John Beilein Opening Statement: "Okay first road game. Always interesting first road game and to have it at Maryland is like having it at Cameron Indoor as well. It will be a great environment. It will be one that we'll have to adjust to and how we adjust to it will probably be pretty key to staying in the game. I haven't been at the Comcast Center yet. I have heard stories about how loud it is. So we're going to do our best to keep our poise that'll be important."
Question: Did you watch the Michigan State-Maryland game?
John Beilein: "Yeah I sure did. They've played three games within the last week, so I was able to watch them several times, all against different styles. Watch some games from before – the Vermont game. They're searching as well… but the Michigan State game is very, very impressive. I think about that game more than I think about how they played with no preparation for Georgetown. I've been on Big Monday with Georgetown before and it wasn't pretty and we didn't have much time."
Question: Is DeShawn Sims still going to come off of the bench?
John Beilein: "Look for that and see what happens. I'm not sure what we're are going to do right now, but he certainly has played well enough to get him as many minutes as we can get him. So that means putting him in the starting lineup. I'm going to look at some rotations today and DeShawn has really played well. I'm not talking about the big shot that he hit at the end, I'm just talking about he has a work habit right now. When he's playing, he's not quitting on anything. He is finishing, not just baskets, but finishing plays, tipping balls. I'm really proud of him. He's had a great three weeks, a very focused three weeks."
Question: When he's playing that way, can he be a calming influence for people around him when he's on the floor?
John Beilein: "Yeah, I thought there were several opportunities to throw him the ball last game inside and we didn't throw it inside and he kept his composure, where I think…that's a part of our game where we're trying to look at more. I like the way he kept his composure. He kept his mental toughness. Yesterday, we had a tough practice yesterday. He kept his toughness through that too. I just watch the young man grow every day; there will be some slippage, but I see him growing every day to fight through the times that are synonymous with college basketball at this level."
Question: Do you have any trepidation about taking DeShawn out of that sixth man role; he seems to be thriving on it?
John Beilein: "Yeah. I just want to make sure…I think if we make there will be a couple of reasons for doing it. 1) Just to get him more minutes and 2) take Zach Gibson and just ease him in. Just say come in there and play looser. Be a spark off the bench, so that could be a tradeoff that we look at."
Question: How is this team better prepared for a big week like this than maybe it was a year ago?
John Beilein: "It's tough for me to make the comparisons to last year, no matter who we were playing last year it was going to be a hard week. This is just really…when you play an ACC road game against a team like Maryland at their place, it is so difficult. Then you have a team of Duke's magnitude coming in here. You can't even think about the week. You've got to think about today's practice and Maryland is the only game left and then we'll deal with Duke later on. I'm hoping, looking at the minutes. I look at our guards. I'm holding them to task now, some our veterans. Wait a minute, you played 800 minutes last year, you played 600 minutes last year… these are mistakes that they need to clean up on. Those are the types of things as we go into those games that we learned so much from those minutes last year that we're cutting down on our mistakes. It just seems like there are some areas that won't go away."
Question: Would you like to see a third guy or fourth guy to step up and take some of the scoring load?
John Beilein: "Oh my goodness yes. Yes, yeah, we need that badly. Zach Novak gave that to us. I think he gave us nine points in the second half of that game Saturday and hit three 3s. So between him and Stu (Douglass); the two of them to hit four to five 3s a game, there is 12-15 points that we need to get. We need that, we need a third and fourth and hopefully we'll get a fifth at some time. We'll get more consistent scoring shooting beside DeShawn and Manny (Harris)."
Question: Do you think the New York spotlight maybe will help these guys get prepared for the big game this week?
John Beilein: "It's got to help in some way. How much I don't know, but it's got to help. We've been home for five straight games and we didn't play any top level teams and now we're going out there 5-1. We've played some pretty good teams, two very, very good teams."
Question: As you look at the stat sheet team wise, what area would you say I really like that we're doing this and what area would you say that we just have to do better?
