Watch Michigan’s press conference after knocking off Oklahoma State on Friday afternoon or read the transcript below.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll begin right now with an opening statement from Coach Beilein, and then we’ll go to anybody for questions.
COACH BEILEIN: Seeing play Sunday, it gave us some good prep time. That prep time didn’t make me feel any better knowing the weapons that we were going to be facing. If somebody would have ever said that we’re going to give up 91 and we were going to win, I wouldn’t have thought that was going to happen.
We had enough firepower to withstand their incredible offensive talent and get enough points. Just really compliment Oklahoma State. They had a great year.
Really, I didn’t know Brad Underwood at all. I have huge respect for who he is and that program. The Cowboy fans should feel lucky with the direction the program is going. Really happy for our guys. We had to make shots. Early in the game, we settled way too much. This is like seven games in a row, everybody switching every ball screen. We’re used to it, but we settled a little bit.
Their pressure bothered us early. Once we settled in, we were fine. Really proud of these kids and looking forward to playing the winner of this game right now.
Q. For Duncan and Zak, what’s it like playing with a point guard who is operating on Derrick’s level right now?
DUNCAN ROBINSON: It’s a lot of fun, first and foremost, to know you’ve got that rock that you can always count on. He’s been so good, and we go as he goes. So hopefully, he’s got more left in the tank.
ZAK IRVIN: He’s a heck of a point guard. He makes things easier for all of us because he attracts so much attention to himself, which frees up everyone else. He’s been on a tear, and I know he’s going to continue to do it.
Q. Derrick, you got off to a little bit of a slow start and then obviously got it going. What changed for you? Also, after you hit a 3 from the top of the arc to put you up 6, you seemed to be turning toward the crowd, saying something, what was that?
DERRICK WALTON: Just playing with a lot of emotion. That’s all it really was. And Coach B said it perfectly, they pressured us and took us out of sets. We haven’t played a team that got up into it in a minute. It’s hard to emulate that in practice. With their athleticism, it’s hard to emulate. In the second half, I settled down, I just wanted to make the right play consistently.
Q. Coach, this question is for you. Oklahoma State seemed to be able to press you guys and cause some issues allowing maybe the ball to go out to the 3 in the first half. What were they able to do with the press causing your offensive struggles?
COACH BEILEIN: They were trying to slow us down and make us change in the middle. At the same time, we had 19 assists and four turnovers. So it just took us just a little bit out of our rhythm. And then the shot clock’s going down. And we just, at that point, I just thought there’s five, six times, everybody in the country was saying they got to stop settling, including me and including them, but we did it.
And we learned from it, and it didn’t happen in the second half. So we just — shooting the ball from 3 is part of our package, and we can do that, but we can also drive it in there too and throw it in.
But today, we were really good at hitting the open man. Derrick’s 11 assists, overall 19 assists, that’s a big number with only four turnovers especially. We valued every possession.
Q. John, if you could talk about what your team gains from going through a last minute like that, where you have to hit the free throws, all that pressure, and you have to face pressure defenses and stop everything that was involved in that last minute.
COACH BEILEIN: That’s the world we’ve lived in. You go back to that tremendous game against Northwestern just two weeks ago, last second game. Nebraska’s the only one that doesn’t get there. Nebraska, maybe Illinois has got a good enough lead.
All the other games, it’s been two or three minutes to go. Anybody can win. For us to execute our press offense to get it inbounds is very difficult. When they still have four fouls to go and you’ve got to inbound it four times from a similar spot, you only have so many inbounds plays. That was close, and we got it done.
We weren’t great with our energy at that. These guys heard about that, but those are all the things that I think, hopefully, will come to help us in the road ahead.
Q. Zak, you tied a personal best 16 points for a tournament game. These games already mean so much given it’s one and done. Given you’re playing here at home, does it mean anything to you? Does it add anything to the game like this?
ZAK IRVIN: It’s always nice being able to come back home, playing in front of your family and friends. Most importantly, I’m worried about us winning. We were able do that this afternoon. We’ve got to continue to play well.
