dug us into a big hole.
I’m really proud of our guys, the way we fought back. If you watched our team on the floor, there was always poise; they were working very hard; there was a lot of diligence involved in what they were doing. And just the ball got bounced our way and it did at the end. We wouldn’t get in that position if these guys didn’t stay persistent and keep their poise during that game.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Trey, Tim, and Zack.
Q. Zack, how hard is it to guard against complacency, when you win the Big Ten and after what you went through last week and then to come into this tournament?
ZACK NOVAK: With this group of guys, it’s not very difficult. I think if anything, what we saw today is– we had a longer layover than we’ve had in a while. And that team, they played really well. You gotta give them a lot of credit. They made big shots. They played with a lot of energy, and it kind of took us some time to get back into the flow of things.
But complacency is not a huge thing that I worry about with this group. We’re pretty focused.
Q. Guys, any of you can talk about the last sequence before Evan’s 3-pointer that tied the game at the end of regulation.
THE MODERATOR: Tim, take that one.
TIM HARDAWAY, JR.: Talk about what now? Oh, every 3 was huge. I think that was the first bucket that he made throughout the whole entire game and, you know, it came out the a great time. We ran our play, out-of-bounds-play. It didn’t work. Stu got the ball. Didn’t force anything up, and then they left Evan wide open, and he’s been making shots like that in practice all year long and throughout the season, so we had total confidence in him making that shot.
Q. With about four minutes, to take that 9-point lead on Rodney Williams’ dunk, Trey, can you just talk about how this team maintained its composure to send this game into overtime and then win it?
TREY BURKE: We maintained our composure the whole game. Once they went up, we just continued to huddle up every kind of ball and every chance we got. We just kept telling each other that we weren’t going to win it on the offensive side; it was going to be the defensive side that was going to help us come out with the win. That’s what we did. We got down late in the game and our bigs stepped up and Zack, Tim, we all stepped up on the defensive end and we sent it into overtime, and that gave us another chance to get the win.
Q. Zack, talk a little bit about– I think you guys hit five straight 3-pointers at the end of regulation and three to start the overtime. Just talk about that sequence right there, how that propels you for the win?
ZACK NOVAK: Yeah, I think that’s why we’re a pretty dangerous team, because we have multiple people that can get it going, an knock down shots when they’re open. So except for these two right here, our whole team had been struggling. So you give guys credit.
Evan, on the bench a long time, comes in the game, was able to knock down a shot. Trey’s doing whatever he wants, so I pretty much get wide open there for one. I think Tim hit me on another one.
And when you got two guys that garner so much attention, you know, and guys can get wide-open shots, then that’s our job to knock it down.
Q. Trey, can you talk about the momentum you felt at the start overtime after having come back from nine points at the end of the second half?
TREY BURKE: Well, we came without a different attitude as a team. Like I said, it was the defensive end. We came out, you know, overtime, I think we had– we didn’t score in the first possession, but we knew that was gonna be on the defensive end. We locked down, got on the boards, and we just came out with another mindset as a team. As a team, we came out, we told each other that we’re already together and things like that, and we got the win.
Q. Zack, how frustrating was most of that game for you? Was it just shots not falling for you or just something that they were doing?
ZACK NOVAK: You know, they just did a really good job just flying at me. And they’re so athletic and just long. So for me, struggled a little bit just getting it over them. But thankfully, there at the end, like I said, these guys were so hot that I was finally able to get freed up a little bit and knock them down.
Q. Zack, does this help a team agreed for the NCAA Tournament when you get a game like this, a scrappy game like this?
ZACK NOVAK: Without a doubt. Sometimes you like to see your team go through a little bit of– through a little trouble like that to see how they’re going to respond and see how tough we are. I think we passed the test today. We played a team that was fighting for their lives. They came to play and they played very well.
And for us, we didn’t do some of the things that we typically do. To able come out this game with a win is huge, and that’s what you gotta do at this time of the year.
Q. Trey, you had scored 27 against Minnesota during the season. Did you think you could get your shots against this team tonight? Were you trying to be a little more aggressive looking for your shot? Or just your mindset offensively tonight.
TREY BURKE: Well, the coaches just tell me to take whatever the defense gave me. We seen that in the first half. They had a little trouble guarding the pick-and-roll action, so the top of the key was kind of open for an 8-foot jump shot. Towards the second half, they were kind of making me not use the screen, so it allowed us to get be able to get down in the lane and shoot lay-ups. And a couple times they had pinched in, and that’s when I hit the shooters on the wing. Like we say, we knocked down big shots when it mattered.
Q. You guys have been really good with end game adjustments the entire year, but you didn’t have the lead the first half. So can you talk about what you did to adjust and actually grab the momentum in the second half?
THE MODERATOR: Tim, take that one.
TIM HARDAWAY, JR.: Yeah. I think just coming out and we’ve been in these situations before, especially during the regular season versus Northwestern at home. We were down by eight or seven at halftime, and we just worked our way back, got in overtime, and made sure we took care of business.
We’re not afraid of these type of moments. We just keep on fighting and just let the best come to us and just try to take what our defense gives us.
Q. Zack, what makes it this team so good in late-game situations when it comes down to the wire?
ZACK NOVAK: You know, early on in the year, we did our back-to-back situations every day where, you know, if you scored a bucket, it wasn’t a point and if you got a stop it wasn’t a point. You had to do it on consecutive possessions.
And I think that’s really what’s propelled us is that kind of no matter what’s happening in the game, we’re not making shots or they’ve exploited us on defense. For whatever reason, that last four minutes comes and we just– we become different people I think. And we’ve just– everyone’s locked in and we’ve been on it.
