Here are the highlights from John Beilein’s post-game press conference.
“Exciting to see a good crowd. I think we’re running a record for 9 pm games. But still a good crowd. And to have our team play that way in front of them. I think we saw that a little bit at the beginning of the year, a long time ago—seems like years ago—in the SMU and Marquette games, which are turning out to be great wins now, where we get clicking offensively and it leads to better defense as well. Muhammad-Ali (Abdur-Rahkman) did a great job on James Blackmon, a terrific player. They’ve got a really good team. The breaks went our way an awful lot today. The ball went in, the ball bounced our way, a lot of good things happened for us, and we fed off of us. Just love the way we played wire to wire a really good game.”
On Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman’s defense:
“I don’t know if kids go into college saying, ‘Oh, I’m going to be the defensive stopper.’ They want to be the leading scorer. And it’s difficult to have kids have that mindset. But everybody needs everybody to do something — like DJ going to offensive rebounds. That’s probably not what he wants to do, but if he’s going to help us win and make a living playing basketball, he ain’t going to be just a 6’10 shooter. There’s jobs everybody has to have on this team, and that’s the one we want Muhammad to embrace. It’s all about an attitude, and he had it today.”
On Walton taking a charge:
“It’s huge. You haven’t seen that as often from our guys. I thought that there was another one, too. We know we were very handsy in the beginning, and we said that any foul we’re going to have, is going to be right here, right in us. We had another one, I think from Muhammad, and we really did a good job of just staying in front of them. And they’re difficult to stay in front of — they’re averaging 80 points a game. They still shot the heck out of it but we created enough turnovers so that they didn’t have enough shots at the basket tonight.”
On answering Indiana’s runs:
“I think the ball bounced our way a few times too. We made some shots. I’ve seen Moe shoot that Dirk Nowitzki shot 50 times in practice. First time I’ve ever seen him make it. So the ball was bouncing our way. If he keeps making it, I’ll let him shoot it. The ball bounced our way a little bit when it had to. And it’s bounced the other way for us this year, so we’ll take it. ….”
On inspiration for team’s play over past few games:
“I can’t explain that right now. I do think that we have a better rhythm — we know who our players are, we know what is a good shot, what is the play. I think the coaches have a better feel for what Mo can do, what DJ can do … Zak and Derrick, we don’t have to be so dependent on just them. So I think that’s probably what’s happening offensively. And defensively, they see the numbers. They don’t like it. The challenge that has been put in front of us is that maybe we’re not tough enough in the Big Ten, and they’re embracing it and trying to do something about it.”
On Duncan Robinson:
“… We really think we can stretch people with him, and I like what Duncan did defensively. We went in there and that’s a tough team for him to guard because it’s all downhill dribbling. It seems like the Calipari dribble-drive offense. So he did a good job. When they go zone, you’re going to see a lot of Duncan.”
On what he didn’t like:
“I didn’t like that kid hitting those threes at the end. I didn’t like that at all. He’s a great shooter, and we watched him shoot it. I didn’t like that. But that was about it. And I didn’t like that we gave up the three to Bryant, too. We told them he can shoot it and we sat and watched him, but we’ll take those. We’ll take those.”
“Just look at his shooting percentage inside too this year compared to the last couple years. It’s growing, and he’s worked really hard at it. … There’s an art to finishing around the rim, especially with a body on you. He’s really worked hard at that. He’s finishing better there, and that’s big. … Knock on wood, but we believe he’s a great three-point shooter. The two-point game, if he can shoot well from two, that’s a really good sign for us offensively. And he did a great job defensively as well because Robert Johnson’s a really good player, their point guard, he’s a fourth-year guy. …”
Rewarded for defense in this game?
“It’s been a work in progress all year. We’re only probably four or five possessions away from some other good wins. We did have some great possessions (tonight). We created turnovers by just being active. It’s a long way to go. … There are no rewards yet. We’ve got 10 more games to go. It’s a great feeling for those guys to know, ‘Hey, this is how we’re going to win going forward…defensively is going to be key.’”
Can transition offense be a motivator for playing defense and rebounding?
“That’s a tough thing for people to put together: ‘If we defend and we get the rebound, we’re going to get the ball on the 30-yard-line and we’re going.’ It’s the hardest thing for people to put together, that the reward for good defense is a fast break. Especially against a team like Indiana that crashes the offensive boards…just defend them, and box out, you’re going to have a fast break the other way … We did a lot of box-out drills this week.”
Do you wonder where this team has been all Big Ten season?
“…There are going to be times when we look like a million bucks and times we’re not ready. Don’t forget, DJ and Moe are really evolving yet. They are really playing crunch time minutes for the first time. They are going to do things sometimes they have to learn from. We’re capable of a lot of things; a lot of teams are. … We’ve just got to stay persistent, keep working, and see how this evolves. Just look at that schedule—it makes my stomach sick looking at what’s coming up.”
To get Duncan and Muhammad going like that—was that the “outlier” thing you were talking about?
“If Muhammad can be an outlier defender. We just had a talented player like Blackmon and shut him down—that’s something we’ve never been able to do. Caris (LeVert) could do a little of that sometimes; he did a great job in that. Tim Hardaway, later on, became a really good defender. Zack Novak would take a guy on. Stu Douglass was really good at it. So getting someone like that. And then Duncan…I want him to shoot every time he gets it. I just want to let it ride because I see it in practice. But he can’t come off a screen and say, ‘Am I open?’ He’s got to think he’s open and turn down the shot instead of measure it. So something like that is going to be huge for us. Mark (Donnal) coming in and hitting a three was good.”