Juwan Howard, Frankie Collins, Hunter Dickinson and Caleb Houstan were on the podium after Michigan’s win over Colorado State.
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THE MODERATOR: Your thoughts about today’s victory.
JUWAN HOWARD: Thank you. Appreciate it.
First give credit to Colorado State, their staff and players. Obviously they have shown throughout the game that they deserve to be here, how they came out and competed from start to finish. I’m proud of our team and how in the second half, despite some of the plays that didn’t go our way in the first half, our guys really stuck it in mentally.
I think that was a true test for us of mental toughness and how our guys rallied by being down seven at the half but then also in the first half being down 15. I think the last game we played versus Indiana, that was a great learning moment for us and how we have to of course not feel that we’ve got to play the scoreboard, but it’s everything that happens between the lines. I’m just happy to see overall we got the victory and everyone left the court in good health.
Q. Frankie, Devante Tweeted at you; your teammates supporting you. What was your feeling going into this one?
FRANKIE COLLINS: They really just told me to be Franke, so go out there, play with confidence and lead the team. I felt great going into the game just from all the Intel from the coaches and from Devante from here, from the beginning of the season to now.
Q. Caleb, you said during a time-out your team looked nervous. In the second half, when you were talking to the sideline reporter — no? Okay. Well, coming out of the second half you looked a lot different. What was different for you in that second half?
CALEB HOUSTAN: Basketball is runs. They went on their run mostly in the first half and I think we stayed in it, got another gear, and kind of made our run in the second half and didn’t really look back, so yeah.
Q. Hunter, how important was it to come out with more defensive intensity in the second half? Looked like you were getting more deflections.
HUNTER DICKINSON: Yeah, in the first half we were giving a lot of easy looks. Any good team in Division I basketball can hit wide open looks like that. So we really tried to lock in and buy into, you know, just guarding in our person and our man and just playing Michigan defense out there.
Q. The spurt in the first half when you went down 15, you had the three-point play and the layup in transition, what were you seeing on those plays? Was it an emphasis to be aggressive? And how important did you feel like that stretch from Frankie was in the second half to get it back to ten after they had extended it to 15?
FRANKIE COLLINS: I just saw that we were kind of struggling getting the ball in the basket, so just being aggressive will help us, whether it was getting to the line or making a basket.
HUNTER DICKINSON: Frankie was just being Frankie. He’s an aggressive guard who is able to get downtown and finish. He was doing that out there. We have full confidence in him to do what he does. We’ve seen him practice throughout the year, and so we all have full confidence in Frank.
Q. A lot of freshmen who had not started all season might find this moment too big for them. Why wasn’t it for you?
FRANKIE COLLINS: At the end of the day, it’s just basketball, so I mean, I’ve been working out, practicing, playing basketball my whole life. So if you just go out there not thinking too much and just do the right things and do all the things you’ve learned, and then you’ll be okay.
Q. Talk about the hot shooting in the second half and where that came from for you guys.
CALEB HOUSTAN: I think we got good looks moving the ball, running in transition. I know for me and Eli and Frankie, it’s fine for me when I’m open and stuff like that. So really made it easy for me because of them.
Yeah, I think we just stayed confident, shot our shot like Coach says, and yeah, it fell, so yeah.
Q. For either of you players, your coach mentioned the learning experiences from the Indiana game. When you were down 15 in the first half. What was it like maybe between the players in the huddles and was it different than last week or did it feel different?
HUNTER DICKSINSON: I know I was thinking, shoot, if they can do it to us, we can do it to them. That’s what I was feeling.
Q. You’re known as a slasher, great defender, lot of confidence. Your perimeter shot, and people saying Frankie, if he could get a perimeter shot, he’d have it all. Early on you looked hesitant but then you hit the big three. What’s the status of your three ball beyond the arc right now?
FRANKIE COLLINS: Right now just confidence and stepping up and shooting it. If teams are going to play — I’m not going to let a team dictate how I play. If they back off, I feel like I can get by you and still make something happen.
JUWAN HOWARD: Before we go to the first question, I just want to piggyback on what Frankie said about the shot, making the shot, open shot, missing it and not consistently being, you know, I don’t want to misquote you being a sticker, we would say, that’s our terminology.
If you go back and look at our practice numbers, we work on a lot of shooting in practice, this year, leading up from start of July 1, leading up to currently now. And his shooting is always high. Great shooting percentage and the way he shot the ball today, you know, first time, you know, you get out that, it’s not as easy. You get an opportunity to shoot it, you miss it, and then come back and you get an opportunity again and shoot it and make it; it just shows the level of confidence he has within himself.
