Here’s what John Beilein and his players had to say on the podium after their third win in three days.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll ask Coach Beilein to make an opening statement, then questions.
COACH BEILEIN: It was another day that as a coaching staff, you had opportunities to really appreciate your team many times during the year, and that was a great opportunity to sit back and watch them play ball again. The first, I don’t know, five to ten minutes, with a simple game plan, a few plays we just put in this morning that were just options to look at, all of a sudden they were making everything work. What I like best is they played connected again. It was just a gutty performance. When Minnesota made that run to come back, Derrick, Zak, put the team on their back and we got the W.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Zak and Derrick.
Q. Derrick, yesterday against Purdue, three of ten, four turnovers. Today I believe you scored 19 of your team’s 37, one turnover, nine assists. Is this a senior showing there’s 20 minutes left in your season and you got to show this team that you know what it takes to lead, stuff like that?
DERRICK WALTON, JR.: At this point of the year, the last game doesn’t matter. Like we said before the game, nobody cares that you were tough yesterday. It’s all about what you do today. I took that approach. Helped my team win it whatever way I could. Yesterday’s performance is whatever it was. It wasn’t even on my mind.
Q. Derrick, you’ve had a tendency this year to rachet up your offensive game at the end of the game. I think you scored 14 points in the last seven minutes. What is your mindset, how does it change, when the game starts to kick into the final stretch?
DERRICK WALTON, JR.: For the most part, I just try to read the game to see what is necessary at the time, who has a good matchup. For the most part, these guys have faith in me to make a play. That’s all I need, to know they trust me. It’s easy for me to make the right play.
Q. Zak, the first half, you shot 63%. Did it feel like you couldn’t miss? What did you see from the Minnesota defense in the second half that slowed that down a little bit?
ZAK IRVIN: Like Coach B said, we put in some new plays that we executed very well. People were just getting downhill, getting easy layups. That got us to a great start. We knew Minnesota was going to make their run, like they did in the second half, end of the first half. We were able to stay resilient and win the game.
Q. Two days ago, we were talking about what could have been a tragic incident, how you were going to respond coming into D.C. Now a couple days later, it seems like you’re a team of destiny. Do you think that incident helped you at all?
ZAK IRVIN: I think the incident just brought us closer as a team and as a family. We’re just going out there playing really connected, playing for one another. We’re trying to keep that going for the rest of the season.
DERRICK WALTON, JR.: For the most part, this team is really close, aside what happened. I think once we got to this tournament, was able to focus on basketball. We wanted to do something special. That’s all it really boils down to. We have another opportunity to do so tomorrow. We’re going to focus our minds on that.
Q. You are roommates, seniors. Talk a little about your mindset, Big Ten tournament, March Madness. Do you talk about it, has the urgency changed?
DERRICK WALTON, JR.: He’s been my roommate for four years now. We got this camaraderie and telepathy, we know what each other is thinking on the court and off the court. We talked about two games left in our regular season
This means a lot to us. We got her our freshmen year, wasn’t able to finish the job. Being one of the two leaders of this team, we want to make sure we get back and finish the job.
ZAK IRVIN: This is March. We want to be playing our best basketball in March. Derrick and I, one of other team goals was to win the Big Ten championship and the tournament. We have a great opportunity in front of us. We just want to keep it going.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, fellas. You may return to the locker room. Good luck tomorrow. We’ll take questions for Coach Beilein.
Q. With Wagner’s decreased offensive production in the second half, any concerns on the back?
COACH BEILEIN: Not really. His defense was our concern. He came out there, was very listless on defense. Got to fight through that. He’s been through a lot of these type of situations. The people he’s been guarding in the post are some big men. He saw that again with Lynch. He didn’t come out the second half. When you play like that, you are going to get in foul trouble. He was terrific in the first half. I was shocked he had the 17 points. The good thing we have, we have an experienced senior in Mark Donnal. DJ has played there before.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH BEILEIN: No. The same. At the five-minute mark, he’s probably going to get a sub. The big man has more to do than anybody. He’s hedging ball screens, running back, while the two guards stand in the corner guarding their man. He has to be in tremendous shape, which he is. But it’s hard to do that. He’ll play probably 28 to 32 tomorrow. Mark will play anywhere from 12 to 8.
Q. When they come back and get it tied up, then all of a sudden, it’s a ballgame again, what is your mindset?
COACH BEILEIN: Here is what I saw. I’ll tell you exactly what I told the team. That timeout was nothing to do about basketball. For the first time all year, I saw us bickering at each other. Somebody didn’t play defense. Somebody backed out. Somebody didn’t run a cut right. That was what that timeout was about. We talked to each other. Listen, forget basketball right now. We’re the most connected team. Now you’re disconnecting. You’re not going to win. It’s a great lesson for them going forward. Tomorrow, post-season, that can happen again. You have to stay connected during that time. There was no yelling or screaming. Settle down, we know what we have to do. Let’s guard defense. Let’s be together as a team.
Q. Between the circumstances surrounding your arrival in town here, now winning three in a row, that’s a wide range of emotion to have to deal with in a week. How are you dealing with it as a coach? What is your message for tomorrow for the team?
COACH BEILEIN: Before we knew what was going to happen last Wednesday, our whole thing was, Pack your bags for four days, right? I told them, I’m bringing four suits. We’re going to get this thing done. When Derrick went to the airport with me last week, when we flew to Nebraska, he rode with me. I drive sometimes. I just wanted to talk with him, not about basketball. I just wanted to talk with him. Coach, we’re going to go win that tournament. That’s my goal, is to win that tournament. This has been the message going forward. It wasn’t as much where I’m probably looking at the bubble and say, We have to win one or two games and win the tournament. These guys changed my whole mindset, Coach, let’s go win this tournament. Derrick did. Four days, pack your clothes, let’s go win it.
Q. The new plays that you put in, how common is that? How much confidence in Derrick do you have in terms of being able to execute things on the fly?
COACH BEILEIN: I haven’t been an assistant coach, so I don’t know what other people do. We have, like, a format. You can change one cut. It can change the whole play. They’re high enough IQ kids to be able to get that. It was just a couple of things, things that we were going to run against Purdue, that we didn’t run, now you could run here because we knew them well, just slight things. It wasn’t that. That wasn’t it. They really played with each other. We got a lot of shooters, a lot of passers, a lot of unselfish players. That was the difference.
Q. Based on the last 10 minutes of the game, it seems like you had the home-court advantage. How surprised are you being so far from home?
COACH BEILEIN: The Michigan difference (laughter)?
Wherever we have gone, I’m just telling you, if we play in New York, it feels like a home game. The East Coast, right? Michigan has so many great alums, so much support in that area of the country. A lot of schools in the Big Ten have that. I just think Michigan is really special, that we have so many students coming from there, just so much interest there. It was really nice to have that support. I could hear it. I think with Maryland knocked out, some people might have been rooting for an interesting, unique story, behind us being here. It’s easier for probably people to adopt us in those situations. When we played in New York, it feels like a home game.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.
COACH BEILEIN: Thank you.