John Beilein was joined on the podium by Moritz Wagner and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman after they lost to Villanova.
COACH BEILEIN: Just you could see why Villanova was the No. 1 seed. They were always in the top five all year long. When I looked at their scores in the NCAA Tournament, there were not even any close ones. They were dominating everyone, and after those first 15 minutes, they really just were a better team than us.
I’m so proud of our kids. We didn’t play in some areas well, and we didn’t make some shots that we usually make. But we got to put a lot of credit to Villanova, Jay Wright and his whole staff. In one day they did a great job of getting ready for us.
And we needed to play better, but even if we had played our best, it would have been very difficult to win that game with what DiVincenzo did, it was an incredible performance. Sometimes those individual performances just beat you, and you just say, okay, you take off your hat and say, good game. We played you the best we could. And tonight you were better than us.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Moe, in the first maybe 10 minutes of the game you were in an offensive groove. What things changed and what did Villanova do differently defensively after that?
MOE WAGNER: They just adjusted, I think. I came out aggressive and tried to do my job, and things went well, and I think we didn’t execute well offensively today.
Q. Moe, I was curious, how was the technical foul explained to you when you picked that up? What did they say happened?
MOE WAGNER: It wasn’t. But I wasn’t worrying about it. I just moved on to the next play. Stuff happens.
Q. Moe, you said they adjusted. How did they adjust? What did they do differently with you? Because it seemed like you were getting to the rim pretty easily on drives.
MOE WAGNER: I mean, I’ll have to watch the game, but, yeah, they obviously played the drive better. I guess I wasn’t as aggressive anymore, turned it over a couple times. Yeah, just went that way. You’ve got to give them a lot of credit. They’re a really good team defensively. When they play like that, it’s really hard to beat them.
Q. Muhammad, what did DiVincenzo do so well tonight that made him so difficult to stop?
MUHAMMAD-ALI ABDUR-RAHKMAN: He was making a lot of 3s. Anytime you get into a rhythm like that, where you can pull up from anywhere and just knock them down it’s tough to stop. You’re always on your heels defensively because you never know what he’s going to do — either shoot, pull up and shoot the 3 or drive to the basket. It’s tough when you see shots go in like that for him.
Q. Can you describe what was Coach’s message after the game and set that scene?
MOE WAGNER: As Coach always is, very positive. I mean, even though we lost today to a really good team and everyone is very disappointed, I think this team has proven a lot of people wrong. It has developed over the course of the year and achieved a lot this year.
If anybody told us in the preseason we’re about to make the national championship game, yeah, I mean we worked hard. We were very connected out there.
MUHAMMAD-ALI ABDUR-RAHKMAN: It’s just that it’s more than basketball. It’s a brotherhood. We’re a family. And tonight was rough, but we’ll always remember this run, this team. We’re 33-8 and nobody expected us to be here. And we’re just always going to remember each other and being part of this team.
Q. Muhammad, you guys came out to a seven-point lead. Walk us through those first few minutes of what was going right. And then was there one point where it felt like the momentum shifted the other way?
MUHAMMAD-ALI ABDUR-RAHKMAN: I think we just came out with a lot of energy. It’s the national championship game; you want to come out and play well. And I think we just had a lot of energy from the beginning, and they just made some adjustments.
I can’t pinpoint any moment where kind of the turning point turned. It just went the way it did.
MOE WAGNER: I mean, we made shots. They didn’t in the beginning. We guarded them really well and then we got sloppy in some things and they made plays. They’re a really good team.
Q. You guys talked about what a great run it was from early February to now. What do you think you’ll remember most? Would it be Jordan’s shot, will it be Saturday night? What do you think will be the ultimate memory that sticks with you?
MOE WAGNER: That’s pretty simple, I mean the relationships I’ve made in that locker room with anyone. People make the mistake to forget about the people that are not on the floor — coaching staff, managers, the little stuff. The relationships in that locker room are incredible, and I will always carry that with me.
