Michigan head coach John Beilein spoke with the media after a win over Penn State at Crisler Center.
“Exciting game. I was excited when I walked out and I saw the student support we had. The Big Ten season is such a bear when you go through it. All the other schools, including Michigan, when the Big Ten season comes it’s a lot of fun for a lot of people…I like their team [Penn State]. I didn’t think they were that good until we got in the mix with them and could see how talented they were. They drove us wherever they wanted to in the first half and we let them. We were not physical defensively at all in the first half. Our starting five is not a physical team defensively. We must become that. We’re going to be working at that because it’s the only way you’re going to survive at this level. I thought we were much better in the second half with some areas. Our seniors, who were not on their ‘A’ game, were nothing short of spectacular in those last five minutes.”
What sparked the turnaround?
“We went in the huddle at 11:53 down 12. I didn’t have to say anything. It was all the circle that I was in—they were all extremely charged up and upset with each other. I don’t mean pointing fingers. They were very encouraging in very strong words: ‘No, we’re not losing this game. We’re not starting off in the league 0-2. We’re going to make this happen.’ That’s all I heard. I didn’t have to say a whole lot except tell them the expectation on defense, what we’d see, and tell them what we’d be running on offense. The rest took care of itself. We need that.”
Did Penn State have more energy than Michigan early in the game?
“I think they’re quicker than us at a lot of positions. Certainly quicker at the center position. I probably shouldn’t go in to a game and say they’ve got a shot blocker. Because 24 [Mike Watkins] is getting three a game and that’s a high number. I probably shouldn’t say that again because we were looking for him when we had some opportunities. But they’re quicker than us at a couple of positions and have a little more size than us. We have some athletes; we’re not as athletic as they were.”
On not fouling on final possession:
“We’ve been all over the place and have always chosen not to foul in that situation. We’re not a great rebounding team. You can lose a game in that situation. When they have to go the full court and make a half-court shot…One of times we tried to foul, when we had a foul to give, at Wisconsin, we missed it and guy threw it in from half court. I’ve never fouled in that situation and I don’t think anybody has come up with analytics that there’s any difference in the two [strategies]. If someone proves it analytically to me, I will change. But teaching a guy to foul…is not as easy as you think.”
Internal conversations about team being more player-led?
“Ownership is a constant theme…There was a situation today where Mark Donnal told Moe [Wagner] on the way out, ‘You’ve got to set better screens.’ I’ve never heard that. I’ve never heard him coach the other guy. I don’t know if it’s this generation. Their communication skills and dealing with people—we have to work on it every day to get it done. They know that and [the aforementioned timeout huddle] was a great example where it all came together. ‘Our backs are against the wall now, we have to all talk and get through this.”
How do you become a more physical team?
“It develops over time. You look at guys’ bodies and where they were two years ago. They were pushed around when they’re long and skinny. It hurts to have contact. When you spend two years with Jon Sanderson, it doesn’t hurt anymore, but it’s not natural to them. You’re hoping it will come along gradually. I think every coach struggles with that as well. Either you have to recruit really physical guys and that’s really hard to see too. We’ve just got to build it.”
On halftime mentality:
“…I was just upset at halftime at how we just let them plow through us. ‘OK, you want the basket? I’ll just give it to you because I don’t want to stand in here.’ As long as that was happening, 11 [Lamar Stevens] was going to drive right at us all day long. As long we moved out of the way he was going to keep doing it. That was my big point at halftime: ‘We have to do a better job of not giving them easy baskets or putting them at the foul line.’”
What does 200th win at Michigan mean you?
“Kathleen and I have been here for 10 years. It’s a great 10 years. It just seems like it’s still in the process…We’ve been building ever since we’ve been here. We’ve had injuries, we’ve had the NBA. We’re just always building. It’s flown by, because when you’re doing that you never get content. You’re driven to make this thing work even though there have been some obstacles.”