Sam Webb: Go to www.votecoachbeilein.com and continue to move him up the ranks so that he can get the 100,000 dollars for the St. Louis Center over in Chelsea. As we look at your bench and look at your starting lineup and it is like, ‘who is coach going to be able to put out on the floor today?’ because you just don’t know from week to week.
John Beilein: “It has been from practice to practice, it has been very difficult to know what you’re going to have and this has been one of those years were we’ve been hit with a lot of strange things whether it is an injury here or sickness here or something. We just got to keep plowing through it, knowing that if you just keep going forward with persistence, and persistence and persistence, things will evolve and we’ll be better for all of it.”
Sam Webb: You’ve set a real consistent tone of not using all that adversity as an excuse and that includes against Wisconsin, the #6 team in the country. You battled to the hilt and took them to overtime. You lost the game, but your message after the game was, 'I don’t like pats on the back for losses... I don’t care who it was against.' It seems like your team really fed off of that.
John Beilein: “That was a disturbing loss to me just from the standpoint that there were some things in that game that we could have controlled that is typical of teams that are going to have some mental lapses here and there and it gave them some easy points. We just got to keep working on some things because their a tremendous basketball team. So when you’re that close to that type of win, it hurts when you don’t get it. It was a great effort by our guys and all those things, but that doesn’t make me tick, the great effort. We want Ws when it comes down to the end.”
Sam Webb: One of the things that stood out to me in that game was to at least in some of your half-court defense, the way you were switching up zones, 2-3, 1-3-1 and I remember you saying earlier in the season, you use it more when you can play it effectively more consistently. The last couple of games it seems like you’re throwing it out there a little bit more. Is that a reflection of these really getting better at it in practice.
John Beilein: “There are a lot of things going on. What are the opposing personnel like, #1, what are our matchups. Number two, how many minutes can our guys play. Sometimes in a zone and sometimes in some of our zones, it’s really taxing on them and others, depending on the attack, it could be 30 seconds of sort of just not chasing people for 30 seconds. You’re basically in a containing mode. It depends on a lot of things, which zone we play. Sometimes it can be great offensive teams, so nobody plays them zone and then you play in a game, they haven’t seen it all year long, they can stand around a little bit and not have all you need to attack it. So there’s a lot of reasons we play zone and we probably use every one so far.”
Sam Webb: You talk about the opponent, it worked very effectively against Nebraska. It was one of their worst shooting games... maybe the worst shooting game of the season. Pettaway went 1-11 from the field combined with Shields, they were 5 for 23. I know part of it coach was those guys missing a few looks, but pretty good defensive effort by your squad as well.
John Beilein: “We’re working hard now at being a multiple defensive team because of the reasons that I just mentioned. Going into that game, we really felt that zone was a more viable option than it may have been even against Wisconsin just because of some tendencies that they have. We went with it a lot. We did play pretty solid man-to-man. Muhammad was on Pettaway the whole time and when he was in man-to-man and did a great job. We’re growing every day with all those things. In the future when we go to now and next year we’re going to this zone or play in that zone, it is so many people will know a little bit of what we’re talking about, we’ll be more apt to be multiple defenses in the future as well.”
Sam Webb: You probably don’t have time to sit and think about what might have been, but looking at the Nebraska game especially and thinking if you don’t pick up Aubrey Dawkins and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, what would this team be like? If you look at what Aubrey meant to you in the first half, he had 13 of your 23 points. You look at Muhammad scoring all of his points, they all came in the second half and he was effective getting to the basket. Your two guys that you’re leaning on a lot lately have really come through for you.
John Beilein: “The game is just too quick for them earlier in November and December. It was just too quick. They were in the wrong place, wrong time, timing. It takes time for them to really get all the things that are going through offensively and defensively. They’re doing a great job right now and they really they have to. We don’t have any other choice right now then to play them major minutes and then bring guys like Andrew and Sean and with some rest periods. I like the idea of Kam is going to be able to get more minutes now from a standpoint that we’re down a man with Caris. It’s good that these guys are all getting exposure that when we go into the off season. When we say, you need to be able to dribble the ball with your left hand better, they get it. They saw how people locked into them when they couldn’t use their left hand, etc.”
Sam Webb: Comfort is somewhat of what we’re seeing offensively and there are some instances in that Nebraska game that stick out to me, some offensive possessions. There was one where Aubrey curls off a screen and nails an elbow jumper. There were a couple of times where you dumped it down into the post and Ricky Doyle, missed his first one but you went right back to him. He went to work in the post and got a bucket. Is that more of an emphasis from you or is that those guys getting more comfortable with the offense on the floor?
John Beilein: “That’s a good question Sam. I think a little bit of both. We feel that we can score inside on some people. We think that Ricky, Max and Mark in one-on-one matchup can score. We’re watching how people are playing them and we’re trying to tweak our system to do a few other things, scoring without some of the tendencies that we’ve had in the past. I would think hopefully we can punch it in there more and we can find other ways to get Aubrey open.”
Sam Webb: Health update for today, how is Derrick coming along?
John Beilein: “This is like a rest period for him right now. Really, the one we’ve been sort of waiting for. It has been over four to five days since our Wisconsin game where he has not done anything. We put him on a scooter and we’re going to wait and see what the next couple of days bring and see if he can get back into action before too long. Right now, I don’t have anything definitive to say. Hopefully, by the Michigan State game we’ll know more.”
Sam Webb: That Michigan State game, I look back to his performance in that game last year. It really seemed to me to be his coming out party, he was so aggressive in transition, so aggressive getting to the rim. He outplayed Keith Appling in that game and was a big factor for you guys. Now you’re going up to the Breslin with some young guys. At least they have some games under their belts, but what do the Spartans bring to the table this year?
John Beilein: “The usual. I mean, they’re really a good defensive team again. I think this is one of the best passing and shooting teams that they’ve had. So zones will be very difficult against them from the standpoint that they really pass it well and shoot it so well. They’re just a really good team. They’ve had some ups and downs. They’ve had transition too. Gary Harris was a great player, Payne really good player, Appling, McDonald’s All-American. So they are going through some transition. Certainly not as much as us, but they still have been…it is the same Michigan State. They’ll be well coached. They’re really a smart team. They play well together and they’re crowd likes them very much and may not like Michigan as much when we go up there.”
Sam Webb: This is where those vets, guys that have been there before (come through). Zak came through big, he had 11 boards in the last game. You had seven assists from Spike and he was six for six from the free throw line. That tells you Spike was going to the basket and then Max, six for nine from the field, 12 points, nine boards, coach this is one of those games that you go on the road to Michigan State and you’re looking to your vets again.
John Beilein: “We have to embrace the physical play that they’re so good at. We’ve had a couple of games down there that we went toe to toe with them and some other times when they hit us and we backed off. This is not one of those things where you can back off from how physical they can play. It’s going to be difficult obviously and go up there and do what we always do. Go up there and throw the ball up and let’s see what we can do and hopefully it is another great game in this series that has been going on forever and it won’t be the only time we see them. We’ll see them back in Ann Arbor later on.”
Sam Webb: Keep grinding.
John Beilein: “You know that. This is The University of Next Man Up and we will just keep working and working and grinding and grinding to see what we can do down the stretch.”
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