Coppin State provided the perfect recipe to end U-M’s losing streak, as Michigan defeated the Eagles, 72-56.
"To have a quick turnaround like we had, especially with the way we played on Saturday [against SMU], it was important to get a win any way that we could,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “I loved the way we started the game. The way we just looked tired in the second half, I thought we persevered just enough to get a good win, and we have a little bounce in our step going into the holiday break.
“So we will not practice again until Friday (Dec. 26) at 8 p.m. We are going to lift, and I might shoot with some guys that come in early. Other than that, it was huge just to get back in the winning column again and move forward."
Point guard Derrick Walton Jr. spoke to the team at half-court before the game. Beilein had no knowledge of the speech, but says his PG is growing as a leader on the team.
Walton Jr. also finished with nine-points and nine assists, which caught the attention of his coach in the post-game.
"He has continued to evolve here, because you know, last year, there was a lot of responsibility for him, but he had so many helpers on the court that were teaching him the nuances of what we do and being a point guard,” Beilein said. “He is growing, but he has a lot of growth to do in that area, to see all the things as defenses change. He made a couple of those (adjustments) today, and that will be big as he continues to grow in that area.”
Along with Walton’s nine assists, the Wolverines finished with 18 total assiats compared to 12 turnovers.
"They were playing a zone, so you are going to have more assists there as well,” Beilein said. “but we have been preaching that, sometimes, everybody is such a good kid on the team. They want to help their teammates, and they want to make this play, but it turns out being a tough two or a tough three. They do not need to do that. Just trust your teammates, trust each other, trust the offense, and good things will happen."
With eight days till Michigan plays host to Illinois for its Big Ten opener, the holiday break is focused on getting players rest, Beilein says.
"Without question it is huge for us,” Beilein said. “I'm saying the trip overseas (to Italy) was tremendous for us, however, these kids reported here in June. Some of them only went home for like three days in October break, and that has been it. So these three days right now are huge. In the second half, they continued to press us, but I thought some of our guys looked really tired out there, so they need to go home, put their feet up, get in their own bed, have mom do some cooking for them, and then they will come back, and we will be ready to go for the Big Ten schedule."