John Beilein, Derrick Walton and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman were on the podium after Michigan fell to Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals. Walton gave Michigan an inspired effort with 14 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals while Abdur-Rahkman added a team-high 15 points.
COACH BEILEIN: Purdue — really so fortunate to have that win over them earlier in the year because they’re a tough matchup with us with their size. We elected to go one-on-one coverage with them today because that’s what we used in Ann Arbor, and we’d really done a great job with that. Today Hammons was, in particular, virtually unstoppable for us. And it was a big, big difference in that game. We felt if he got 40 and we could shut down the other guys, we could still maybe win the game. But we didn’t shut down the other guys quite enough. And so, defensively, they’ve been scoring 80 on everybody. Look at their last five games. They’re scoring 80 — they’re scoring 90 on Wisconsin. I want you to go look and see who scores 90 on Wisconsin. They’re tough to stop, really tough to stop. And you have got to make shots. There were periods in today’s game where we really had good looks and we didn’t make them. We’ll make those shots, right? Given the opportunity again, we’ll make those shots.
Q. Derrick, a lot of plays in the game. I don’t know if you remember this. But you had a three-point play to make it 60-54. You’re within six with 7:35 to go. And then they go right down and get an and-one and a dunk from Hammons and stretch it back out to 11. Was that maybe the defining moment in the game?
DERRICK WALTON: Yeah, that juncture, that was a really big play where we was on the run and we cut it down to single digits after battling so hard from creating our self into a hole to start the half. Like coach said, he made a lot of tough shots and that was one of the many. Just kind of got to the basket on our bigs, and he finished it like he did a couple times before that. But go back to what you say, yes, it was kind of a pivotal point.
Q. Do you guys think you’ve done enough to get into the NCAA Tournament?
MUHAMMAD-ALI ABDUR-RAHKMAN: Not sure. But we believe in the committee that they’re going to make the right decision. Played tough and hard these last couple games. So I think we’re playing pretty well right now.
DERRICK WALTON: Well, I’ve said it before. That’s not really our job. All we do is go out there and play and let those guys do what they need to do to compile what they need to compile to put the teams into the tournament. But as far as we go, we just play as hard as we can each and every game. And at the end of the day, we hope the committee puts us in the tournament.
Q. Can you just talk about the challenge of driving and being able to finish when they have that kind of size and how hard it is there in the paint?
DERRICK WALTON: We work on that a lot in practice. It’s hard to emulate that size and length. But, particularly, Muhammad did a really good job of getting into the paint and finishing.
We had our fair share of makes. And you’re not going to make them all. But I think once we got there, we put us in a position to make some tough shots. But it was a lot of other things that were the reason that we didn’t pull it through tonight.
Q. The difference between the first half, second half, seemed like both of you kind of shot selection-wise wasn’t there and it really took over there in the second half.
MUHAMMAD-ALI ABDUR-RAHKMAN: Yeah, they’re a great defensive team. So they kind of take away certain shots and things like that. And we had a couple open shots that we usually knock down that just didn’t fall tonight and didn’t go our way.
DERRICK WALTON: Oh, yeah. Back to what he said, we got the looks. The looks weren’t the problem. Like he said, they’re a good defensive team, but we got our fair share of looks. We just didn’t make as many as we hoped to. But, again, credit to them. They did exactly what they wanted to do defensively.
Q. I saw late in the game the legs just go and it seemed like you came up with an air ball late in the game, and it looked like you couldn’t get good lift off the floor. Is that the third day finally kicking in? Do you feel like — you always talk about that in Big Ten Tournaments, the third day is so challenging to keep your physicality up.
DERRICK WALTON: In that play he actually got a piece of my hand. It wasn’t anything about being tired. He just kind of got a piece of the ball in my hand. That was really what happened on the shot. It wasn’t my legs or fatigue.