John Beilein: "Our free throw shooting is phenomenal; now it is Manny phenomenal. I mean you look at it, Manny going 14-14 and tell me it wasn't a pressure free throw. When you're down by that many… so that's good. I know our big guys are better outside shooters… their three point shooting is not good. Peedi had like two games last year where he hit four 3s in a game. So those are the types of things. Everybody needs to shoot it. I like our defensive field goal percentage and from three. That's a lot better than it was last year. Maybe it's the line, we're still trying to figure out if it is the line with us, with others."
Question: When you have to scramble like you did Saturday (Savannah State) to come back and get a win; how does that mindset of desperation to get a win prepare you?
John Beilein: "What was really big in that game that I thought was when we ended up coming back and tying it or getting within two and then they answered and then we didn't score and we made a defensive stop. Then we didn't score again and made another defensive stop. Then we scored. That really told me something. Because you fight back and then you get delayed there in the process, there's a time that they're going to outwork you for shots. Nobody got outworked in those last 15 minutes of regulation and the last five minutes of overtime. They gave a great effort, but we fought back. I think that really shows…I told them at halftime, you know what's going to win this game, it's not going to be some pretty drawn up play, it's going to be a guy just hustling. I thought there was a great point where Manny had the ball kicked away from him, coming off the baseline and somehow Zach Novak got it, gave it to Manny and got a three point play; that was just a gutsy play."
Question: Coach the game on Saturday is sold out. It's kind of another culmination that you've been working for is getting attendance up… talk about how excited you are to see a packed house for a game?
John Beilein: "I got to worry about Maryland first. But I think that it's great. It prepares us for the Big Ten season where I hope we'll have more games with that type of fan interest and that is what we want to do. I actually think our games right now whether they're with Savannah State or Northeastern or Norfolk State, I think we've had great crowds that were very loud and into the game. It's ironic that the Savannah State game, if you end up going in and winning that game by 20 or 30, people may say, boy that wasn't a good game and I wish they had scheduled somebody tougher and it was a more exciting game. You can't beat a more exciting game then that. Now that is not the level that we want to go to but at the same time, there is a lot of excitement. We're working hard doing our best, we're not there yet, but people are curious."
Question: You mentioned the freshman guards… are you surprised by the amount that they are giving you so far?
John Beilein: "You never know what to expect with the freshmen because even the big time pure shooters as freshman can struggle. When there is another kid their size with a hand in their face and really making them dribble the ball, it's tough. Zach Novak hit those three shots and he had people all over him on all three, or two of them. I'm not surprised but at the same time I'm extremely grateful that those kids have come in with a little bit of a swagger. Whether it's against UCLA or whether it is a comeback situation that they want to shoot the ball."
Question: What are your thoughts on how poorly the Big Ten has been in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge?
John Beilein: "You know that is so….I haven't studied it that much and I don't think there is this huge disparity between the two when you get into the NCAA tournament. Maybe there is? You have to look at the numbers. A lot of times, when you tell me North Carolina has a losing record in this matchup, sometimes it just comes down to those things. Maybe there is a middle pack that is slightly stronger that year that they were playing. There is a decided advantage for the home teams in these games. I think it will cycle both ways over time."
Question: Do you think it is a positive experience?
John Beilein: "For scheduling it's great. It's so hard to schedule and you know that you have another quality home game every other year. We would be likely to be playing at Maryland or let's say a Marquette or a Missouri; we would be playing somebody that you need some good road game strength on your RPI. So why not Maryland?"
Question: Does the message change? Do you expect more out of your team? Do you start pumping up the message when you have a week like this?
John Beilein: "I think the Savannah State game brought us back to reality a little bit. Every game is going to be a struggle. We're going to have our ups and down like crazy that would've been quite a let down for a while. That would have been one that's tough to recover from. So let's learn from it the right way and not learn from it from another loss like that. I think our guys are too young to know any different right now, then just to go and let's just do the best we can against Maryland. Learn from it, if we win learn from it, if we lose learn from it."
Question: Is it kind of a plus that Savannah State happened so that you don't have to be mindful of getting big headed or too excited about this week?
John Beilein: "Yeah but you have to watch that now because they really don't know of the level that is out there waiting for you down the road. That was a great game for us. Playing and saying this is where we are right now. You can beat anybody, you showed that and you can lose to anybody. Focus on your improvement and just keeping getting better. If we keep getting better, keep going this way who knows what can happen one day."