U-M / Northwestern Postgame

John Beilein reflects upon Michigan's 56-54 victory over Northwestern. The Wolverines' headman discusses Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman's first start, his team's defensive showing, and more.

Michigan Head Coach John Beilein

Opening statement ... "When we shoot 34 percent and we win a game at home, you have to be very pleased with that. We only had three turnovers, took care of the basketball really well and didn't give them too many second-chance opportunities. We got the win; I don't know how, but we ended up getting it, and we'll take it. I'm really proud of our kids; they played through some adversity. Obviously Spike's (Albrecht) upper respiratory infection was really bothering him. He couldn't practice the last couple of days, so we held him out. Ricky Doyle said he could not go in the second half -- he had similar symptoms -- so we held him out and had to just keep guys in there. I thought everyone, Max (Bielfeldt), Muhammad (Ali-Abdur-Rahkman); they all came up big for us. (Northwestern head coach) Chris Collins has a great team. I think it's a team with a roster that is going to really be good, not just this year but in the future, and he has put together a really nice program."

On the decision to start freshman Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, making his first career start ?... "It was a tough decision to make, because Kam (Chatman) has started for us, and Aubrey (Dawkins) had that tremendous breakout game against Illinois, but what I told the team is that both of those guys have distinguished themselves, and now everyone looks at them and says, 'That's how you make a difference'. Tonight was Muhammad's turn, and he did a great job."

?On battling through streaky shooting and coming out with a win ?... "We average three assists per game from Spike, so (without him in the lineup) that is six points right there. Northwestern played really good defense, like a lot of teams in the Big Ten do, but we did not execute some things. You have to credit Northwestern's defense. We also made some shots, and when we did we got defensive stops and played with a pretty good rotation. The guys came up big when it counted."

?On Northwestern's Alex Olah and his performance tonight ?... "We had to play zone against them. We have had to do it (in the past) because of foul trouble, and we had to do it today because we could not stop him. He was playing against a freshman (in Ricky Doyle), and [Olah] is a guy who has played years and years of basketball, or he was going against an undersized guy in Max (Bielfeldt). He was really good tonight, and we had to put other people on him or go to a zone."

?On Michigan's defensive effort ?... "It was a great confidence builder for us. Now that Aubrey has had his game and Kam had his against Syracuse (Dec. 2), the four freshmen are moving a long in the right direction. It's not quick enough for anybody, but they are moving in the right direction. We just have to continue on our depth so we can get better."

?On Caris LeVert's performance tonight ?... "You can watch in shot-clock situations when Caris has the ball. Their freshman, No. 20 (Scottie Lindsey) did a great job on him, too. He found his way to the basket, and I love what he has become as a player."

U-M Sophomore Guard Zak Irvin

On the team's defensive performance and the team coming through in the clutch... "We were able to switch up our defense. We played man to man, then we went 2-3, then we went 3-zone. We were able to create turnovers. It was a tough game for me. The ball wasn't going in the basket, but I was able to make the big (shot) late, and I was just happy about that."

On who stepped up with Spike Albrecht out of the game ... "Spike was battling the flu. It was a game-time decision, so we decided to sit him out this game. But Muhammad, the next man up, stepped up and played really well for us."

U-M Senior Forward Max Bielfeldt

On the energy in today's game ... "We are big on trying to defend the home court. You have to give everything you have. (U-M Legend) Cazzie (Russell) came and talked to us a couple of years ago, and he said no one comes in here and plays harder than we do on our floor. All of the teams have been taking that to heart. At home we play with that extra energy."

On what makes Alex Olah difficult to defend ... "He is a big guy, and he has a lot of forward touch with the ball. He is able to finish, not just inches away from the basket either. He has good hands and good touch to put it in off the glass. It was either be physical or be seven feet (tall), so I chose to be physical."

On freshmen gaining confidence ... "You have to be ready for next man up, like we say. Whenever anyone is down, hurt, or sick, you have to be ready to do your thing. With Muhammad doing that today, next game when Spike is back, [Muhammad] probably won't start. But he will come off the bench with a lot more enthusiasm and swagger."

U-M Freshman Guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman

On when he knew he was going to start the game ... "It was a game-time decision. It was kind of a surprise to me. With Spike's sickness and all, something was going to happen."

On whether or not he was nervous about starting ... "No, because coaches and players have confidence in everybody, and they make sure that we're prepared."

On how his minutes against OSU helped prepare him for tonight ... "It definitely helped. It helped get rid of butterflies or being shy -- helped a lot."

On if he was surprised by playing in the late minutes of the game ... "I was kind of surprised, but like I said, I was prepared. Eight-minute game, two-minute game -- it's all kind of the same. It's just about assimilating to the game; we were all prepared."

Northwestern Head Coach Chris Collins

Opening statement ... "We say it all the time in the Big Ten, 'That was a really good basketball game.' Two teams were fighting like crazy trying to get a win. I felt it from all the kids on the floor. Certainly I felt it from my guys. It's not easy to know what to say. My guys were playing their tails off. To go to East Lansing and lose on a last shot then lose a one-possession game to Illinois, then lose on a last shot tonight, it hurts. It's part of our process. I am really proud of our team. There is a lot of basketball to be played. I keep telling my guys they are being tested. They keep getting their heart ripped out, but you have to keep fighting. That was a tough loss. Give Michigan credit. Rahkman hit a big shot. LeVert made a lot of plays. I thought in the last couple of minutes we had great looks. We have to get home. We have to get rested. We have to get ready to play on Thursday night against a really good Ohio State team."

On the final closing minutes ... "We did a lot of things right. If you had asked me if I [wanted to have] the ball with 10 seconds to go, (Bryant) McIntosh taking the ball down the floor, down by two, I would have taken it. That kid is going to deliver a lot in his career. He just didn't tonight. "

On handling four losses in a row ... "It's a process for these guys. We all want it now. I want it now. But when you are in a league like the Big Ten, winning is hard. You have to be strong. You have to learn how you have to fight. You have to learn what it takes. You have to go through nights like this to see if you can bounce back. To have (Vic) Law, (Scottie) Lindsey and McIntosh in these environments right now as true freshmen is invaluable. We will look back on this when they are juniors and seniors and winning big. We will talk about games like this as being part of our process."

On the environment and playing on the road ... "This was a great environment. I thought Michigan students were great. It's a really great place to play. It was fun. This is what college basketball is about."

The Michigan Insider Top Stories