John Beilein praised Michigan State’s defense after the Wolverines loss at Breslin Center.
“Really good way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Really is a great basketball game. Loved the way our kids competed. Michigan State as well, just really worked their tail off. They’re always a challenge, wherever you play them, to score on, and we just really couldn’t get good looks. They just shut down a lot of things that we do. They had a great defensive plan and it worked really well. We still could stick in there, they didn’t kill us on the boards like they have sometimes up here, and we did a great job for the most part on some of their primary guys. At the same time, McQuaid’s play — he hasn’t been shooting well, we left him open three times. You can’t do that. It was only a matter of time before he started shooting better and we made him healthy.
“So we lost each half by four points, that’s two or three possessions, they won big in two halves, and that’s the story of the game. We’re really anxious to watch the video and see how we can get better. Play through physical contact, play through physical contact, we did not do it in the first half and I can’t wait to show it to our guys. Not to berate them, but to show them what we’re talking about — if you’re going to play in the Big Ten, if you’re going to play in the NCAA Tournament, if you’re going to play in the pros, what you can do when you have some kind of physical contact on offense. You can’t settle, and we did it, and it cost it.”
On Zak Irvin:
“He did not practice the last two days with the flu. So he didn’t go to practice at all. Not an excuse, he’s not making an excuse, he told me at halftime, ‘Coach, I’m fine.’ But he did not practice on Thursday, he did not practice on Friday … Saturday, he did not practice as well. … We were just trying to save him and hope that he could do alright. But it was obvious that he wasn’t himself.”
“We were trying to, but Muhammad was in foul trouble as well. When you look back at it, it probably was the right thing to do. He’s one of our best passers, he’s one of our best scorers, he plays three different positions for us, it’s hard to take him out of there. As long as he tells me he felt right. If he felt he was dizzy or anything he wouldn’t have been in there.”
On Michigan State’s defense:
“They’re just really good at being physical with their defense without fouling. We did get to the foul line a ton, so I do like that we did that, but it was basically Derrick Walton who got to the foul line. So they were just really physical with us. In the first half, a couple of our guys, when there was a wall in front of them, there’s a move or a counter-move or just keep on going. We stopped. … When they see it on video, they’ll learn from it. We’ll get better. … As we grow as a team with a couple of our young guys, they’re going to learn and get better from it, and I’m excited about the opportunity they have to improve.”
On Derrick Walton:
“He’s been up here three times. … I think he understands this rivalry probably as good as anybody out there. But he’s doing it in all these games right now. I know he feels bad about it, but we’ve got to get ready for Ohio State now. …”
“… He’s playing well right now, as well as he can play. Let’s just say that.”
Were second half turnovers self inflicted or was it Michigan State’s defense?
“I thought their defense was terrific. We’ll look at it and try to find a way to do some things better. … When we’ve been able to beat them, our offense was really clicking and really good. it wasn’t tonight, and credit Michigan State.”
More respect than animosity with rivalry these days?
“I have (respect). You can ask Tom (Izzo) that question. I’m not one of those guys. We’re going into these games, and we respect everybody, but they’re the enemy for 40 minutes. Then you go back, and this is college basketball. You’ve got great rivalries. … You’re all here, the place is packed—why? Because you’ve got two great programs going at it. … Those 40 minutes are not a war, but two enemies going after it. Maybe they feel differently. That’s how I feel about anybody. Wherever I’ve been, there have been those other teams you’re always trying to get. I’m more about the bigger picture. A win or a loss to a team does not make our season. It’s about what you’re doing at the end of the year and if your team is getting better as you go through the year.”
On Michigan State’s freshmen:
“They just isolated him and he just took it right at us. That hasn’t been a strength for us, just guarding the dribble, guarding a guy one on one. Great spacing on it, shooters out there. I thought one of the most impressive plays was—it was really a dagger—the fast break where we were loaded up thinking this freshman is going to charge into us and we’re going the other way, and he threw a direct, perfect pass to McQuaid in the right corner. That’s an exceptional play, and there are very few who can do that. He’s not playing like a freshman. Ward is such a good player. Cassius was absolutely tremendous today—was a big difference-maker in the game, the way he got to the basket, got through our ball screens, made some good plays.”
Ward and Wagner double tech:
“You’d have to look on TV what happened. I think it’s that normal, as people are going to their benches they’re crossing. Probably inadvertent bump. … They pulled them together in our huddle which probably created more of a thing. They (the refs) got control of it. Passion on both sides. I wouldn’t make too much of that.”
More on Michigan State’s defense:
“They really guarded the pick-and-pop on Moritz really well. … If we’re not driving hard on pick and roll and making their bigs guard us, if we’re just throwing it back to Mo to get another action it doesn’t fool anybody. So that’s something we’ve got to do. But they were really good at that. And then individually, on some of our guys, they played great individual defense. They’re a little deeper than we are right now, and they had some fresh bodies.”
On road woes:
“It’s all been the same story. … There’s been two or three possessions that we’re just not as good as we need to be. That’s college basketball. This team’s going to have great challenges down the road. I don’t know how many we have left, but that’s the way it is. …”