Feb. 10, 2012
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- After the Wolverines recorded a win in the first Big Ten meeting between U-M and Nebraska, University of Michigan men's basketball head coach John Beilein and select players addressed the media on Friday (Feb. 10).
Coach Beilein entered the media roundtable with a smile and commented on the positive atmosphere in the Player Development Center as Michigan's men's and women's basketball teams defeated Nebraska in back-to-back nights in Lincoln, Neb.
After previewing the upcoming matchup against Illinois, Beilein also touched on the how he balances preparation for its next opponent, as well as putting the team in a position to make a run at the Big Ten regular-season title, Big Ten Tournament championship and an NCAA Tournament birth.
In the first Big Ten meeting between Michigan and Nebraska on Wednesday (Feb. 8), the Wolverines jumped out to an early 9-2 lead to set the tone for the game. Senior Zack Novak (Chesterton, Ind./Chesterton) sparked the run with two three-pointers to open the game. His second triple pushed him to the 1,000-point mark in his career, making him the 45th Wolverine to reach the milestone. The second half belonged to Michigan as the Wolverines shot 76.2 percent (16-for-21) from the floor, including 6-for-7 from behind the arc, to secure the 62-46 victory.
Michigan now turns its attention to Illinois, which is 5-6 in the Big Ten, including its most-recent loss (84-71) to Indiana on Wednesday (Feb. 9). The Illini are led by junior guard Brandon Paul (15.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg) and sophomore center Myers Leonard (13.5 ppg, 7.8 rpg). The last time the two teams met on the hardwood was in the 2011 Big Ten Tournament Quarterfinals when Michigan used a 60-55 victory to advance to the next round.
Michigan Head Coach John Beilein
Opening statement ... "It was good to get that 'W' at Nebraska, even greater to have our women go and get the win again last night -- to sweep that state in two nights was good for us. There's a good feeling in this building right now. And now we move on to a really important game with Illinois. They certainly are a very talented team, you watch their team and they have had some great wins over Ohio State and Gonzaga. Now we have to play really well against them. Just because we're home doesn't mean we're going to play well, but after five of six on the road and coming out 3-3, I think there's a lot of hope right now that we can finish strong."
On Illinois center Meyers Leonard ... "He has a lot of skill. He reminds me of (former Illini player Mike) Tisdale as a junior, but he's only a sophomore. He's really tough to stop one-on-one. We've got to find ways to do that, or double him and do different things with him. He presents a little of the same things we saw with (Indiana forward) Cody Zeller in that he's huge. He's a true 7-foot-1, I like him, and he's going to be a difficult one for us to match up with. We have to stay out of foul trouble and try to guard him."
On the crowds at Crisler Center this season ... "It's nice to see, except for a couple hundred people shy at the Northwestern game, every one of our Big Ten games has been a virtual sellout. Then we've had really good crowds for the Iowa State game and the other non-conference games earlier in the year. To see it grow like that, it's a good feeling, and I know the accountants are probably happy about it as well."
On the bench staying positive ... "We have been doing everything we can with them as far as being positive, how to handle games and doing meditation -- all different things to see positive outcomes -- you just have to do it. If you're golfing and you can't make a putt, you can practice and practice, but at some point you have to make one to feel good about it. (Matt Vogrich) has gotten through that right now, same thing with Evan (Smotrycz) and Blake (McLimans). For all those guys, it is very difficult to come off the bench and feel comfortable."
On playing for a Big Ten title versus just getting in the NCAA Tournament ... "I think we're still playing to get in. We're playing to get to the Big Ten Championships. Fortunately, at this stage of the game, we're still in the hunt for the Big Ten championship. Obviously, every team in the country is still in the hunt for a tournament championship, as long as they're in a league, and we're in the hunt to get in the NCAA Tournament and maybe go after a national championship. Last year at this time, we were only hunting two of those -- the league tourney championship, and then get in the NCAAs. I think we're still hunting all of them. Any of you all would think we have something locked up, but we still have to keep winning."
On showing the Nebraska film to Tim Hardaway Jr. ... "We've been breaking down a lot of things for Tim lately and he's, as always, very receptive to it. He's starting to see some things that will really be helpful."
Contact: Tom Wywrot, Whitney Dixon (734) 763-4423