Q. Derrick, when you go through a 1 for 6 first half the way you do and you come out and hit your first five 3s in the second half, what is it about your mindset that allows you to completely forget about the last shot and keep firing away?
DERRICK WALTON: Just my mindset, I just tap into the fact that I know I’ve worked really hard and trust my mechanics for the most part. Halftime, I talked to one of my good friends on Team Doc, and I changed my shot a couple times. It’s just the mindset and the trust these guys have in me, it makes me go out and just play much more free just knowing they have a lot of confidence in me.
Q. For Zak and Coach Beilein both, in a game like this, it seems like there’s pressure on every possession to score. Most basketball games, it’s no big deal. If you don’t score today, the other team’s on a run because they’re scoring. How much does that change your offense or is it fun to get into a game like that? You feel like everybody’s making it so we can keep making it?
ZAK IRVIN: Coach touched on this earlier. It’s ability to settle down and get into a flow and rhythm. We settled too much on offense. Once we relaxed and were able to play our game, I think it helped us out.
COACH BEILEIN: I continue to say the 30-second clock, that 5 seconds made a huge difference in who we are. So we find ourselves simplifying things a lot more. They were taking away some things, running quick hitters or just playing off ball screen reads. So I think that’s the way the game has gone.
I may be — over that time, I have evolved a lot as a coach, seen 43 years of a lot of change. We continue to embrace that to be able to play downhill, but do it with shooters as well. But that’s a big part of our game plan, one-on-one, and guarding one-on-one will have to continue to improve for us, but we’ve got to keep working at it.
Q. Derrick, what’s it like dealing with Evans? Have you gone against many point guards that quick?
DERRICK WALTON: I think he emulated a lot of quickness that we play against every night in the Big Ten. I think he emulates a lot of guys in the conference I play against, just quick, downhill guys. The difference between the Big Ten opponents and their opponents is he has the ball so much. He puts a lot of pressure on the defense.
I think he’s a really good player. But like I said, I think he emulates a lot of quickness that’s in the Big Ten as well.
Q. Coach, regarding Zak, it’s been well reported that he’s a leader on this team. How does that transition happen at this level, at this collegiate level? How does a player go from a freshman in a new circumstance to four years later being a moral center for this team that could be counted on?
COACH BEILEIN: We can write a book on this one. This whole time, he’s unflappable. Periods in the sophomore year, he lost his backcourt. The sophomore’s supposed to fill in the blanks. Now the sophomore is one of our most experienced players.
We learned so much through that. He learned so much from that. What has happened, what I’ve seen, he had a year right now where when we weren’t playing well, right, he was not confident in what he was doing.
He was unflappable through it all. All of a sudden now, if you check his stats, he’s shooting about 50 percent overall and from 3 during these last five games when it really counted. I had several questions about this. When do you turn to somebody else? I said I’m not turning to anybody else. We’ve got a team. Zak Irvin is in there and will take shots because he makes shots. We have a lot of confidence in him. I wouldn’t do that if he hadn’t shown extreme selfless leadership during the entire four years here.
Q. John, you got control with about four minutes left when Oklahoma State went three or four possessions without scoring. I think they scored twice in six possessions. Forte missed a couple. Evans missed a drive. Do you remember that stretch and were you doing anything different or just played good defense, and they missed?
COACH BEILEIN: I think when we did force them to miss, if you look at the numbers, they got offensive rebounds. That was a big thing when they could get it. It’s very difficult when you’ve got a downhill driver like that, he can throw anything off the board. The natural rotation is to go to the level of the ball.
Guy’s got a running start to come in. I think that was a huge difference in the game was their ability to — those 13 rebounds, I betcha they were — I can’t say where it was, but I’m sure 20 points easily just going downhill. So it wasn’t any magic.
Now, sometimes, the ball just bounces your way off those rebounds. Maybe sometimes we do box out a little bit. But overall, we limited their possessions that we had earlier in the game, early in the half.