Sam Webb: Coach glad to catch back up with you because one of the things that we’ve been talking about this season is that with a young team, there being some growing pains, some steps back and then more steps forward. I know we haven’t talked to you in a while, and I don’t want to go back over all those games…
John Beilein: “Yeah, you’ve been supervising one of the biggest coaches searches ever (laughter). You don’t have to apologize to me, you’ve been running this whole show. You got your man.”
Sam Webb: I’ve been an observer to say the least, but I’ve also been observing you guys on the hardwood. That Illinois game coach, we saw a young team show the resiliency and mental toughness that you want a team to show. Their down by 13 points in the second half and you fought back and you won that game.
John Beilein: “It’s a great point. Because it is tough to establish that consistency that every game you’ve got to be ready to adjust to anything that happens and a five minute letdown of any way can just change the game. It is extremely difficult. You hear me talk about all the time, transition defense is one of the hardest things for a young team. We haven’t been strong in it in four years because there has been a common thread, when adversity hits can you think quickly. That’s what happens also when people make runs, is can you think quickly and readjust and recalibrate yourself, what Bo used to call sudden change. All of a sudden you have to regroup and that’s tough to do. We were able to do it in the Illinois game, we weren’t so good with Purdue. We did a great job with Penn State when it got to be 53-53, did a great job with it.”
Sam Webb: You mentioned young teams and one of the characteristics of your recent years at Michigan is your teams have been young. You have said year after year, you can’t avoid it, these guys when things are going well offensively, the other parts of their game go well too. It just so happens that in that game against Illinois, boy Aubrey Dawkins was unbelievable in shooting the basketball. I’m curious, had you seen glimpses of what was to come from Aubrey, not necessarily six of seven from three point range, but offensively what was to come and what he showed in that game?
John Beilein: “The glimpses, we didn’t see six in a row in practice like that, which is really a great thing because as you know, it is difficult for some guys to perform when the lights go on and their on the stage like that. He has not batted an eye when it came to that. His shot that he missed before that was in and out as well. Then he hit two big ones against Penn State the other day. Yeah, he’s a guy that we really need to continue work with. He’ll do extra work again today just to feel comfortable offensively and defensively.”
Sam Webb: You guys win that game and they show the intestinal fortitude that you wanted in an overtime victory. Now you go on the road to Purdue and you’ve always said, it doesn’t matter where you go in conference, it’s tough to win. It goes without saying it was a tough game, but you were pretty outspoken after the contest about the second half effort. What was it that you saw or that you didn’t see that really drew your ire?
John Beilein: “For us, as Purdue showed last night, they’re a pretty good team. For us to really control the whole first half, be in charge the whole first half despite not playing great and then come out and we held our own, but we just did not have what we need to have during that time of just withstanding the adversity that you have especially on the road. Sometimes it is not during the run but its what provides for the run. That all of a sudden, a bad shot, a bad turnover, just a careless play gives people a run out. One of the things that has really been key for us to win on the road over the years is not turning the ball over and I always thought, why do we win on the road, because we don’t turn the ball over. Then when you turn the ball over that leads to things and those are all things that we can control. It was more about going through the process of this, they have to have them hit them between eyes in order to get it and it did pay off against Penn State. You can talk about Sam, but when it happens to you in a game, they get it a little bit better and I think they did.”
Sam Webb: You made a change to your starting lineup, was that a reflection…when you look back at the second half against Purdue, was it their defense or was it more you guys. Was shot selection poor, what did you see offensively in that game that made you say, this is why we weren’t successful and made you make that change.
John Beilein: “We felt that with this particular team we needed more direction out on the floor. So we play two point guards and now you have two passers, we needed more shooting out on the floor and certainly Spike has proven to be a really good outside shooter. Just when you have young players in there, it is difficult for them to assimilate easily to different changes situations. So we said, what’s the best way to do this is lets get the four or five freshman that we have together, really five with Mark and let’s just practice them together every day and get them comfortable coming off the bench. Go with this group and that way, they can fill in spots better and actually they are going to get more reps. They’re going to get more reps in practice and they’re going to feel a lot better about themselves. The next day after I did that, we had a Maize versus Blue game, where the Maize was all the freshman and it was a good old fashion take them to the woodshed whooping that second team gave to the first team and it’s exactly the point that we had to realize. You can play, you just have to learn to play and those are the types of things that we had to sort of stabilize on the team, rotation, chemistry and all these things. The attitude is really good, but the timing was off. That’s what I mean by chemistry, the timing was off.”
Sam Webb: In that Penn State game, Caris was tremendous, in one stretch late in the game, they go to zone and Caris goes to work dissecting it. What did you draw up to make it happen?
