CHICAGO, Ill. — The Michigan basketball team is finally finishing the plays John Beilein has been coaching all season.
That much was evident as the Wolverines steamrolled Illinois, 73-55, in the second round of the Big Ten tournament. Aubrey Dawkins led all scorers with 18 points, while Zak Irvin added 14 and six assists.
After the game, Beilein met with media to discuss the biggest improvements his team has made.
On answering scoring droughts: “Huge three by Spike Albrecht there when they had made a long run. He had a great game today, and when we shoot the ball like that, it opens up a lot of things. He’s tired; he’s beat. But he’s all we’ve got right now running that team. It was important that we made that one. That was the best part of the game for me: We were up big, they ended up answering, and we went right back up big. That showed a lot of growth.”
On Dawkins and Abdur-Rahkman’s chemistry: “When they say ‘chemistry,’ I think they’re thinking more about timing. It’s not like, ‘We’re friends now.’ The chemistry term they use is our timing. It takes defensively and offensively. There’s all these actions going through their mind. If somebody if one step late, or didn’t read what they read, it throws everything off. That’s the chemistry they’re referring to. We’ve had no issues with anybody not getting along or not wanting to pass the ball. They just don’t see it, and now they’re seeing it. Zak Irvin is a great example. I haven’t like anything like this for a while, where a guy has five assists after eight games and all of a sudden he’s getting that many in one game. He’s just grown like crazy.”
On Zak Irvin’s assists: “He’s never had to. He’s been a shooter, a shooter, a shooter. Now, at this level, you have to be more than a shooter. If he wants to help us win, if he wants to have a great career after Michigan, have to be more than a shooter. Have to be a defender, and a passer with his size, and he’s shown great strides there.”
On playing with nothing to lose: “We really have nothing to lose right now. These kids have been through tremendous opportunities to become better basketball players, for us to represent the university. What do you do? You’re going out there and representing Michigan again. You’re representing the guys in the locker room. Just go after everything you can do, and don’t worry about the score.”
About playing loose: “We certainly came out pretty loose. Like I said, the last few days of practice have been a little bit eye-opening as to some plays that all our guys have made. I watch practice every day, then I watch it again on a video, and then I show them cuts on the video. There were some really positive cuts last night at 9:30 at night that I’m showing them. Kam, that’s what we’ve been talking about. Aubrey, Muhammad, this is the play we’ve been talking about. Look, you just made it!”