John Beilein, Zack Novak and Stu Douglass represented Michigan on the podium after the Wolverines’ 22 point Big Ten Tournament semifinal loss to Ohio State. Here’s the full transcript of what the trio had to say. (Photo: Dustin Johnston)
COACH BEILEIN: I’ve seen some really good teams being — I think this is my 20th year as a Division I coach and played some really good games. That’s as good a game as I’ve ever seen a college team play. Talking about Ohio obviously. They’re tremendous, the talent, and what’s really good about it is they play together. There was no selfishness. They made the extra pass. They made the right plays. It was an incredible performance. And unfortunately they made us play poorly and we certainly did not have a lot of success in a lot of areas.
So proud of our kids, though. I liked that we fought. We stayed together and got humbled quite a bit, but at the same time, not the first time this year we’ve lost a game, and we’ve usually bounced back because of the type of young men we have on the team.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Stu and Zack?
Q. For Stu, you guys obviously didn’t play your best basketball this weekend. Do you worry about the confidence level of the team going into the tournament, and how do you turn that around and get it back?
STU DOUGLASS: No, I’m not worried at all. We bounced back after every loss. We realize what’s at stake. It’s good for us to experience this, what it’ll take, I guess, they will take the win, and what happens when you don’t play well, how you can just be blown out and your season can be ended very quickly.
We’ll come back, learn a lot from it, watch film, stay focused and practice like we have been every single time after a loss like this.
Q. Stu, you just said that you guys bounced back after every loss. What is it about this team that you guys are able to do that so consistently?
STU DOUGLASS: Just the mental toughness, the mental focus, just taking the game plan, trusting coach, trusting all the assistant coaches and the game plan, and just playing Michigan basketball.
We talk about it every day. We don’t try and get outside of ourselves, and we realize when we do that, when we have tough games and we lose games, we get outside of ourselves, and we pull each other back in and just focus on what’s important.
But what it’s coming down to, can’t have these games where we’ll have two great games and then the third game, we just kind of lose focus. Can’t have that. So we gotta have more sense of urgency coming up when the tournament starts.
Q. Trey (Burke) was really taken out of the game. What did they do to stop him?
ZACK NOVAK: I think you gotta give (Aaron) Craft some credit there, just his on-the-ball defense was pretty good today. And I thought that their bigs did a good job hedging. And they just they never really let him get comfortable. And I give Trey credit, though. He had a rough day, but by his demeanor, you couldn’t tell it, and he just stayed up and he was rock solid, like he has been all year.
Q. This is your guys’ first time playing two games in two days since Maui when you lost to Duke. Is fatigue a factor and is that a concern going into the tournament?
STU DOUGLASS: You know, everyone is going to get tired. They played yesterday. Whoever you’re going to play has played the same amount of minutes basically, overtime games, it’s the same situation for everybody. So that doesn’t really play in it. It’s all about the mental portion of the game, the mental toughness, and the focus we have on our game plan. A lot of stuff we kind of just have to block out.
Q. Zack, as one of the leaders on this team, how do you allow this game to drive you going into the tournament and how do you channel that into the other guys?
ZACK NOVAK: Like we’ve said, we’ve responded really well to losses and to adversity this year. I don’t think we have to change our approach much on that. I think, like Stu said, the guys realize what’s at stake at this time. It’s March, NCAA Tournament. You can’t afford to have the same little mistakes that you had in even February. It’s time now to get it together and play your best basketball.
And I think we’ll bounce right back. And we’ve got a mature group that has done that all year. So I’ve got no worries. We’ll be all right.
Q. Do you guys think tomorrow is going to be kind of a different experience, not sitting on pins and needles all day waiting for the selection show, knowing you’re in?
STU DOUGLASS: Simply, yes. It’s completely different. But you have to approach it the same way. We had great success in the first game and then came back and it was a tough loss to deal with against Duke. I mean, there’s going to be great teams. No matter who we play, we know it’s going to be a tough test, but it’s obviously a little different situation, less stressful. But we’re still as anxious as ever.
ZACK NOVAK: Yeah, I think without a doubt it’s different. We’ve been in it the last two times. I think last year we knew we were in, but we weren’t exactly positive. To know that you’re in now and with the team we’ve got, I think we’re looking at this thing more like what’s our match-up going to be, what seed are we going to be, because we’re in it to win it.
And I think in the past years we were probably in it to win a few games. We were not happy with where we were at, but we had exceeded our expectations well beyond what a lot of people thought. And this year I think we’re looking at this thing and just saying with the team we’ve got, we’ve got a legit chance to make a move in this tournament and advance. And a lot of that has to do with match-ups. So I know that’s personally how I’ll be looking at it.
Q. Given Trey’s performance yesterday, was today a bit of a humbling experience for him do you think?
COACH BEILEIN: You know, I wouldn’t know if humbling is the right word. I just think it’s a learning experience more than anything for him. He just continues to battle. His performance today, his attitude was outstanding the entire time. And there’s a lot involved in the intangible areas when he’s playing. It’s his hometown team, against the defensive player of the year. I never saw him get shook one time, and that shows about who he is.
