Beilein Says Team Not Done Improving

In his weekly appearance on Sports Talk 1050 WTKA the Wolverines headman discussed his team's recent loss to Indiana, the persistent rebounding issues, defensive strategy, Thursday's Big 10 tourney match-up with Penn State, and more.

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Sam Webb:  Sunday’s game, obviously, very, very disappointing outcome for all that were watching but particularly for the guys that were actually out there and had the opportunities.  It happens, you lose the game 72-71, just take us through your observations.

John Beilein:  “We played some of our best defense of the year, particularly in the first half.  We did not have the answers that we would like to have for the big man.  They got a lot of easy baskets off him in the second half and at the end of the first half.  Our lack of rebounding really stood out.  Our lack of turnovers kept us in the game and our three point shooting.  It would have been great to finish it.  We have to continue to try and shore up areas about, ‘in the moment, in the moment’.  You got to do what we work at every day and we did not do some of those things and there are no defining moments in that game that would have changed the game either way.  We are not going to talk about missed foul shots or anything along those lines.  There are a lot of things that we could have controlled and we didn’t.  It is a great time for us to learn from it because we got a couple more…it’s not like football where the bowl game is over.  There are other opportunities for more playoffs here and we’re going to take advantage of it.”

Sam Webb:  With regard to rebounding, you said that you did not rebound as effectively as you need to.  What do you do… what can you do and what have you done to address that issue?

John Beilein:  “As I said to the press (Sunday), we video every practice.  We watch every practice.  There is virtually not a time that goes by that we see if a guy doesn’t go address his man, box out in practice that we do not address in some way.  It may be a trip to the top of Crisler.  It may be admonishment during film session, whatever.  We work at it like crazy.  (Sunday) there was just enough times that we didn’t do it and guys flying in.  There are other times you can do nothing about it, the ball bounces their way, somebody has made penetration so everybody is in help position and you can’t even try to box out  because you’re so far away from your man.  So those two elements, lack of penetration try to stop that and think about that, any ball screen action, there are two men on the ball.  Unless you are going to switch ball screens and put Trey Burke on (Cody) Zeller.  So any ball screen action, there are two men on the ball.  So for a minute there, somebody is not guarded.  They chose to send four men to the boards and that’s what happens.  Sometimes it is blocking out and sometimes it is schematic.  We’ve just got to keep finding ways and that’s my job.”

Sam Webb:  When you have the penetration that they had and when you have their success in the post with Zeller, why not mix in more zone to try and show them a different look?

John Beilein:  “This is an extremely good three point shooting team and I don’t want to give away what we practice on, what we’re good at.  Let us say up to this point the zone has been one of our worse defenses for just giving up easy, easy points.  They shot 42%.  The zone is not really a better rebounding defense.  There is nobody to box out and it is not a better rebounding defense.  It is a valid question that we’ve used in the past.  For whatever reason, we have not been able to be successful in games this years whenever we’ve played any type of zones.  It is automatic buckets.”

Sam Webb:  We saw a different Trey Burke in the second half of this game than in the first half.  Even with (Victor) Oladipo he still experienced some success.  What did you guys do differently to work him free?

John Beilein:  “It is a lot about his approach down the floor and getting him a ball in position and he was taken in a position where he could be more effective.  We did some of that.  We played through Nik Staukas earlier in the game, which was effective as well.  Tim (Hardaway) had some really good moments too.  The whole secret of getting Trey Burke or Tim is to put them in positions where they can be effective.  He has got a taller guy on him, he has got a great defensive player on him and you try to put him in those situations and we try to create mismatches by screening for him with people other than the big man.  Scoring is not the problem.  The defensive rebounding continues to haunt us, as people just crash the boards with everything they have.”

Sam Webb:  There were some interesting calls in the game and I will not ask you to evaluate the referees or anything like that, but curious as to what they told you about what looked like an intentional foul on Glen Robinson when he had a breakaway.

John Beilein:  “When they went to the monitor and had a chance to look at it and just said it was a two shot foul.  I saw what I saw and I’m not going to comment on what I saw other than that it is important that they get the call right and they do the right thing.  We have good officials on it, but it certainly was a pivotal play on it, but we had good officials on the game and I will have to get further explantation of why they made that decision in the game.  Like I said, it is not one play and we could have controlled some other things that could have helped us win the game.”

Sam Webb:  The free throw opportunities at the end, you chose to have four guys back.  Why no guys in rebound position on the free throws?

John Beilein:  “Basically, the whole rationale there is they are a great transition defense team, so if you remember in the Michigan State game we had a couple of guys on the line and they called a timeout and they were going down three on one.  So we had four guys back.  So we could possibly tap out a rebound somewhere or somehow, the odds of that and them going down and having advantage off of a rebound while we were getting back on defense, we felt was not a good percentage.  The other thing is that we have three great foul shooters on the line.  We make those foul shots all the time.  I wouldn’t choose better guys in the world to have guys on the line than down the stretch.  The odds are they are going to make them and we are going to be able to set our defense and put somebody up.  If they did miss them we wanted to make sure that we had enough guys back that they couldn’t get an easy one and they got an easy one anyways.”

Sam Webb:  One of our callers had the following question coach… and I think I know the answer… but I’ll ask anyway. Why not put Mitch McGary on someone other then Zeller to try and preserve some of his fouls?

John Beilein:  “We do this for a living.  Mitch played eight minutes because of some foul trouble.  Some of it he continues to grow with and he has to get better with.  Whoever is on him is going to attack him.  It doesn’t matter if it is Zeller or whoever.  They are going to attach whoever has four fouls.”

Sam Webb:  Take me into the locker room because if fans are feeling this way I can only imagine how the guys who actually put the work in the game and how they are feeling.  What did you say to the guys.  Obviously getting back up in time for Penn State is key now.  What do you do in preparation after that? 

John Beilein:  “This has got to be the strength of our coaching staff right now.  This is where our kids need us more than ever.  That’s the whole idea.  It is about learning from this, growing from this.  We’ve got an exciting team.  We’ve won 25 games.  We are a very, very good basketball team that obviously has room for growth and this is part of the things that will help us.  The same message basically that you have all year long after any of these six losses.  We have given a similar message.  You do not stop know, but this one even more where we are going to move past this after we learn from it.  They need nothing but yes faces and pats on the back and let us go.  We’ve got other opportunities now that this particular regular season is over.  Celebrate the 25-6, 31 games, 25-6 with these young guys, very, very good year.”

Sam Webb:  One of those six happen to be against the opponent that you face now in the first round of the Big Ten tournament.  They were particularly effective in the second half of that game with limiting Trey in some respect.  They hit a number of big threes.  Just take us back to that Penn State game and what made them so effective in your estimation.  What are the keys to that contest coming up on Thursday?

John Beilein:  “I think we had 15 or 18 turnovers in that game.  That was a big part of that game, just 18-20 points we just gave them through turnovers.  We’ve become better and better in people trying not to let Trey have the ball and that’s some things that we continue to grow at.  Our turnovers cost us a great deal and our ball screen coverage, both on the ball and off the ball was not very good.  We’ve improved since then, but I’m sure they’ll have new ways to attack and I think we have seen by Penn State’s win at Northwestern and there very, very close loss to Wisconsin (Sunday) that they are not a team that is hapless.  They are a growing team with growing talent and can beat anybody.  Maybe it is good news that we lost that game because we know what we’re facing right now is a team that can beat some very good teams.  Whether you win or lose, the coach’s responsibility is you got to have the same demeanor.  You’ve got to be able to move forward and get better and do things the right way every time.  Go Blue and let us move on.”

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