John Beilein addressed the media after Michigan’s home win over Nebraska.
“I’m just so happy for our guys. When you go through funks in your season—it’s incredibly hard to practice anyhow, and then after you lose it’s even harder for everybody. To have guys come in with a little bit more bounce in their step before we go to Wisconsin. They go to class, they’re proud of themselves. They played as hard as they could play today. I’ve seen some good guards come in here. And maybe it was just today. But those two guys—Webster and Watson—was as good as a performance as I’ve seen in here. Valentine and Trice and Forbes did it last year to us. A couple of those things you don’t have answers for—the Tim Hardaway step-back three. I’m talking Tim, Sr. … (Webster’s) going to get buckets on anybody. … This team is good. … They’re playing for Tim (Miles). He’s a good friend of mine. People of Nebraska should be very proud.”
Walton’s play down the stretch. Have you been waiting for a moment like that?
“He’s had a couple this year—SMU. That consistency is what we’re both trying to get for him. That’s what he’s capable of. We needed him badly. You can see where we got in a little bit of foul trouble in the first half, everything just stopped. He needs to be aggressive. It’s not often that you have a point guard that can really shoot like that. I’m really proud of the way he shot and ran the offense. And Zak (Irvin) as well. Seven assists and two turnovers. Two bad turnovers and I let him know about it, but seven great assists. Took the ball to the basket. 7/7 from foul line. He’s not a 90 percent guy from foul line. That took some real courage to go up there and be perfect.”
On final few minutes of first half:
“I thought it was critical moments in that game. We were playing well offensively and all of the sudden it just stopped and our timing was off. We do not want to turn the ball over against the zone and don’t want to get the extra foul on Derrick or have him play olé defense. So we did it. I’ve never done that before. I felt the urgency in that moment that we had to do that to try and get stops. We might have gotten a couple, but we didn’t get a whole lot. We didn’t stop them very often today. We outscored them. And if that’s the way it’s got to be for a while, while we shore that up, that’s what we’ll have to do. … I was just trying to make sure we had our best offensive guys against the 1-3-1 zone. We were a little spooked by it, and we needed some veterans in there against it. That’s what happened with Maryland (against Nebraska. Nebraska) was getting beat by Maryland, went 1-3-1 zone, Maryland got spooked and it turned the game around. I didn’t want that to happen. And I think Duncan hit a huge three that made a difference.”
On three-point defense:
“Two guys on our scouting report that are shooting in the 20s made threes for them. … You can’t stop what Watson’s doing late in the game. You want to make him make a contested three. … He’s an elite player. … We went zone in second half because we had no answers. Tim put his shooters in, they shot us out of the zone.”
Defended rim better in second half?
“I didn’t see it. We changed one coverage that we had not practiced a lot, and I think it worked, and we’ve got to look into that again.”
Aware of players meeting last night?
“I was aware of that and encouraged it. … They basically told me yesterday when I wanted to talk to them for five minutes after film, ‘Coach, we’ve already got it. We’re going to meet in the hotel. You don’t have to do anything, just keep coaching us.’ They only said that after I was prodding a little bit. We practiced well but we didn’t have that bounce you’re going to need. Their success last year in making the Tournament can get in the way of the next year sometimes in how you practice. If you get punched in the mouth, to get up is a little harder if you’ve had success. When you haven’t had any success, you can get back up better.”
Did “white-collar” comment lead to meeting?
“It might have. I don’t think that’s the first time they ever heard that type of thing. It’s motivation, certainly, for them. … We do not have a bunch of white-collar kids. We have kids that are tough, hungry, trying to get better every day. It’s not as natural to them. And there’s nothing wrong with being a white-collar kid. My dad wore a white shirt like this every day and I’m OK. And I was one scrappy guy growing up.”
When Wagner is that hot and then you trust someone else to take over, is that a conflict?
“They went small and switched every ball screen so we couldn’t pick and pop him. We tried to get it inside a couple of times but they switched. We’re still playing off action. I want to get the ball to Moe, but when you have five guys that you all believe in, we were sort of playing off (Nebraska’s) action. Because they were changing things up quite a bit.”
A big step for Moe to embrace shots?
“Oh yeah. What I keep talking about all the time, ‘Am I ready to give him that Pittsnoggle—hey, go.’ His numbers are so good. Some guys when you dial up a play, they’re not as good at it. When you just let them play out of freedom, they’re much better. Moe, I dialed up every one of those threes in the second half. We’ve done it a few times—did it against Maryland the other day—and he responded to it. It could set a whole new opening of the court for us.”
Got to free throw line a lot:
“We have just emphasized get two feet in the paint. We’re still not great at it. We’ve still got some guys that on that first bump (from defender), they pick it up (their dribble). Many refs will make you play through the first bump if it’s not egregious. When we get that first bump, and it’s incidental contact, we pick it up. We’re trying to get guys to drive through that first bump. They did it better a couple of times today, but we’ve still got to get better at it. We like to shoot that jump shot. We like to pull it back instead of getting two feet in the paint.”
Could outscoring teams be this team’s identity?
“We can score points as you can see. It’s uglier to try and win 46-43. We’ve had some of those games in the past. Trying to outscore people, you still have to defend better. I don’t think we’re going to say, ‘The heck with it, we’re Paul Westhead and we are going after it and don’t care if you score, we’re going to score faster.’ We’re not doing that. We don’t have the depth or right players to do that. We’ve got to find these little steps to try and get better. … Since the four-day break, (Wisconsin will be our sixth game). It’s hard to change your philosophy when you’re just trying to get rest.”
Does Wagner’s offense give him more confidence on defense?
“That’s a good observation. He blocked two huge shots in this game. We’re just trying to find a way to have him grow in that. If you watch him block shots in the past, he turns his head and tries to block (without looking). It’s a habit we’re trying to break.”