COACH BEILEIN: Had a quick wardrobe change here, just got hit with a pretty big container of red Gatorade. This is going to have to do for right now.
As it’s been like all year for our coaching staff, we’ve been working with the finest group of young men, as fine as anything we’ve ever been around. The distractions were minimal, the attention to detail and work habits were sensational.
To see it all come together for them today, because it’s really about the kids, about the student‑athletes, seeing it come together, I don’t know what to say. I’m a little bit speechless. I’m sure I’ll find words later on.
Q. Spike, you might be at Appalachian State if you hadn’t been recruited. Talk about what it’s like being on this stage.
SPIKE ALBRECHT: The coaches and my teammates have a ton of confidence in me and that gives me my confidence to go out there. I know I have a job to do. I don’t want to let my teammates down.
Q. Trey, you guys got to an awfully quick start, 13‑0, and built a 24‑point lead. What do you feel was the key to that and how much were you looking for Nik?
TREY BURKE: We felt like we came out against Kansas pretty sluggish. And we felt today the key was to come out and throw the first punch.
Nik played one of his best games all season. We noticed that he was hot early on in the first half. We tried to continue to find ways to find him when he was open.
Q. Spike, diving on the floor with about five minutes left, I think you guys were up 16 points. What’s going through your mind at that point? Trey, if you can talk about what Spike’s meant to this team and his contributions.
SPIKE ALBRECHT: There’s still five minutes left and judging by us the other day, anything can happen. We’ve got to get on the floor, take charges, that’s what we do, that’s Michigan basketball.
TREY BURKE: That is Spike. Spike is the type of player that comes off the bench and he’s going to give us everything he has. We know he’s probably one of the smartest players on our team. He sees certain things out on the court that a lot of players usually don’t see.
We’ve seen it all year in practice. So we know when he gets out there that we’re comfortable with the ball in his hands.
Q. Spike, that in‑bounds play early in the second half where your team is up by 11, do you think that play really changed the momentum and brought it back into your favor?
SPIKE ALBRECHT: I don’t know. I just tried to come in and bring energy. That was kind of a risk/reward play. If I missed it, Coach Beilein would probably have been pretty upset with me. So I’m just happy it went our way.
Q. Nik, will you talk about being due out there with your shot?
NIK STAUSKAS: It’s been a while since I had a game like this. My teammates did a real good job of finding me when I was open. My shot felt good. So I was just letting them fly.
Q. Tim, with you being the youngest team in the tournament, how big was the game against Kansas, coming back, and then today being really a dominating win, how big is that moving to the Final Four?
TIM HARDAWAY, JR.: The game against Kansas, with us coming back and winning, I guess just after that game we were saying, God has something in store for us going to the next game. And today everybody just played tremendously on the defensive end. We didn’t even worry about offense, we knew that would come. Defensively everybody was locking down the defenders, getting stops, getting rebounds. We were just running and gunning and having fun. That’s what we’re best at. If we continue to do that, we should go really far.
Q. Tim, you’ve had your moments in this tournament, this wasn’t your best game. But it seemed like Nik stood up for you and came to play. Is that characteristic of this group?
TIM HARDAWAY, JR.: Nik didn’t have to do anything, he was just standing in the corner and we were finding him (laughter).
That was the corner shot that he was working on all pregame. So our big men did a great job of just rolling to the basket and collapsing defense and us guards were just finding him on half‑court and on fast breaks. So it was easy for him.
Q. Nik, you alluded that it’s been a while since you had a game like that. Did you have a feeling going in or last night?
NIK STAUSKAS: Maybe a little bit. I just understood that I haven’t had a game like this in a while. And being a shooter, you never get down on yourself when you’re missing shots. The last couple of games I haven’t been hitting. But I’m due for a big game and keep shooting. And my teammates did a great job finding me today.
Q. Is that left corner one of your favorites spots?
NIK STAUSKAS: Definitely. With our offense, the left corner is where I spend a lot of my time. I get a lot of reps in practice and shoot around. Trey and the rest of the team did a real good job finding me today.
Q. Trey, there was some reports that maybe you weren’t quite healthy, maybe you were a little ill, can you talk about how you’re feeling health‑wise?
TREY BURKE: I had stomach problems before the Kansas game. That wasn’t bothering me today. It was kind of my upper back, spasm up a little bit today. And I’m just going to get therapy on it this week, get it checked out and get a lot of rest. I’ll be ready for next weekend. It didn’t affect us today.
My teammates did a great job of running within the offense and we got stops. We did what we needed to do to get the win today.
