Nik Stauskas, Jordan Morgan and Glenn Robinson III joined John Beilein in Michigan’s postgame press conference after the Wolverines escaped an upset in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal against Illinois. Read the full transcript of the press conference below.
COACH BEILEIN: Well, we’re thrilled to get that win because as you can see, as Illinois has shown in their last six games, how well the program has played after a tough January. To win at Michigan State, to win at Iowa, and to win at Minnesota in that stretch shows you how good they are. So we had a lot of respect for them coming in. They proved how good they were, and, fortunately, we got some good bounces around the basket to finish the game.
Q. Nik, can you talk us through that last look and kind of what your read was giving it to Jordan?
NIK STAUSKAS: I just came off a high ball screen. I was looking to be aggressive, and I raised up to shoot, and the guy guarding me was still chasing me, and the big came up to me, too, and J‑Mo rolled down the lane and he was wide open. I hit him with the ball and he laid it in.
Q. For Jordan, if you could go through that play, too, and kind of the concept of always being ready when you’re not a main offensive option?
JORDAN MORGAN: Well, coming out of time‑out, Nik told me he was going to shoot it regardless, so I wasn’t necessarily ready for the pass. But I don’t know, just watching the shot, there’s been times in the past where they’ve passed that, and we weren’t ready because they thought they were going to shoot. So just kind of watching the play, and then as far as catching it, I just put it on the rim and got a nice roll.
Q. Nik, you talked about the importance of going to the postseason playing your best basketball then. How close or how far do you think you are from Michigan playing their best basketball at this time?
NIK STAUSKAS: You know, I think we’re coming along pretty well. I think we still have some strides to make defensively. I think that’s where we’re really going to be at our best once we start locking down defensively. But I think offensively we’ve been doing a pretty good job so far. Guys are getting better at communicating on defense, getting in the gaps and all that kind of stuff. We’re confident in our abilities, and, I think, going forward we’re only going to keep getting better.
Q. Nik, Glenn, talk about the zone that they played and toward the end of that second half, it seemed to give you guys some problems. Was there something you guys didn’t see on film?
GLENN ROBINSON: They were playing like a 2‑3 zone and it was really high, so they know we have a lot of shooters on our team, so they were kind of taking that away. We tried to hit the middle, and once we did that we got a lot of open looks, but we weren’t hitting jump shots today like we normally do. In the first game we knocked down a lot of threes.
NIK STAUSKAS: Pretty much what Glenn said. I think we were getting some pretty good looks in the zone. They were doing a really good job, though. They were making it tough for us at the end of the shot clock. We were getting some pretty good looks, and I think this time around we just weren’t making the shots we normally make.
Q. What was going through you guys’ mind when Illinois started mounting that huge run and was starting to get back in the game?
JORDAN MORGAN: It was tough because they had us in a‑‑ they were in the bonus, and so they were just attacking the rim, and it was hard for us to necessarily just stay in front without fouling. So that made it tough defensively. And, then, offensively we went through that stretch where shots just weren’t falling for us, and I think it kind of just builds, so we just kind of needed to break out of that.
Q. Jordan mentioned the huddle in there and drawing it up. Can you take us through what you wanted and what you saw?
COACH BEILEIN: Well, the difficulty was going to be whether they were going to be in zone or man, so we tried to call a play that works against both, and we still had timeouts left. If we didn’t like what we saw coming up, I was going to use another time‑out maybe at the 11, 10‑second mark. But they came out in man, and so we were just running something to get Nik the ball, and then get him some action, and then he just read the floor. If he shot it, fine. If he found somebody else, fine. We had Glenn, we had Caris and we had Derek‑‑ or Spike, all coming open at the same time, as well.
Q. Jordan mentioned that Nik said he was going to take the shot regardless. Is that kind of a step in the right direction for him to kind of take the load on his shoulders, but at the same time be wise enough to make the right read?
COACH BEILEIN: Yeah, I don’t know if that’s good or bad. He doesn’t really predetermine like that, but I want him to think that way, thinking I’m going to shoot it in. I don’t want him to go off that screen looking to pass and being wide open. So he had the right‑‑ he came off, and then looking to score‑‑ if he doesn’t have his eyes on the rim, he doesn’t get double coverage, and then Jordan is not wide open.
Q. Can you talk about that defense, as well. Was it kind of a 3‑2 that they played a little bit earlier in the second half?
COACH BEILEIN: No, it was all 2‑3 zone. They ran some full court action just to slow us down. I’ll have to look at the quality of our shot a little bit. Nik went two for ten in the game and‑‑ I think those were the best shots he got were against the zone. He didn’t knock them down, but we had people knock down big ones early in the second half between Spike, Glenn Robinson, Derrick Walton, but we’re going to have to make some of those because they were really packed in there.
Q. I want to ask you about being ready in that situation. Even Horford when he was in the game with hands up ready, just in case he was going to get the ball and kind of coaching that mentality?
COACH BEILEIN: We do a drill, probably every other day, that I saw from a team we played in the NCAA Tournament. It’s just a guy running to the rim with his head turned looking. It’s a lot of action, a screen and roll play, but you don’t know what’s happening. You’ve got to be able to catch it here, catch it here, catch it with balance and put it in.
I’m telling you‑‑ I probably exaggerate, 10,000 times‑‑ at least 2,000 times in five years Jordan Morgan has run that same drill. There’s a bag hit him, you still got to catch it in a crowd and keep it up and dunk it if he can. He said he wanted to add a little drama to the game, so he decided to put it up on the rim.
But he’s practiced that very often.
Q. There are six Indiana kids on your roster. How important has the state been to the recent success of the program?
COACH BEILEIN: Well, I think it’s been‑‑ if you look at the footprint of the Big Ten, there’s some very good players who grew up in this environment watching these games, so we’re looking anywhere within that footprint. And we have a lot of respect for the coaching in a lot of states because we have guys from Ohio, we have guys from Michigan, we have Illinois and Indiana. It just so happened during this little run of recruiting, they sort of all came in together a little bit.
It is important, and we’re going to continue to recruit in that state as well as the others within the Big Ten, and anywhere nationally where we find the right fit.
Q. I’m guessing you don’t have a preference who you play tomorrow?
COACH BEILEIN: Absolutely not, no. These are two really good teams. We’ve played Nebraska at home, but we played Nebraska on the road and Ohio State on the road. They’re both really talented teams, or they wouldn’t be playing right now in this game. We’ll watch a little bit of the game and see what we can do.