Team 102

Video & Quotes: Michigan press conference before Houston

John Beilein, Moritz Wagner, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Duncan Robinson were on the podium today to discuss Saturday’s game against Houston.

COACH BEILEIN: Yeah, it’s actually a lot of time because when you come out of a Big Ten tournament where you play four games in four days, it’s really great to have this situation where we can at least take a day and try to regroup a little bit. And we actually watched video of yesterday’s game just to make improvements from some of the areas where I felt our game was flawed against Montana.

But our team does have — has had time to watch Houston. A lot of respect for the program, a lot of respect for how well they’re coached. Really solid, defensive team, but can really score the ball. Got a lot of guys that can put the ball in the basket, with some three-point shooters that would fit well in our system as well. I mean, incredible three-point shooters. So we got our work cut out for us. But we’re thrilled to be advancing, and see what we can do tomorrow night.

Q. Coach, when Coach Sampson and the Houston players were up here earlier today they spent more time talking about preparing for your defense than your offense. It’s a far cry from the first 85 — first team to 85 points, which seemed to be your mantra for years. How surprised are you, or are you surprised, that you’ve become such a good defensive team and done so so quickly?
COACH BEILEIN: Well, I’ve said that this is an often-asked question, because we have — we’ve always been a good defensive team, but we’ve never been a great defensive team. I think we’ve evolved into becoming a great defensive team. Has a lot of factors in there, that we have good individual defenders. I’ve stepped away from trying to do everything and let our assistants really have a bigger voice in the game itself.

My eye, my mind drifts to offense all the time. So while we’re all — the head coach and the staff are all connected in what we choose to do, I’m really letting Luke Yaklich and last year Billy Donlon just really talk defense the whole time. But there’s been a lot of good changes that we’ve made, and that’s the only reason I’m coaching now 43 years after I started is because I’ve always embraced change.

Q. Coach, do you see any similarities between those Montana guards and then Rob Gray, and do you think that was good practice facing them yesterday?
COACH BEILEIN: It was great practice. I think that these guys remind me more of Carson Edwards from Purdue, who I think I might have voted for first or second team All-American. They are tremendous guards. They have jump shots. They can get their own shot. They got a little bit more size and strength than we had in the Montana guards. So it’s going to be difficult. We do have guys that can defend individually, but this is a whole new thing right now, that we weren’t able to guard Carson Edwards the first two times we played him. We were able to the third time. We have to do more like we did the third time tomorrow or we won’t be playing anymore.

Q. Coach, the distinguished coaching career of both yourself and Coach Kelvin Sampson. I’m sure you’ve had many encounters. What takeaways do you remember from those?
COACH BEILEIN: I think we’ve only played two times, and one obviously the West Virginia coach, and we had a Sweet 16 team there that played really well against Oklahoma. And then just it was like two years later when he came to Indiana I was at Michigan. So we’ve had good games both times. And I think we might have split those. And we got another great matchup coming tomorrow. Really solid, solid coach. Solid coaching staff.

Q. Coach, from the game yesterday, Rob Gray, what makes him such a tough cover for you guys?
COACH BEILEIN: You know, I watched half of that game this morning and I’ve been just looking at clips, because first of all, he’s experienced. I think he’s 24 years old. Right. We’ll have — I think if Zavier Simpson is on, Zavier is 19. There’s a big difference there. He might have just turned 20 actually. He just can get his own shot. He sees the floor well. His ability to get into spots without and still get his shot off in closed areas. A lot of guys can shoot their jump shot, but when they get in among the big fellows, can they still get their hands to the rim. He does that. So just really clever player.

But he’s not the player on that team. He’s not the only one. They got some really good players. Both of the Davis guys are tremendous. I mean, I haven’t seen a guy with his jump shot — I can only recall facing a guy with over 100 threes in a while. And for him to be able to get that shot off when everybody knows that’s what he does, that’s tough to defend.

Devin Davis, I remember from when he was at Indiana. I think he might even be related to Zak Irvin, one of our former players. Really good player, as well. He’s done a great job, once again a fifth-year guy there. So their average age a little bit higher than ours, and that shows sometimes in what an experienced team they have.

Q. Coach, you touched on this a little bit, some of the outside shooting, some of the experience. What else do they do that presents a challenge for you?
COACH BEILEIN: I think the offensive rebounding will be a thing. We’ve been really good. We’re one of the leaders in the country in defensive rebounding percentage. I believe they’re one of the leaders in offensive rebounding percentage. So same thing as Montana. They turn people over, we don’t turn it over. When those two things clash, somebody is going to win it. And so getting them off the boards, you know, they’re going to run a lot of pick and roll jump shot.

Well, while you’re hedging the ball screen or doing whatever you choose to do, their big guy is rolling right down State Street trying to get the rebound. And now one of your guards has to pick him up. And that’s a difficult thing for people. And especially make or miss, they can shoot it in. So you gotta contest. If they don’t shoot it in, you got a great chance at the rebound. So that’s a big concern of mine.