John Beilein: “We have seen these on a few games so far is where this is a true matchup zone, you don’t see it very often. It is like half man-to-man and half zone. So they’ll follow cutters through even though it is a zone defense. So we got a couple of good shots that didn’t go down and they made their run. We were making shots and that kept them out of transition, but when their in transition, they’re a very dangerous team. Newbill going north-south is tremendous. So our plan was to continue to try and get Caris the ball, they were switching so many screens. He would find a matchup somewhere that he could exploit. They weren’t helping off our shooters and it really became a one-on-one game in the paint once we could get him the ball and once we got him matched up, he had play with Rickey underneath. He had to make some big shots and there were a lot of shots that he was making earlier in the year. It reminded me of the Villanova game and New Jersey Tech game where we just needed baskets and we turned to Caris.”
Sam Webb: You also got baskets from Zak Irvin, which was great to see because he’s been struggling offensively. Tell me if I’m off base with this comparison, because I remember talking to you a few years ago when you had a sophomore that maybe he was going through a slump and maybe it would effect the other parts of his game, I’m talking about Tim Hardaway. He would maybe go into a shooting slump and you’d see rebounding suffer, defense suffer. It sounds like in listening to Zak that you’re saying some of the same things to him. Don’t let poor shooting effect the other parts of his game.
John Beilein: “You’re right on that his strength could be his weakness. If you have the mindset of a shooter and that’s not going well and you let the rest of your game implode because of it, you really hurt us because you’re hurting us on the offense and the defensive end. So there are ways. They used to say to young men, play when your shot is not going, let’s say you had a bad right band and you had a jammed finger on your right hand and you couldn’t shoot, would you just not play? We need you out there, we need your mind, your body. We need you out there doing other things. You’ll get open shots and part of it will be, I’ve got to get a better open shot. What some people think is an open shot is not an open shot to others. So shot selection, I may have said on the show, three or four possessions where you score, were shooting low 40s this year. Three or four more possessions of good shots leads you to be a 47% shooting team and those are the things. We came up with six possessions in games that were changing games completely. Just change those six possessions and if you’re good with four of those, you could probably get some of those close losses we had earlier in the year.”
Sam Webb: Another thing you could really see in that Penn State game was Zak getting downhill. He was aggressive going to the basket. Is that something that you’ve been stressing with him?
John Beilein: “Without question. We’d like him to throw in a shot fake as well. He is a high volume shooter and we need shot fakes as well. Because now they don’t know if you’re going to shoot it or not. He either shoots it or drives it, he has got to add a little bit of that third part to his game. So look for him to shoot sometimes and actually show a shot, we’ve been working on breaking and that’s the goal right now.”
Sam Webb: It’s tough for freshman, they’re going to go through struggles and then with Kam coming off the bench right now, where is Kameron Chatman right now mentally?
John Beilein: “He’s in a good place. He understands and this is something, this is something that it’s not you, it’s us type of situations. Let’s put you back, get you a lot more reps. We’ve changed our practices where it is not eight or nine guys against the scout team. It is like the Maize versus the Blue. If you’re in there for a scrimmage, instead of sharing time with people, you’re in there for 16 straight minutes learning your position. It has allowed us right now, let’s be really good from our own positions and see what we can do from it and you’re actually going to see more reps in practice, which will make him more ready for games. He came off the bench the other day and performed beautifully. It relaxes people sometimes to come off the bench and they just come in and do what they do. It also allows us to a lot more individual attention with him, which he needs right now. It is just a lot of work and it’s coming together. I said to everybody, the basket is getting bigger for a few guys including him. Because they come out and their freshman and they think they’re shooters but never had a 6’7” guy in their face or quickness underneath them like we saw with a couple of teams and the basket gets small. Then gradually over time, continuous practice, the basket gets bigger and bigger and all of a sudden it does not seem like it once was and that’s our hope for him.”
Sam Webb: You’ve got Minnesota coming up, Minnesota off to a 0-3 start in league play, but 11-5 overall. Tell us what the Golden Gophers bring to the table.
John Beilein: “They’ve got a very experienced team, just a ton of fourth and fifth year guys that are playing for them. It is going to be a challenge again and that’s what we’ll see all year long. I think they’re turning people over at least 11 times a game. They’ve gotten off to a tough start, but it is more about who they’ve played so far. They played a really good Ohio State game tough the other night at home. They lost at Purdue just like us. They lost to a really good Maryland team too at Maryland. So the record is not indicative of who they are right now. They’ve got experienced guards and big men. This will be one where they’ll punch the ball inside a great deal. So our freshman are going to be challenged to guard inside, we’ll have to give a lot of help here and there, but really a good team. They won the NIT last year and lost one player off that team. So they’re an experienced team and we’re going to have to play really well.”
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