Michigan head coach John Beilein was pleased with his team’s win over Northwestern on Wednesday night as the Wolverines picked up their 20th win of the season. Beilein discussed Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Aubrey Dawkins’ big performances and what the win means for Michigan’s season.
“It was a great basketball game. Two teams really playing hard, playing smart, playing together as teams. I’m really impressed with Northwestern and I’m impressed with Chris Collins and his staff, you’ve got a great mix of offense, of pro-style stuff that we do see, but that we don’t see in that steady progress with some of the things he was doing, and it was hard to guard.
“With only a day and a half for us to prepare it was hard and we made some mistakes but then all of a sudden they have 29 at halftime and I felt good. I didn’t feel good being down 17-4, but at the same time, I decided to let our guys play through it and make a couple shots because I though we did get some good shots.
“We practiced for the last couple days, they have been playing in every video that we saw — unless we were way off — they were playing this matchup zone, matchup zone … and then they played 100-percent Man. So I think that really threw us off in the beginning … But I’m happy we were able to stop them in the second half and still put up 44 points.
“I’m really happy with the bench, the bench was huge today. Everything from Kam just getting in there and getting a rebound and making a foul shot, Ricky making those foul shots at the end, obviously Aubrey was a catalyst again for us. They didn’t play a lot against Maryland, I thought we had a good flow and we were scoring points, but what’s happening with Aubrey right now is his defense and rebounding is really growing and that was key in this game.”
On Abdur-Rahkman’s play
“You just see all kinds of baskets that he gets, and because his assist numbers weren’t what we’d like them to be, we were hesitant to put him in situations where he’s got to do a lot of reading — let him grow that. Every day after a game that we practice, we — ‘Vall and myself and Jeff — put him through a steady diet of reading the ball-screen. And reading’s one thing, but he also can just take the ball to the basket and get a hoop. So it was big, we liked that matchup today.”
“We tried to use him more. Since Derrick and Zak, they’ve been horses for us, are a little tired, we played through him more than ever.”
On team’s toughness
“I told our team that, that I’m proud of that. Because sometimes that’s questionable about teams, especially I’m sure with us. But it’s a young team that’s learning toughness, they’re learning what it takes to win and how to fight through adversity. That was as good a win as we’ve had all year as far as I’m concerned. Down 17-4, with a very veteran team out there that was carving us up and we didn’t cave.”
On bench play
“We need that. You see all of our good teams over the years, we had a bench that could just come off and get us some baskets. Spike would find somebody open, he would do something. Jordan Morgan or Jon Horford would come off the bench and get something done, so that’s key for us. They’re earning the trust every day, we continue to work with them, but they’re doing it. A lot of it is related to defense as well, we’ve got to be able to trust them on defense.”
On talking with team about NCAA Tournament push
“I did. I rarely do that, I don’t talk about it in January. We do talk mention Selection Sunday (throughout the season). If you’re playing Elon, that’s going to come up on Selection Sunday if you don’t win that game. But now it’s like immediate … They understand what’s at stake. You’re not going to hide it, when you get down to the end, you have that urgency. (Northwestern) is a good team, and as they finish strong here I think it will help us.
“I put it in our fast facts today. ‘You’ve got to play this game like the NCAA Tournament bid is on the line.’ … This is on the line every game now, and I loved the way we responded.”