Q. The start of each half is such an important thing. They get off 8-0, and then the second half they get off 9-0. And I know you had to have talked about that at halftime. Many runs throughout the game. But how important were those —
COACH BEILEIN: Big, big part of the game. The first part, then we got to battle back. And we had a couple really good shots we didn’t get. And then I think it takes — you go into shock a little bit when you’re out there for the first time and you’ve been — obviously, we didn’t get a chance to practice against them. But the size of Hammons is almost shocking at times for our guys to have to go out there and guard him. And we talk about how we wants to position him. He’s been playing in that low post for a long time. And trying to guard that length is hard. He made some shots, some great shots. We had some open ones, and all of a sudden we’re down. I love the way we battled back in that. And then the start of the second half, I have no clue how that could have happened. We had been working on some stuff, and we came down and just — the three looks that we tried to get in that first half, right, none of them went. But we carried over to defense, and they virtually got layups at the other end. With many teams, that’s a big issue. And we’re fighting back and fighting back. And now all of a sudden you’re down 12 just like that. That’s a huge difference in the game, the way we started the second half. You’ve still got 38 minutes from the first half. You don’t have as many minutes and the lead got bigger.
Q. You guys held Hammons pretty much in check in the two games I think he scored 27 in the two regular season games. Today he got 27. What was the difference in those games and the game today for him?
COACH BEILEIN: Well, he’s an elite player. And I’ve been in this league for a while. He’s a versatile big man because he can pass. You saw him shoot the 15-footers today as well. And they run action where he passes. And then he’s really got some crafty stuff in the post. So we — we tried to double him at Purdue. And it was a catastrophe when we doubled him. He just found open people. In Ann Arbor, we played him straight up and had some just regular gaps, what we call them. And it worked pretty well. We went with that again today, and he was just — he was just great with all of our big guys. Now, they went to the foul line a lot. He makes foul shots. I don’t know — we seemed to foul him a lot, so he must have reached in somewhere. We had good officials out there. We just can’t bail him out when he does miss.
Q. I know you don’t like to lobby; but if you could state your case for why you think you should be in the tournament, what would you say?
COACH BEILEIN: As I always say, it’s such a great committee there. At the same time, the strength of our schedule is — you know, talk about top-50 teams. We beat top-25 teams. We beat the champion of our league. If anybody here thought that was a home game for us yesterday, they’re crazy. That was not a home game against Indiana. This was not a home game today. Our kids battled all year long. And when we’re playing like an SMU and we just go — we just go to North Carolina State and we played great. And all of a sudden we lose Derrick Walton. There was all these adjustments all year long that I think the team that we saw in the last — and really for much of this game, but the team that we saw in a lot of the games that we’ve won is the team. But we were always making adjustments. We’re a good team right now. Now, that — they got to compare that to the other bubble teams. And did they battle the same adversity? Did they do that all year long? Who knows?
Q. Can you talk about Mo (Moritz) Wagner, the development of him here at Indy. Haas is guarding him. You think if he just had a little more beef on him. Is there a ceiling for him that you see, maybe the physicality aspect, you can get him to grow a little, things like that, in the weight room?
COACH BEILEIN: He didn’t lift weights at all until he virtually got here, seriously lifting weights. It’s not a European belief to lift weights until you stop growing is what I understand from some sources. So he did continue to grow to be 6’11”. We saw his skill level. Red-shirt is really what I would have preferred to do. He did not want to do that, and I’m not going to make that call. In today’s world, they don’t make it to their fifth year either. They either go somewhere else or they go pro. So we decided to go with it, and he’s getting better. But he does need a steady year. I want had him to remember what Haas did to him the whole time because that’s the perfect reason to get in the weight room. That’s the type of guys he’ll be playing against whether he’s a pro or not, whether he’s a four or five man in the future.
Q. Making the case for the committee questions, do you think the Michigan brand-name, the history of tradition, being in the title game a couple years ago, do you think that’s going to help your case with them?
COACH BEILEIN: I don’t think they think about that at all. I think they think about what are the best teams that are out there. If you look at our schedule, how many — virtually all our top games, there was a huge number of top-25 teams that we played, a huge number of them. And it’s not top-50. It’s top-25. Almost like all — not all year long but might be a half our games might have been top-25 teams. So, no, we didn’t win that. We’re not a top-25 team. But we won enough to show that if we played the teams in the 50s through 100s more, if we played more of the teams at the back end of the 25 that were 40, 45, 50, whatever they are, we can beat those teams. We just didn’t get to play them because the Big Ten had some teams that were down a little bit. If we’re in, we’ll get in because the committee understands that we battled the diversity. We won 22 games. We won on the road. We beat four top-25 teams, that we’re a good team