And I think we’ve been through it so much times at this point with this group, you know, with the exception of Trey, everybody played major minutes. They’re pretty much upper classmen now, and he’s like an upper classman.
But I think when you’ve got that type of group with that experience, late game, when– there’s nothing we haven’t seen.
Q. Tim, this is your third straight really solid game, scoring 20 despite only making one 3-pointer. Do you feel like you’re finally getting into a grove this season, near the end?
TIM HARDAWAY, JR.: Yeah, most definitely. And it just comes from practice and my teammates behind my back a hundred percent and just sticking with me through rough times and the good times.
So just getting in the gym, getting extra reps up. These guys right here and Stu and Evans, as you know, is very key for me and just giving me momentum going into practice to make sure I knock down shots and momentum going into the game.
Q. Zack, two guys sitting next to you combined for 50. At what point tonight did you guys just say, let’s get out of their way, let them take over here?
ZACK NOVAK: Well, Trey had it going from the beginning. I think we saw that. That’s kind of how it typically is, though. I just kind of let them do their thing. And if I’ve open, then throw it to me. And if not, do what you do.
Then Tim came out in the second half and really got it going, hit some big shots and jump-started us offensively because we had struggled a little bit except for Trey. So we got that other person going. Just looking at stats, they both played incredible. Without them stepping up, we don’t win this game.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much. You may go back to the locker room.
Questions for Coach Beilein.
Q. Coach, obviously some struggles on the boards. How difficult is it to just– when you don’t have that extra body in Jon Horford, some of the things he’s been able to help you with in the past?
COACH BEILEIN: That was I think the most frustrating part of the beginning of the game. That’s why I’m so proud of them. We had– their athleticism. I think we had three lay-ups, two of them were pinned against the backboard. And then coming down, sometimes it was four or five possessions. The ball’s in the air, we have to do a great job of boxing out and sometimes it’s not enough.
We missed that sometimes, but you basically– some of our young men had to just– not even trying to get the ball, just get into the guys’ legs and let Trey come and get the rebound because if we’re getting in a jumping contest with some of them, we can’t do that.
It’s been difficult all year. You see once we went to a four-guard lineup, that really has hurt us, but it’s given us some things on the other side.
Q. Zack and Stu didn’t do much offensively for almost the whole game, but they still came back and hit some really big shots near the end. Talk about their–
COACH BEILEIN: I think it was part of the Minnesota game plan that they were going to not give help off of them. Some of the action we do is based on if you’re going to give help, we have one action; if you don’t give help, then we’re trying to exploit the drives. We only got five 3s off in the first half, which means they weren’t giving help.
It’s sort of a middle-of-the-court attack that we use at that time, and certainly it allows us to play two on two or three on three. And that was their choice. So it worked very well for a long time, and then we just got enough penetration at times and enough confusion through some things that we got some guys open. Got them open.
Q. Down nine late in the timeout, can you look at your players and can you see in their eyes that —
COACH BEILEIN: I was very thankful. I think there was four or five minutes left. That was enough for us, that we can do that. We just needed to get open a little bit, and we had to really– we simplified things a lot at that point and really tried to play off Trey’s penetration.
And I think even in that point, we missed– I think we missed a couple of foul shots or a one and one. I think we missed two lay-ups and a little pull-up jump shot all during that time. But they didn’t– here’s the big difference for this team.
When they have those times, we went down and guarded. When we didn’t get stops, we got stops. Or when we got stopped, we got stops on the other end. That was big. That could have been seven or eight the whole time. It’s nine. We don’t score, well, but then we score the next time because it was still nine or it was because it was still six. Our defense won that part of it.
Q. John what impressed you most about Burke’s performance tonight?
COACH BEILEIN: The story just keeps going on because I feel like sometimes I’m talking to a senior. He is talking to me in the game about things that he thinks we can use in our offense. And it’s a pleasure. It’s a wonder to have a guy who understands basketball at 19 years old as a freshman like he does. So he’s easy to coach.
He wants to win more than he wants to score points, but he also is not afraid to take it at people. And then his foul line performance, although down the stretch there of going four– I think it was four for four, when we were trying to get away from them and we were trading baskets was huge as well. Poise.
Q. Timeout with about three minutes left, you had a big speech about all the experience that they’ve had all season. Can you talk about what you said to them?
COACH BEILEIN: I think we’ve been in so many tight games, if that’s the one you’re talking about, that we had beenthrough so much, this is nothing right now for us to be– they had to win games. We have been winning close games. We’re used to that. We just gotta do the right things.
And it was all going to be about our stops. It wasn’t going to be what we dialed up on offense. It was going to be our stops. And they got that, and then when we did that up on offense, the kids had to make big shots. And just all of them, the shooters said, what we need, tonight, you’re practicing a lot, we need you right now. So if you’re open, knock it down. And sure enough we did.
Q. John, just getting back to Stu and Zack for a second, you mentioned that Minnesota dictated their keeping them from getting shots early, but they still had to make shots at the end when they’re open after they haven’t scored all night. Can you talk about the mental toughness that–
COACH BEILEIN: That was Evan as well. Evan was in foul trouble the whole time, and those are big– that’s who those guys are. They’re not the guy that’s going to go in and be a highlight films. They are a highlight film in how to play steady, good, solid basketball. That’s their highlight film.
You talk to a lot of coaches, that’s what we prefer to have many times. You gotta have those glue guys to get it done. And whether they get two or three in a row early in the game or hit two or three in a row late in the game, they’re the same guy. They just want the ball in their hands if, in fact, it’s the right team shot.
They don’t get thirsty, so to speak, if they’re not getting their shots. They way wait for the game to come to them, and that’s what’s made our team so resilient this year and so solid.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you very much. Congratulations.