Pitt defense will test Michigan Wednesday

Pitt defense will test Michigan Wednesday

Michigan Head Coach John Beilein and the Wolverines utilized the week away from game action to focus on themselves just three games into the season. What did they find? A few "holes" to patch up prior to the challenge awaiting them in New York.

Michigan hasn't spent much time sitting on their hands awaiting their semifinal showdown in the NIT Preseason Tip-off at Madison Square Garden Wednesday evening against Pittsburgh. Instead John Beilein and the Wolverines worked out a few early season kinks with the wealth of practice time, something very beneficial for a young team, specifically defensively.

"I think that we have to communicate better and talk better," said Beilein Monday. "There were a lot of open shots that we gave up that people just didn't make just from being a step late—normal timing and communication. Same thing with our offense. We have to cut harder. We have to run faster. Theres some things as coaches we got to make sure they do."

Staying game ready was also a priority in recent days. With Pittsburgh having the luxury of playing one more game, a come from behind overtime win over Oakland, in preparation for their three day trip to New York, Beilein thought it best to make Saturday a game day experience for his own team.

"We really tried to simulate that this would be a normal two day prep for a game," said Beilein. "We had yesterday (Sunday) off but we pushed them really hard Saturday. We had enough hours left that we could lift weights, have a full scrimmage Saturday, about a forty minute scrimmage amongst ourselves, ‘cause Pitt was playing at the same time—get our heart rates really up like a game situation."

Once the actual game time arrives at 9:30pm Wednesday at the Garden, something will have to give between the two undefeated teams.

Pitt will come into the contest giving up just 53.5 points per game along with averaging nearly 9 steals and 4 blocks per game defensively.

Michigan, also giving up around 54 points a game thus far, has done their damage on the offensive side of the ball scoring just under 90 points a contest with quite a few of those coming on the fast break. Pitt will look to slow the temp against the Wolverines, and, if they succeed, an efficient and timely half court offense will be a key to victory.

"Because we've been in transition so much I'm interested to see how we'll do against a really great half court defense like Pitt," said Beilein. "To see how we respond to that."

Big men getting back

The return of forward/center Jon Horford gives Michigan added size and athleticism inside, and Beilein indicated Monday there have been no setbacks as the younger brother of Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford continues to work his way back into game shape.

Freshman Mitch McGary, who's also been working hard to improve his playing shape, passed some important conditioning tests in recent days that should give the rotation in the paint a bit of a boost.

"We have this fitness test that we do with people, and he made it," said Beilein. "He is getting there. Again the fitness test is not a basketball test, because there's only one thing like that where you're sprinting and sprinting and boxing out and being physical in the post and then running and running. We didn't do that part, but he's certainly making the right progression where he can play in there effectively for five or six minutes at a time."

"I think it's unrealistic today to have a big man not get a rest somewhere along the line after five or six minutes right now, unless he's an incredible warrior and experienced player."

To watch video of Beilein's presser Monday afternoon, press play below.



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