Q. Coach, how big a factor was 45 minutes last night for Trey in today’s game?
COACH BEILEIN: It could be. But Aaron Craft went 37 last night or 38 last night. So I think it had a lot to do with how we could not stop them early, their length offensively and then their gap defensively. They’ve got different gaps than everybody. It seems like everybody’s got long arms and they can get in there. But I don’t think it’s a major factor.
Q. Coach, you talked about learning moments and using film to teach these guys. Is this maybe a film that you won’t show them again?
COACH BEILEIN: No, we’ll cut it up and we’ll find some things. Because when you’re playing against a team like this — and, like I said, this reminds me of the teams that — obviously the ball’s got to bounce your way, but I’m talking about the best UConn teams, the best Syracuse teams, the best Kentucky teams, the best Florida teams. This is a heck of a team.
But there’s always something we can learn from, and they showed it the other day when they won up at Michigan State. So we’ll find some treasures in there somewhere, as hard as they are to look at, so that we can get better.
Q. John, you’ve talked about breaking the beginning of games into segments. How important is it against Ohio State to come out and get a lead or at least stay even, and how difficult was it with that 16-3 deficit that you guys started with?
COACH BEILEIN: That buried us early. We missed a couple easy ones. We didn’t shoot the ball as well as we can. And I credit their length, because when they come at you, they’re a little bit taller and a guy in your face. But we needed to be in there early. And they’re a tough team to come back on because just — Craft just runs this team with incredible poise.
He’s just in command of the entire team. He looks like Brett Favre or Joe Montana or Joe Theismann, John Elway. He’s just directing the drive down the field, and he does it over and over again. And they do not get bothered because of his presence.
So it’s tough to come back on them. And we need to get off to a good start. But, frankly, they got just tremendous, tremendous talent and they’re very well coached, and it’s tough to do it.
Q. Coach, did you think Ohio State did anything different from the last two games to get Sullinger going or is it just a matter of him making shots?
COACH BEILEIN: No. I mean, he’s very good. He got a little bit deeper in the post than we wanted him to do and he made some shots. His first couple ones were really tough shots that he made.
But Sullinger was one thing. Deshaun Thomas just is tremendous. I mean, he’s got every bit of impact on the game as — when you look at those four guys, whether it’s Sullinger, whether it’s Thomas, whether it’s Buford, Craft, and then Lenzelle Smith knows exactly where he fits in on this team. And they’ve got a lot of bullets, rockets in that gun, and they use them very well.
Q. How much different will tomorrow be for you guys than it was last year at this time?
COACH BEILEIN: Well, it is interesting because we’re trying to — it’s been exciting two of the last three years that we’ve been on, we were somewhat on a bubble. We were in bubble talk. If you follow the accounts, we’re not. And it will be a little bit different until the name is announced, and then we all just get to work and go. I think certainly there’s not the anxiety that we had the last couple of years. Just have to be prepared for anything.
Q. Coach, there’s no question about it that Trey Burke has exceeded everyone on the outside of your program with his exceptional ability to mature as the season went along, and you mentioned that today would be a good learning experience for him. Is one of those learning experiences today that when you get down like 16-3 and those segments like that, that he can’t just go down, push, and do everything himself, that he’s got to play within the game that’s taken him there all year?
COACH BEILEIN: I think everybody on our team will learn about what we call hitting singles. You know what I mean? And he’s no different. He’s very young. But when we got down early, we tried — a few guys tried to be heroes at that time. We just made some plays that just — if we were going to get back in that game, it was going to have to be a lot of singles being hit, a lot of just two at a time. And whether it was a fast break, a lob that we threw or just I gotta hit this 3, our kids care a lot and they want to do it certainly as fast as they can. They want to fix things. And sometimes that’s our own worst enemy.
Q. Looking at the season as a whole, I think you’ve obviously had a reputation of being a really good offensive coach, but I think the good defense that the team has played this year kind of took everyone a little off guard. Is that something that you really put an extra emphasize on this season?
COACH BEILEIN: You know, I don’t know how to answer that. I think we’ve always played pretty good defense, but we’ve probably mixed up zones a lot and created more turnovers through our defense because of the different zone looks. We felt that this team was better suited for man-to-man, and we emphasized it, but we still practice about 45 minutes of defense every day, 45 minutes of offense.
Yeah, we’ve changed some things, and our players understand things a lot better as well. Our percentages are good. I’d like us to create more turnovers. I don’t think we do enough of that to get transition baskets. But our coaching staff and me personally grow every year in changing your approach to what makes this — what’s the better way to coach, how can this team grow as a team. And obviously sometimes you have importance in some areas. Defense has always been important, but we spend a lot of time on it.
Q. John, not to put too much emphasis on one play, but the fast break where Trey’s coming down and Craft takes the charge, is that maybe the one turning point of the game where if Craft gets his second it goes one way and Burke gets his second it goes a different way?
COACH BEILEIN: Yeah, I thought that was important. We had three good officials on the game, so you gotta trust their judgment in the game. But that was probably — if it had gone the other way, it would have certainly had an effect on the first half.