On a day littered with reasons for excitement -- the Crisler Center re-dedication ceremony, along with recognizing several former Michigan basketball greats from Cazzie Russell to Glen Rice -- the fourth ranked Wolverines didn’t give the fans in attendance much of a reason to get loud in a lackluster 79-71 win over a Penn State team that drops to 0-and-13 in the Big Ten.
But just like a honey badger, John Beilein doesn’t care.
“Last week was such a difficult week for our kids just to try to bounce back,” said Beilein afterward. “And we just needed to win any way possible -- one point, two points, 33 points -- it didn’t make a difference. We just needed a ‘W’, and to do it the way we did I think is a silver lining.”
After having their pride handed to them in jar by Michigan State Tuesday night, the Wolverines took to the practice court with a different chip on their shoulder -- looking to get tougher. For Beilein and his coaching staff, the line between critical and encouraging is one to be flirted with carefully.
“If this is the 80th practice and you’re still not talking on defense, then you have to get after them,” said Beilein. “We pride ourselves on being teachers, but there are some moments these last couple weeks where we just say, ‘Enough is enough. We’re going to do this cause you won’t do that.’
“It’s that area where you don’t want to get them so they lose their confidence, but at the same time, getting tougher, right now, through all these things is important for us.”
Michigan’s defense, specifically against pick and roll action, left a lot to be desired, as center Jordan Morgan continues working to return to his old self physically, not yet capable of moving well enough laterally on the perimeter after suffering an ankle sprain at Illinois on January 27th. Using up just 15 fouls Sunday to Penn State’s 25, Beilein believes the Wolverines could stand to make the opposition feel a little more pain too.
“That was really a major emphasis of just everybody getting in the stance, realizing this is big boy basketball,” said Beilein. “You’re going to get hit, you’re going to get shoved a little bit – people are going to wall you up. And you still have to play through it.
“And defensively, we need to do that as well. We had a couple guys averaging one foul a game. That’s either superior defense or -- when you lose a game like we lost to Michigan State and we’ve got guys with one foul? There’s more in you, you’ve got to give us more.”
Beilein and the Wolverines now have a full week to prepare for Illinois next Sunday at 1pm from Crisler Center, but not before they take Monday and Thursday off, sprinkling in a little “mini camp” on Tuesday and Wednesday.
After the game, Beilein updated the status of freshman Caris LeVert and junior Jordan Morgan, both suffering from ankle sprains.
“Caris couldn’t go back in after it tightened up on him so it’s important -- it’s good to have depth there,” said Beilein. “I thought Matt (Vogrich) gave us some good minutes.”
“We had no idea that Jordan Morgan would take this long. He wants to play. He’s insistent on playing. He’s insistent on coming to practice. But when you watch him move out there -- it’s not happening. He’s delayed.”
To watch video of Beilein after the win over Penn State, press play below.