Beilein Says Defense Key to Early Success

After Michigan's convincing 69-51 victory over Oakland Saturday, Wolverines headman John Beilein recapped his team's defensive game-plan for the Grizzlies and star big man Keith Benson, the reason for the increased defensive effectiveness this year, and more.

John Beilein:  "Watching the tape of Oakland and watching so many ways that they could score, I wasn't sure that we could defend them and have to score more points.  Our kids have bought so much into that hour of practice that we were able to really check them.  They've worked so hard on this all year knowing that we were going to be a young team, so you're probably not going to outmaneuver people offensively but defensively if you can you keep games a little shorter; we may have games that are in the 60s and 50s, but we had to guard better this year and we're doing a great job at it and stopping an Oakland team that is so explosive, I'm really proud or our team."

Question:  How much was Evan (Smotrycz) sagging off (of Oakland big man, Keith Benson)?

John Beilein:  "Yeah and that is a common tactic that you end up using when the four man is not a downtown sticker.  That helped us pay more attention.  We had different ways of guarding that changed throughout the game on how our approach to (Keith) Benson was and with the exception of three to four times, we were right on it.  He scored sometimes when we did the right things.  We had to give them different looks because Greg (Kampe) has 101 ways of getting him the ball.  So he is going to get it, you try to get him off the block a little bit but then you got to give him extra attention, even if it is not all the time, you got to make them think about it."

Question:  It had the intensity of a Big Ten game almost.

John Beilein:  "I loved our intensity.  I cannot recall a time that we played that hard that tough, little bit even got…there was times in the first half I thought we lost a little poise because of that passion, which is good.  You can always dial that down a little bit.  We were able to dial it down and play it smart and not lose any emotion.  I think our kids are real hungry and they want to win and they want to win the right way."

Question:  The players talked about having something to prove in state and that kind of thing.

John Beilein:  "I don't know.  I think it is more that Oakland is a really good team that has a heck of a resume and not only to win but to win convincingly I think is good for us.  I'm always one game at a time but there is a day and I'm not going there yet but there is a day where you are judged at the end of the season and hopefully and in March where you're going to be judged by your wins and your losses.  This was a quality win, not because we beat Oakland on our home court, because Oakland has gone on the road and proved they could play with anybody and play tight and win."

Question:  Tim Hardaway scored ten points in the second half after 0 in the first half.

John Beilein:  "We still have to continue to get him to think positive.  He had so many open looks…he had two or three wide-open looks.  You don't get many open looks in college basketball and he had really open ones.  One of my things is to get those shoulders not to sag, get the head up and just go out there and attack because he can make shots.  He made one big one, but he is learning how to dribble it better and look for people and then he is really good at the foul line."

Question:  How do you use Darius (Morris) as the catalyst of the defense as well?

John Beilein:  "He has helped us defensively.  He is working really hard to play very smart defense.  Sometimes there is wasted energy out there doing too much, you have to be solid, but he is really good at that."

Question:  Defense isn't the first thing that comes around especially freshman and younger players….?

John Beilein:  "We haven't given them much of a choice actually.  We really are not giving them much choice.  We are just spending more time on it.  As I've told the crowd before, this team understands offense pretty well, so they should understand the different schemes.  Even our scout team right now, there is a lot of different things that people do and there is a way that you have to look at it, but more than anything, forget the schematic stuff.  They have to have energy and want to play it, want to play it.  Not worry about foul trouble, jus want to play it."

Question:  Talk about Zach's (Novak) games and he is just the glue guy and just does a little bit of everything.

John Beilein:  "Defensively, offensively, he is really…I'm just looking forward…now that he is handling the ball more, I think he is going to see the court better.  He is going to go off one of these days and not stopping as far as those three for five hitting threes.  His shot looks so good right now.  In the past, he was off balance and it would not always look it was going to go in.  Every one he shoots right now looks like it is going in... it has in the way it looked."

Question:  How big was that 7-0 run coming out of halftime?

John Beilein:  "It proved to because they cut it to ten points in the second half, which you do not like that happening, but they gave us some really good pressure and Darius was in foul trouble and we threw it around a little bit.  (Reggie) Hamilton went crazy there.  It is tough to stop the fast break three.  So we really couldn't set our three and he is a heck of a player.  It was important obviously with the ten points to get out more because you don't like to put out that energy that they might come back.  I know as a coach with the three point shot, they are going to come back."

Question:  Keith Benson came in, you knew he was a good offense rebounder, you held him to zero offensive rebounds; what was the key to that?

John Beilein:  "With both of those guys we practiced the last couple of days.  We even put the rim up yesterday where you couldn't make a basket.  They box out, but they box out like very young players sometimes.  It is not always the hardest most physical box out, so we've been trying, Big Ten and really all over college basketball, you'd better be physical when you're going for rebounds.  I was upset.  We had several rebounds that bounce out of our hands.  When we go to the weight room tomorrow that'll be a big thing, hand strength and grabbing that ball because we're giving them back baskets after we play defense."

Question:  Do you think you've got votes in the polls?

John Beilein:  "I hope not.  I hope not.  Just let us play.  We're just going to keep working at getting better and better and better."

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