John Beilein, Zak Irvin and Spike Albrecht were on the podium after Michigan’s loss to Wisconsin. Read their full comments in the transcript below.
COACH BEILEIN: If anybody watched this game you see how talented Wisconsin is. They’ve got a great game plan, but their size, their age, their strength, it was a huge part in the game. They got so many second‑chance points that it’s really a 50/50 ball many times around the rim, and they’re just longer and stronger and more experienced than us in some of those situations, and that was really a key to their victory today was getting extra opportunities.
Proud of our kids, however, because we shoot 50 percent from the floor, 40 percent from the three‑point line, but can’t get a W. They played their tails off and lost to certainly today a better team.
Q. Spike, you guys have played these guys really tough both times you’ve seen them. What is it that you guys are feeling when you’re going up against a team of that caliber and a team that you guys can handle pretty well?
SPIKE ALBRECHT: They’re a really good team, extremely experienced, senior‑laden. But I think the one thing we do well against them is we take care of the ball and we can make shots because they force you to hit toughs two and wild lay‑ups, and those are things we work on every day in practice. I think we executed our offense extremely well today and made shots when we needed to. We just didn’t get the stops.
Q. You want to keep playing? Are you excited to keep playing this season? Do you feel like you’ve maybe unlocked something here and have a chance to keep playing well?
ZAK IRVIN: Yeah, I would love to keep playing with these guys. I think especially these last five games we’re really starting to come together. We’ve had to fight through a lot of adversity this year. I’m just proud of how we’ve stayed connected and hope we can keep it going through the rest of their season.
SPIKE ALBRECHT: Yeah, just piggy‑backing off of Zak, I think we’re really starting to kind of gel out it. It took us a while, it’s been a process with so many young guys, but I think the past couple of weeks we’re really starting to figure it out, and I definitely don’t want the season to end, and I’d like to finish with a winning record for sure.
Q. In a lot of these conference games, there’s been a stretch where you’ve gone a while without a field goal, but today it looked like it was a lot more consistent scoring throughout. What was the key?
COACH BEILEIN: I think that our kids are getting more and more comfortable with making shots in difficult situations, just watching Zak Irvin grow here, to have an in between game and not just be a three‑point shooter. Aubrey Dawkins ‑‑ Spike in the first half was really good, and then we just ‑‑ we seemed to find an answer, we just couldn’t stop them. That was the big issue today. You can be on the other end of some of these teams like Wisconsin where the final score is like 70‑40 because they just get away from you with their defense. So really proud that we were able to score that many points, shoot 50 percent and get some threes to go down, as well.
Q. If you’re invited to a postseason tournament, will you accept?
COACH BEILEIN: To the NIT. We would go to the NIT. We’re not interested in any other tournament. It’s an NCAA Tournament. It’s one that I’ve fortunately been involved with several times. Two of our teams went to Madison Square Garden, one won the National Championship, won the NIT Championship, and Bob Huggins then took that same team and took them to the Final Four. Many times this type of opportunity is a precursor to future games, and if we could get that opportunity in the NIT, we would gladly accept it.
Q. You mentioned Zak and his performance today. What was it like to see him not only get the big point total but also get a bunch of rebounds?
COACH BEILEIN: Yeah, we were all watching what we’ve been ‑‑ he’s been working at. Our coaches have been coaching him, and he’s such a really ‑‑ coaches are only as good as their students, and he’s a tremendous student of the game. He’s learning more and more about it, and it’s showing every day for us. So the 11 rebounds, I’ll tell you a story. Last spring we were done and we were just playing pickup, and I was just saying, just go get a rebound. He didn’t have hardly any rebounds last year, just go get a rebound in that scrimmage. He got one. Go get another one. He got another one. Go in there. I said all you’ve got to do it just go in there. You’ve got nose for it, you can do it, and 11 rebounds for him today, a double‑double in that area with the assists he’s had, this is big steps for him.
Q. Was Walton available today or was it decided beforehand that he was a no‑go?
COACH BEILEIN: If he was available, he would have played, yeah. We’ve been waiting for him to come into the locker room and say, Coach, I’m at 100 percent, and he couldn’t do that. He’s still in some pain. We’re not going to play him with pain just from the standpoint that we don’t think he’s going to be as effective with the pain. And that’s the way it’s been for at least the last couple of weeks. The first three or four weeks we didn’t do anything with him, but he’s been trying to practice with us. He can’t go through a full practice.
Q. Even in all the adversity and disappointment that you guys have fought through this year, how big is it for you to see Zak and Muhammad and Aubrey grow in the last couple months as much as they have?
COACH BEILEIN: Yeah, and I wouldn’t ‑‑ we sort of try to roll with the cards that are dealt us, so it’s not like disappointing, it’s just the job to just get better. You have to formulate a plan and then you just grow from it. We didn’t wallow in this. We just continued to just work really hard, and if you try to ‑‑ as hard as it is, it’s hard for me personally, to see that silver lining, and it’s great to see these type of things. Those small victories, they may not be in a win but in a particular action that they read or do, those are the victories we’ve been looking for, as well.