Q. Trey and Tim, just curious what it felt like to climb up the ladder and snip the strands of the net?
TREY BURKE: It felt really well. This team has faced a lot of adversity this year, and a lot of people doubted us to get to this point. A lot of people said we were too young, we weren’t tough enough. But I definitely think that’s why we played with a chip on our shoulder over the last couple of weeks.
And it feels great just to be going to Atlanta with a team like this. Like I said, we fought back through adversity and we’re here now. We still have unfinished business, we have to continue to take each game by each game.
TIM HARDAWAY, JR.: Like Trey said, Coach Beilein before the game said, hey, we have another opportunity to cut down the nets. And we didn’t take care of business at home to take care of Indiana when we had a chance to. We got a second opportunity, and everybody just got fired up and came out ready to go.
Q. Trey, talk a little bit about the emergence of Mitch McGary, his role in the offense the last couple of games and how that’s opened up things, even on the outside, too.
TREY BURKE: We knew what Mitch was capable of doing, just by watching him all year in practice. Mitch has learned a lot. And he’s the type of guy that brings a lot of energy to our team. But not only the energy part, he runs the floor well. He has a certain feel for the game that a lot of big men don’t have. He has a certain touch around the rim that a lot of big men don’t have.
Our job is just to hit him when he’s open. He does a good job of getting second opportunities on the offensive end. Mitch is just everywhere, offense and defense. It makes teams focus on him a lot and that pretty much opens it up for everybody else.
Q. What does it mean to be able to contribute to this program, bring it back to national prominence this season?
TIM HARDAWAY, JR.: It means the world. 20 years has passed and we haven’t been on the stage yet.
We just want to make sure we do a great job of coming out and playing very, very hard, every possession, every minute you’re out there. It’s a young team. But everybody buys on the Coach Beilein system. And it’s great to have everybody just buy into it and go out there and play as hard as they can.
Q. You took Trey Burke out when the lead got down to 12. And yet in the period when he was out Spike made that play, the lead goes to 18 by the time he returns. Was that really the key in preventing any sort of comeback?
COACH BEILEIN: Having Spike, that’s something we didn’t have last year, and Trey Burke, when he would get tired, he was beat. When you’re a point guard at this level and you’re bouncing the ball most of the time, you’ve got the ball a lot of the time and you’re guarding a guy who is ‑‑ you’re getting screened and receiving screens over and over again. They get fatigued. And we could sense it how he was playing.
That’s huge to have somebody like that young man come in and do what he did on that stage.
Q. 35 years coaching, it’s a long way from Erie Community College. Talk about what it meant to you personally to finally climb that ladder for a Final Four.
COACH BEILEIN: You know, it’s never been about that, believe it or not. It’s always been more about what we have here and coaching for the University.
But it is ‑‑ there’s a lot of people that are part of this, including these guys, but other people that have helped a coach who is ‑‑ a nomadic coach that has always been trying to look for a great opportunity to do something like this. If we never went, it wouldn’t be like I missed out on something. But the fact we’re going right now, this is great frosting on the cake.
Q. Your players talked a little bit about the Indiana loss at the end of the year and kind of how the second opportunity to cut down the net has given them motivation. Have you been preaching that or is that a blessing in disguise for your team in this tournament?
COACH BEILEIN: This year we had 7 losses. All, every one of those 7 were blessings in disguise in some way.
It hits us all hard, it hits the coaching staff really hard. But it hits the players hard when we lost games, given the fact of how we started the year, I think it hit hard, we weren’t used to losing. They always say lose early, you’ll get better. We were losing late.
It was because of a Big Ten, young team just trying to get better. Every one of those now has come back around, it’s a lesson we have to learn in life. This is the adversity you have. A lot of teams like to just have 7 losses, it made us better every time.
The Indiana game was a great example of that. I don’t think Trey Burke has missed a foul shot since that game. Tim Hardaway, Jr. has played great. It’s been a good run since then.
Q. You’ve been saying for a couple of weeks you weren’t worried about Nik, it was a matter of time before he broke out. Is this what you expected?
COACH BEILEIN: No, I didn’t expect that. But we see him every day. You know what really separates Nik, too, he’s a shooter, but he works at it now. He really works at it.
And that’s rare with a freshman. A freshman may have an off night, he may talk about I’m not getting the shots, I’m not getting the looks. That’s not Nik, Nik works at his game to be ready, because his teammates can pass. And they know where he is all the time. And a lot of confidence.
Once they got him going in the huddle, they’re talking to each other, Nik, get open on this one, I’m going to be looking for you. That’s great teammates right there.
Q. You obviously having been in the Big East know what to expect from that 2‑3 zone with Syracuse. How is this team with all the offensive weapons equipped to attack that?