MUHAMMAD-ALI ABDUR-RAHKMAN: I’d probably say the same — the relationships, just the daily, small conversations you have, when you come into the gym before practice. Being able to talk to everybody within the staff and your teammates and just anybody in the building really, it’s special to have and just the relationships, really.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for Coach.
Q. From your perspective, what did you see that Villanova did different defensively to kind of slow down what Moe, how he started off?
COACH BEILEIN: You know, they were switching every screen, everything that we did for a good part of the game, and they changed just enough to confuse us a little bit. The shot clock got to us a couple of times. And they just got really good individual — they forced us into a one-on-one game.
They wouldn’t let us run any of our stuff, and when we did, a couple of times we got a backdoor. We threw it away. We had another slipped pass that — when we got open shots we didn’t make them or we had open plays we didn’t get it done.
But they have a better individual defensive team than we have an individual offensive team. And that’s something we’ve got to continue to grow in.
Q. You said something on Sunday about Villanova’s advantage being sort of their continuity and the ability to redshirt guys. You look at a guy like DiVincenzo, a sophomore redshirt. Has Jay kind of found the sweet spot in today’s college basketball? He has guys that are going to play in the league, but they’re sticking around two or three years.
COACH BEILEIN: We’ve been able to get in that situation — like with Muhhamad-Ali, he was so underrated. Jay’s been able to do it with highly rated guys. And that’s something that — I think it’s every coach’s dream and there’s a bunch of redshirts out there.
And they saw a championship team two years ago. They said let’s just work and get better. So many young men are in a hurry to get out of the best years of their life. I think he recruits — escape from the best years of your life, that doesn’t make sense sometimes.
And Villanova has done a great job of getting the right kid who probably values that. And we try to as well. I mean, we’ve really done a good job, I think, doing that. But every situation is unique. We’ve had some guys go pro that I think, yes, you should go because this is a great thing for you right now. But others have stayed around. And those that stayed around are usually very happy they stayed around.
Q. Villanova did not lose this year when they had their full roster. They won 10 in a row by double digits. Do you have a feeling tonight you might have lost to an all-time great type of team?
COACH BEILEIN: Yeah, when you look at the whole package that they have, with — between experiences is rare in college basketball. Shooters at every position, passers at every position and defenders. We were trying to find out, who was the weak guy we can pick on? There’s a couple of guys that aren’t as strong as others, but it’s a tremendous basketball team. That team right there, could win a lot of Final Fours not just the 2018 one.
Q. That midpoint of the first half when you guys went up seven and then it switched, what did you sense happened there?
COACH BEILEIN: DiVincenzo, when he came off and hit those 3s and we could not answer. We had a couple really good looks during that time. Moe threw an air ball from the corner. There was another — I mean, things that were really plays we missed, Charles missed two foul shots. It was just things that we just stick in there and make it be like tied at half or something.
It’s really hard for us to be a get-back type of team, you know, get down by 12 or 13 and all of a sudden you’re going to roar it back. And so that was a big thing.
He made some really tough shots. We missed some probably better looks, but he made them and we missed them. And that’s sometimes how this game goes, and you really can’t control it.
Q. Sorry to bring up bad memories, but five years ago you got burned by a sixth man from a Big East team and it kind of happened today. Any flashbacks —
COACH BEILEIN: Thanks for reminding me about that. Thanks for reminding me about it. But you coach all year long. Just sometimes the other team’s better than you on that night. And we had lucky times that we were 33 times better. This is one of those things we were just not better than them tonight.
Probably on most nights we would be better, but we were telling our kids we’ve just got to beat them one time. We don’t have to win a seven-game series here. We just have to beat them one time. And it could have happened. It could have happened. But it did not happen today.
Q. DiVincenzo, a guy you game-planned for coming off the bench. You try everything against him, adjustments at halftime. You see Simpson shutting down Brunson. Is there anything looking back that you could have done differently against him?
COACH BEILEIN: I’ve got to look at the video, but we were — what they do with a lot, they slip the ball screens. When you’re slipping a ball screen, the big men, it’s a timing thing where he’s got to be up and jam him and get back and sometimes we went back too– with one day prep on this — yesterday we could not go out and just go out and practice as fast as we could against a guy who can shoot a dribble 3 and pass to a slipping guy.
