John Beilein was pleased with Michigan’s performance in its easy 59-point victory over Youngstown State and shared his thoughts on Derrick Walton, Zak Irvin, Aubrey Dawkins and more.
“I came into this game with the expectation from watching the video and watching us in practice — we had been making really good steps in practice — that we could win this game. I did not expect us to play like that. I felt like with the way we were running the floor and the way we were defending, it was like some of the better teams that we’ve had in the past. As I watched Youngstown play some other teams, they’re playing other teams a lot tougher than they played us, so I hope that’s a good sign. I thought the beginning of the game was all about the intensity that Caris, Zak and Derrick Walton brought to our defensive end. I mean they were intense — Duncan as well — with the mentality that we’re going to shut this team down.
“I challenged them. I think our defensive field goal percentage is around 40%, and one good game could put it under 40, and they did that. Because if you look at the really good defensive teams, they’re somewhere below 40, so we’ve got to continue to do that because that’s the easiest way to score, especially against the zone, is to run.”
On Derrick Walton’s triple-double:
“They told me just before, and I said the same thing. This time I did not think about the hamburgers, I knew something was going on … and they said he was one away from a triple-double, and it was rebounds that he needed. The ball’s got to go your way for a rebound, and sure enough he got a couple real quick.
“I don’t know what it means. I don’t know how ling they’ve kept the stats — I best Cazzie Russell had a couple of those, I don’t know if he did or not … But we’re getting up and down the court and we’re getting up and down the court defensively so we can get assists. (The Penguins) have been playing some 85-possession games so we felt it could be that type of game and that it could help us if we could get out and run.”
On Zak Irvin:
“Just needs to make a couple shots, that’s all. There’s nothing wrong, it looks like it’s going to go in. It’s (like) the golfer who comes back and all of a sudden isn’t making the putts, it can grow on you a bit. He just needs to make a couple and has got to get more reps. When we get through exams, I think he has one more … he’ll do a lot of work, but right now there hasn’t been time to just make shots, make shots and make shots.
“But I love (the rest of his game). He’s become a point-forward for us, we try to put him in all kinds of situations, and it’s quite a difference for a guy who had five (total) assists last year at this time after the SMU game.”
On Aubrey Dawkins’ improvements:
“Well the coach gave him some minutes to play, that helped him compared to the other games. But he’s playing better defense. All of our guys have to understand, there’s only one way to win in the Big Ten (and that’s) if you play defense.
“We’ve been preaching it and preaching it, and some guys have to just watch it. He’s gotten better and better at it. It’s not like these guys are like ‘Oh, I’m not going to play.’ The game is just going so fast sometimes, but what I think really helped us is that this team played a lot like Northern Kentucky — the same type of style.
On improving the team for Big Ten play:
“It’s tough to look back at it, because you can’t really touch it. But there’s times in practice where it’s still so frustrating because for some guys it’s been 50 practices, some guys 150, some guys 250 and they’re still doing the same thing. But just having this growth mindset that we’re going to get one of these, just how can we speed it up?
“I’ve seen a couple glimpses of these. Like Aubrey’s dunk on the break there was about his first three steps. He is lazy getting out of the box (on defense), he thinks he can win the race at the end. As soon as you see the rebound, you can win the race in the first three steps. Now he sees what it’s like.
“I’ve seen glimpses. I don’t see a team like we had a couple years ago — not yet — but it gives us hope that we can keep moving forward.”