Sam Webb: I guess I want to start off talking history. Can you draw on any experiences like this? Have you been through any experiences in your career where you dropped a couple of games unexpectedly like this and saw your team rebound as a result?
John Beilein: “Absolutely and at every stop. I think it is more about a program rebounding than a particular team. Both of those happened, but this thing, we’re in a stage with our program, we’re just trying to get better, get better and get better every day. People become stunned or embarrassed or something like that. This is not what college basketball has become right now. You have to continue to build a program and build a program and sometimes you can do it each year, you get your team right. Sometimes that year may be one that you’re just working at and who knows what can happen at the end of that year. Every place we’ve been, I can tell you ever game or games, where you say oh my goodness and then by the end of that year, or it is a feeding ground for really good years to come.”
Sam Webb: Let’s start off with the NJIT game. That game came on the heels of an outstanding effort against Syracuse where you’ve got terrific performances from a few different places including off your bench with Ricky Doyle. In the game against NJIT, it really was from an offensive perspective, it was Caris and then you obviously got a really good performance from Derrick but outside of that not a whole lot of productivity. Is that just the nature of having a young team right now?
John Beilein: “That was a really bad defensive day for us. Some of that had to do with some really spectacular shots that New Jersey Tech threw in. That was about the defense that wasn’t about, okay our offense is really bad. We scored enough points. If you score 70 points, you should win a game. Defensively, we gave up 58% and some of them were easy ones and some of them were we carried burdens around that game, if we had some offensive woes and we have to grow through it and it is not surprising at all. It happens all the time with every team and you just have a great learning experience for us. You’re not going to find this coach putting the blame on people or saying it was this or it was that. It’s part of a process that we’re in again right now and we just work every day to help the process go forward.”
Sam Webb: You talked about the defense and really where it has shown up is the perimeter defense. You have some good quickness out there, guys that have the ability, why are you seeing the breakdowns on the perimeter right now?
John Beilein: “There is a lot of reasons for it when people spread us out. In some areas it is a matter of quickness, some areas it is a matter of the shape that we get into defensively. Sometimes it is that we’re just carrying burdens around with us from the offensive end.”
Sam Webb: Is Derrick still laboring, is he not quite 100% yet?
John Beilein: “We have a couple of injuries that have been significant in these games that it has been hard for our guys to practice and do things, but it is not going to be an excuse.”
Sam Webb: The highlight of the game, you’ve got to focus on the fact that it was a loss, but you got a spectacular performance from Caris LeVert in that contest. It really showed you everything, the full array of his offensive talent.
John Beilein: “Yeah he was really good. We dialed him up over and over again and we’re talking about defense. We don’t have a defense for the three shots that the young man hit from New Jersey Tech. Nobody has a defense for that. He kept hitting threes, we kept hitting twos. Caris hit threes. Every time we dialed it up, he got it done. We just didn’t have quite enough to get the stops defensively. We had one turnover late in that game that was costly, but that was never one that just cost the game. There were probably things that happened earlier in the game that was more relevant to the outcome than that one turnover.”
Sam Webb: After that game, obviously the message was not letting that game beat you twice, which is something that you focused on. Do you think that what happened with the Eastern Michigan game?
John Beilein: “No it didn’t beat us twice. No we played much better. Our defense was really good against Eastern Michigan. I can’t recall too many times when we make a team shoot 32 or 33% and we lose. I loved the way our kids played against Eastern Michigan as far as their intentions, their heart and their desire. Again, this was a much better defense like the flip, but our offense was not very good. It was a very difficult zone, it is very quick and several times we had really good shots and we didn’t make them and there were other times when the ball stuck. We just didn’t quite move quick enough or there quickness sped us up. It’s incredible quickness. Their quickness sped us up and we weren’t as efficient as we need to be and that’s all there is too it.”
Sam Webb: Break down for us what the difference is between Syracuse’s 2-3 and what we saw from Eastern Michigan. Why was Eastern Michigan more effective?
John Beilein: “It’s tough to judge the two enough. I can’t tell you why we can get 17 offensive rebounds in one game and two in the other. We didn’t really solve the Syracuse zone other than we made our open threes in the second half and we got a ton of extra opportunities. Syracuse turned it over 17 times and we had 17 offensive rebounds. That’s the difference in the two zones. They’re both really quick, both really good. We just got extra possessions against Syracuse and they did not get shots up sometimes because they gave it right back to us.”
Sam Webb: When you look at the box score at the end of that game, certainly there were a number of glaring things offensively that stuck out. It was not good day offensively for anyone. I guess the most surprising stat for me was the turnover stat and to see who led you in turnovers. My reaction after seeing that and seeing the game, I don’t think we’ll ever see another game where Spike will lead you in turnovers.
John Beilein: “Yeah that is very uncharacteristic of how he plays. He’s really one of our best zone players as a matter of fact, but he has got a few bumps and bruises right now that are difficult for him, but he keeps playing through.”
Sam Webb: I guess the very last thing, you were talking about turnovers and one of the things that kind of stuck out to us is in your defensive effort you were able to force Eastern into 17 turnovers, but it translated to eight points. I was curious if you could point to why when looking back at the tape, why you were unable to turn more of those turnovers into more points or beat that defense down the floor more often than you did in the contest.
John Beilein: “You look at it from a football perspective, sometimes the turnovers are touchdowns. Sometimes you give the ball to the other team and that’s what we did. We had some turnovers from touchdowns from them. Sometimes just a matter of a walk, there is a matter of a charge. I think they had four or five charges. You don’t get out in transition on some turnovers and that one we did not have a great deal of transitional steals and just getting up the floor quick enough. For a zone defense, they had really great transition defense, they were back very quickly. Turnovers are all different. I think if you fumble the ball on the 10 yard line of the other team, they still got 90 yards to go. If you throw a pick six on the 10 yard line, they’ve got 90 yards to run in the open. Turnovers don’t always mean that you’re going to get scores at the other basket.”
Sam Webb: Here is the thing about season, you know this. You can’t get too up with the wins and too down with the losses and you’ve got another game coming up and you’ve got a good one with Arizona coming up on Saturday. Tell us about Arizona and break them down for us.
John Beilein: “The big thing is that it is a long season and as we continue to take this team and just work with it. I’m more worried about you and Ira and other people panicking than us panicking. This is just part of that process. We just go and keep getting better and better every day. We’re exactly where we’re at. So now you move on past that game and you take a whole bunch of things that you learn every game, especially with our young guys. The information coming to them and how do I say that, I told you so type of things that you don’t say it that way. You realize they will understand what’s going on and then they just get better through it. You go to Arizona, who has got a tremendous team, great point guard, big men. They were hurt by the injury last year and they might have won a national championship. They’ve really got eight or nine guys playing at a high level. So it’ll be difficult for us, but another time and opportunity for us to really grow.”