Q. Muhammad, why don’t you tell us about the scouting report, your game prep. How is it going? I know it’s a short turnaround getting ready for Houston.
MUHAMMAD-ALI ABDUR-RAHKMAN: Like you said, it’s a short turn around. We’re just now seeing film on them. We know they’re a great team. They won their first game. We just have to prepare for them.

MORITZ WAGNER: Yeah, they play in a very physical and talented conference, so it’s going to be a great challenge and very talented team in multiple positions, so it’s not going to be easy.

DUNCAN ROBINSON: Not much else to add. Just kind of getting into watching them and learning more about them. We’re about to practice right now. So hopefully we’ll pick up more from the coaching staff.

Q. Last night you guys and Coach Beilein gave a lot of credit to the Montana defense. How much was it the layoff. Did that affect you?
MUHAMMAD-ALI ABDUR-RAHKMAN: I think they threw some new stuff at us blitzing the ball screens. That gave us some trouble. I think you can add we did have a long layoff and we had some rust that we had to knock off, but that’s about it.

MORITZ WAGNER: I think some of it was definitely the lack of playing the last couple of days just you can’t really match game intensity in practice. So definitely some rust off in that game. But there are also some things that we could control and didn’t execute well. So kind of a mix of both.

DUNCAN ROBINSON: I think it was a combination of both. Give plenty of credit to them for what they did, but like both these guys said, it’s really hard to simulate game situations in practice. So hopefully we kind of got our feet under us now and we can move forward.

Q. Do you guys think the stopping the Montana guards last night is any indication or helping you practice for Rob Gray tomorrow?
MUHAMMAD-ALI ABDUR-RAHKMAN: They’re both all great guards. They provide different dynamic. They play differently. But, I mean, it is good to play against little guards like that in the first game to get us ready to contain Rob Gray.

MORITZ WAGNER: Yeah. There are definitely some similarities there in terms of how the guards look to attack, and obviously a good practice going into Saturday.

DUNCAN ROBINSON: Yeah, I think yesterday helped, but also just what we’ve learned throughout this entire year, I think we’ve played some really good guards this year, and our guards have really stepped up and done a really good job. So it’s going to take a group effort, and we’re excited for the challenge.

Q. Just more specifically on Rob Gray, I’m sure you guys have watched what he did yesterday. What makes him such a tough cover?
DUNCAN ROBINSON: He’s really skilled, and he plays a really good pace. Always under control. And he’s playing with a lot of confidence right now. So combine all those things, and he’s a tough matchup for anybody.

MORITZ WAGNER: I think he does a really good job between getting to the line. I think he shot like 15 free throws last night. And having a great perimeter game. So that’s really tough to guard. Yeah. It’s a great challenge.

MUHAMMAD-ALI ABDUR-RAHKMAN: I think he has a great balance of inside and outside game. He has a lot of experience, and he’s just going to be tough matchup for us to cover.

Q. Charles is often so stoic on the court and the three of you and Zavier Simpson have gotten so much press, you’ve been playing well lately. How much fun was it for you to see Charles play so well last night when the rest of the team seemed to be struggling?
DUNCAN ROBINSON: It was great. The energy he brought yesterday specifically was big for us. We were kind of lacking it. And he’s more than capable of that. He’s done it many times this year, but it’s a really good sign to start off this tournament to have him have a performance like that.

MORITZ WAGNER: Yeah, I think that’s the beauty of this team, that as soon as somebody lets down, or goes down somehow, somebody else steps up, and I think we are very confident in each other, and Charles proved that last night.

MUHAMMAD-ALI ABDUR-RAHKMAN: It’s great. It’s great to see that, especially he’s such a team player. He cares about winning more than anything, and to be able to see him make plays like that and have a good game, it was great.

Q. I just wanted to get your thoughts on the tournament so far here in Wichita, first time at this arena, and a long time in this city. How has it been for you guys so far?
MUHAMMAD-ALI ABDUR-RAHKMAN: It’s been great, first time in Wichita, great crowd, nice arena. Doesn’t get much better than this. And the fans, they’re basketball crazy. So that’s great.

MORITZ WAGNER: Yeah. Obviously we haven’t seen too much of the city yet, but been positive. Like I was surprised in a positive way from the weather. It’s a cool environment. And NCAA is always fun. So yeah, it’s a great experience.

DUNCAN ROBINSON: Kind of going off what they said, I’d never been in Wichita before, but pleasantly surprised by the weather, first and foremost. A lot warmer than Ann Arbor. So appreciate that. And also a beautiful venue here. And just the hospitality in general has been great. A lot of friendly people and a lot of people that really enjoy basketball. So it’s a fun place to play.

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