So I wish we would have maybe gone out and doubled him or something. But I’ll have to watch the video. But he still made some really long shots that I don’t think there’s a defense for.
Q. When you look back at Moe’s first — 11 points in the first nine minutes and I think he hit his first four shots and he was the best player on the floor. Do you think it was more what they did or was it maybe he just got winded or?
COACH BEILEIN: We tried to run more action at them and they blew it up. They blew up a lot of our action. And I think that was something that we expected, but we didn’t react well on it. I mean, we would try to get into some action that was going back to Moe and we couldn’t get into it. And with us it’s usually two or three passes to get into some things and we just didn’t react.
We did a couple of strange things and all of a sudden the shot clock is there and that’s not a strength for us. And especially against individual good defenders. I wished we would have got in that action but they made it — they wouldn’t let us get it.
Q. Do you credit them more for what they did to him?
COACH BEILEIN: This is the way they play every day. This is what they do. And when they’re experienced at this like they are, they probably wouldn’t have done that two years ago with some of the things that they did. But they did it now. Those kids were watching Kris Jenkins and those guys play, and now they’re older and they know how to change a game plan in the middle or put a game — but I think the first half also, not having Duncan Robinson and Muhammad-Ali in there for much of that half was a killer for us. Isaiah Livers is going to be a really good player. For having him out 17 and Duncan for three was not good for us. Muhammad-Ali sitting out was not good for us.
Q. You may have already covered this, but you came out very aggressively, especially Moe, really took it to them early and do you think that DiVincenzo changed the tide?
COACH BEILEIN: He definitely did. I thought we took a step back. When he made those shots it was like, whoa. And I didn’t think we had the same fire on defense. We came out really scrappy on defense. When he made a couple it was like wow this is going to be really difficult. But I said we missed some open shots and Duncan not only can make shots, Duncan makes all our stuff go smoother. That really hurt us. We were really out of rhythm the first half the basket is away from the coach and you can’t talk them through that. I don’t know what the difference was, we only scored six more points when they were in front of us. But we just got out of rhythm and they got into rhythm.
I thought the end of the first half, those last two minutes when Brunson hit the deep 3, we backed up on and we shouldn’t have and DiVincenzo hit one really deep and it all of a sudden became nine, that made a big difference.
Q. With that Villanova team, they’ve got depth in scoring in so many different ways, is it kind of a pick your poison with them, if you had been told you shut down Brunson the way you did and some of the other guys?
COACH BEILEIN: I think the other thing that nobody has mentioned right here is that they’re averaging eight offensive rebounds a game. We’re the worst offensive rebounding team in the country. It’s not by design, but it’s sort of — it’s okay because we’re good in transition.
They’re averaging eight and they got 11. And they’re sneaky at getting those second opportunities, a little bit longer and quicker off their feet. They made some really tough shots. And they’re a tough team to stop once they get in the double balls. That was the big thing, getting in the bonus first half as well.
I don’t know if I answered the question. I just thought of the offensive rebounding which was killer tonight. We have played 42 games. Not once have I mentioned the words, boy, the offensive rebounding killed us. Not one time, and we played some big guys, but today they were better than us at getting to the missed shot.
Q. Now that it’s over, you look back immediately, the snapshot of this team, how would you summarize it? How would you define it? What’s this team’s legacy?
COACH BEILEIN: We had this ability — we had talent for being really young. We only had, like, one third-year player and two fourth-year players. Everybody else was really a novice because they never really played minutes. Just think about that.
In the beginning of the game we’re down in the second half to Southern Mississippi, beginning of the season, Central Michigan and North — we’re down in the second half in all those games. They just had such substance. They come from such great families, they didn’t, like, start pointing fingers or doing anything when we lost; it’s, just, let’s get better.
They were like let’s get better. There was the quiet leadership. There was leadership from Moe. They were much more vocal. That was just incredible growth because they were connected. And that’s what I’ll remember about this team. That is a very sad locker room right now, not because we lost the game, but because they know something special just ended.