COACH BEILEIN: Being in the Big East there is a lot of Big East coaches that would agree with me. No, we don’t know what to expect from that Syracuse zone. Marquette has played against it a few times, as well. It’s unique, because you don’t see it that oven. Coach Boeheim is a master at teaching that, keeping his guys fresh. Having good players that really play it well.
We’ll look for answers, as many answers as we can find. But you’ve got to play a good game. When you get open shots you need to make them to beat them. And that will be our plan.
Q. I believe it was Tim just a moment ago who said something to the effect of we were just focused on defense. We weren’t even worried about our offense, we thought that would take care of itself. Was that your mindset more or less or your priority in preparing your team for this game?
COACH BEILEIN: What this team has learned during the year, that their defense is their best offense. We had 20 transition points in the first half. And that all comes off our defense.
Guarding action that they ran today, when we were having defense lapses during the year, there was usually just one or two guys, usually some of the players that are learning the game at such a high rate for freshman, maybe would step away, or maybe not ready to step in there. So our defense is everybody’s offense, if you buy into it and play it.
Our numbers haven’t been where we want to be in the future, but if it got us to this point, our offense helps a lot. The talent we have on offense helps a lot, as well. It’s always been about defense.
Q. Mitch McGary’s production has almost doubled in tournament. Is there any adjustments you’ve made with him, is there anything that he has discovered about his own play that has changed that, because it’s been so dramatic?
COACH BEILEIN: A couple of things, he’s been able to stay on the court without foul trouble. That was a big thing. I think those, I mentioned before, at the Indiana game, Big Ten Championship game, he played 8 minutes. He had fouls, he had fouls, he had fouls.
And then his practice habits, he’s learned so much. Bacari Alexander does a great job. And he’s learned about playing his size.
His skill level, while it’s going to be a strength one day, it can be a weakness sometimes because of trying to do too much. As he grows his game right now, that skill level is going to be able to really play at a high level for us, and in the future.
Q. Kind of a local question, as you probably know, the Final Four is coming here next year. I wonder how you felt Cowboys Stadium faired in terms of a basketball venue?
COACH BEILEIN: As far as the score would go, it was terrific. And maybe it’s that time of the year. Everybody was sweating. I think they ought to look at that. I’m sure they have a thermostat somewhere here. Turn it up a little bit, maybe. Because both teams looked fatigued to me.
That’s just my observation of coaching all year long. A lot was on the table today and both teams were fighting through fatigue. So I don’t know what that would be, but I assume maybe look at that thermostat.
Q. That’s it?
COACH BEILEIN: That’s it ‑‑ oh, no, it was tremendous. The security, the way they ran this whole operation was as good as I have ever seen in my life. And we’ve been to Sweet 16’s, we’ve been in the NCAA tournament several times. This is as good as it gets. The way this whole tournament was run, they’re having a great prep for a Final Four. And next year I’m sure they’ll do even a better job, learning from any adversity they had this time.
Q. This is a team that has gotten to a lot of slow starts, especially in Big Ten play. Here you get off to this 17‑point halftime lead. What do you say at the half to make sure they stay focused?
COACH BEILEIN: Just put your foot on the gas, now, don’t stop. We had 20 transition points. You don’t get that by slowing it down. We didn’t do as good a job as we did in the first half of finding the right shot. But there was no doubt in your mind we had to keep pushing as much as we can.
Being the fact we had fatigue, we needed to slow things down and get some rest. This game today, their 3‑point shooting ability, that game is never safe, and it ain’t over until that baby is over.
So we wanted to make sure they kept being aggressive. But we were tired right away. Those first few minutes were a little troubling for the fact I saw the fatigue right away, hence that’s why we gave Trey a break.
Q. I was wondering, when you have a difficult loss like in ’05, most coaches have one at some point or more than one, how long do you suffer it? What place does it come to in mind over the years and did you think about it since the ‑‑
COACH BEILEIN: What are you referring to?
Q. To Louisville.
COACH BEILEIN: To Louisville in the Regional. That crossed my mind today. It was 13 at half in that game and we got out by 18. Just thinking about it, is there anything I could do differently.
But we finished 7th in the Big East that year, 7th or 8th. And for us to end up being a shot away from the Final Four, it hurt.
I knew one thing, if we had this opportunity again, I was going to treasure it more and do everything we could to make sure that we could be ready to play that game. It was never going to be enough again, you know what I mean? At that point we were fighting to get in the NCAA tournament that year. Ended up being a 7 or 10 seed or something.
Personally, though, I didn’t want that to happen again. That was a long year to come back, but we had a good team. And we grew from it. We all grew from it.