But as a staff, we always feed the confidence in all our guys, because they work on it. What we see work on it, hey, you’re open, let it fly.
Q. Anything about Frankie’s game a surprise to you? How much do you think your team was inspired by Jones and what is his status going forward?
JUWAN HOWARD: Well, you get back to the recruiting. When I had an opportunity to watch Frankie play, I’ve always been impressed with his skillset and I feel he fits our style of play. His performance today does not surprise me.
Throughout the season there’s always going to be guys that have high minutes or low minutes depending on situations, and you read the game and see, you know, which guys would you put in during those particular moments.
Devante Jones was our starting point guard, and then you look at Eli Brooks who is another combo guard for us and so there are only so many minutes out there to be played in a game but give credit to Frankie and also his teammates are being able to stay ready when your name is called on.
And at times, like I stated earlier, there are going to be some high-minute games and low-minute games, but today, to find a young man who he really is, because easily he could have come out and not played well but he stuck with it, stuck with it, made some plays when we needed. But it just shows you his mental stability and how wired he is and like he said earlier, he’s played basketball his entire life, so this is not his first rodeo.
Q. And Devante Jones going forward?
JUWAN HOWARD: Devante, we expect to see him soon. Right now, we’re just playing that he has good health and can come back whenever he’s ready to come back.
Q. Second half defense has not always been a strength for this team this year, but today you held them to 29 percent after the break. What did you like about the second half defense and why was today different than other games we’ve seen?
JUWAN HOWARD: Well, every game that you play throughout the year, and then all the games that you play leading up to this point are teaching moments, and it was great to know that what we’ve work on in practice, the film opportunities and to be able to apply, and it’s not going to always go perfect for 40 minutes. It just doesn’t work that way. But our guys stepped up when they had to.
In the second half, we talked about as a team as far as how we can do better as far as what we’ve shown in the second half, and give them credit. Give the players credit.
Q. You start three freshmen, and to perform the way they do, what does it say about that group of young men?
JUWAN HOWARD: If I remember, Coach Fisher started five freshmen. Going through starting lineup, and each player name was called and they give their grade year, and it’s like, first one, Moussa, freshman; Caleb, freshman; Hunter, sophomore; Frankie, freshman. I’m like, whoa. We had three freshmen starting. Some people will say would you, it’s a very young team. True, it is.
But did they grow up today? Yes. But Hunter has been in this situation before. He played a lot last season but he had not been around fans in the NCAA Tournament. But players play no matter what. We’ve been feeding them life and developing them since July 1. Give a lot of credit to the staff as well as the players, buying into what has been taught and applied throughout the year.
Q. Following up on teaching moments and that young team, you’ve taught them a lot, or they have learned a lot since July, but they are down 15 in the NCAA Tournament. How certain are you of how they will react or is that part of the mystery of coaching, too?
JUWAN HOWARD: I think I said before the game, without Devante, I think I may grow up as a coach today (chuckling) because you have to make adjustments, and that’s what it’s all about. You know, when you have a senior who is out and he’s your primary ball handler, he’s your starting point guard, now as a staff, we prepare for — without Devante, with the guys that are going to be playing in a rotation, how can we make them look like stars.
But being down 15, we could have easily just said you know what it’s time to pack it in. But we are not built that way. That’s not what the wish culture is all about. We are going to compete till the end. I respect the resilience that they showed.
Q. I know you don’t like to talk strategy, but given how the first 15 minutes went, shed some light on how much you did change versus what we planned will work eventually?
JUWAN HOWARD: It was luck, man, just luck. The basketball gods, man, they helped me out.
No, but you know 15, if I get rattled and get annoyed with the score and feel like all the yelling, sometimes that can seem like you’re not prepared. I just wanted to calm them down. You know, nine turnovers in the first half, that’s not, you know, winning basketball. Nine turnovers, you are gifting them nine extra possessions.
So how could we keep it simple when we’re able to make plays and put guys in position where they can make winning plays but at the same time on the defensive end, not giving up open looks from three-point line or offensive rebounds. Those offensive rebounds, as well as the turnovers, you know, it set us back.
We had 11 extra possessions that we gave them and it’s tough to win ballgames like that because basketball is a possession game. Whether how look at it, by getting stops, taking care of the basketball, and also making shots. Look how we shot the ball in the second half, we shot 41 percent in the first half but finished with 54 percent throughout the game.
We did not make a 3-pointer in the first half. We were 0-for-7 and then Caleb, he got hot at the right time but we also found him in situations where we worked on in practice how we can try to get some relief buckets in transition where the team hopefully they don’t get matched up as we’re getting a defensive rebound.
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