Feb. 29, 2012
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- University of Michigan men's basketball head coach John Beilein and select players addressed the media on Wednesday (Feb. 29) as the Wolverines prepare their final two regular-season games on the road, including a matchup at Illinois on Thursday (March 1).
With two games remaining in the regular season, Michigan is still in the running for the Big Ten regular-season title, currently tied for second with Ohio State at 11-5. Michigan State is still holding onto the top spot at 13-4, but if the Spartans lose to Ohio State in their regular-season finale and the Wolverines win out, they could still clinch a share of the conference title.
After a tough loss to Purdue on Senior Night (Saturda, Feb. 25), Michigan has turned its focus to getting wins in its final two Big Ten games -- Thursday at Illinois (March 1) and Sunday at Penn State (March 4).
When Michigan and Illinois met two and a half weeks ago in Ann Arbor, the Wolverines came away with a 70-61 victory. Sophomore guard Tim Hardaway Jr. (Miami, Fla./Palmetto Senior) led a group of four Wolverines in double digits with 15 points. Michigan's defense held 7-1 center Meyers Leonard to just five points in the win. Leonard is one of three Illini averaging in double figures, averaging 13.4 points per outing. He is joined by Brandon Paul (15.8) and D.J. Richardson (12.1).
Michigan Head Coach John Beilein
Opening statement ... "We're in the final stretch now with a week to go and two games. As disappointed as we were in the loss to Purdue, we thought we played a very good Purdue team. It showed why those three seniors have been so successful over the last four years. We got spoiled by winning four in a row and now we have to bounce back -- we've been pretty good at that all year long. To win a Big Ten championship is still in sight, but we have to bounce back."
On the loss to Purdue after winning four straight ... "We hadn't lost in a couple of weeks. I think it hit pretty hard -- I know it hit the coach pretty hard. It hit everybody hard. We were spoiled by winning four in a row and 15 in a row at home. I think it hit us pretty hard and now to bounce back it important. We like winning -- it feels good to win, and all of a sudden it's that disappointment -- we hadn't had that disappointment in a while. If you think about our last losses, they were at Michigan State, at Ohio State -- two very good teams that not a lot of people have beaten at home and now we lose at home -- it hit us both ways."
On the run for a Big Ten title motivating the players ... "If we hadn't talked about it all year long -- about what we try to do here at the University of Michigan, win championships -- it wouldn't be that big of a point right now. It's good and it's been emphasized. Hopefully there will be some bounce in our step. It should be natural now."
On playing Illinois on their Senior Night ... "As the games go down now, when you're going for a championship -- you're trying to get a seed in your tournament, you're trying to get in the NCAA Tournament, if anyone is playing these last two games and they're not important, you probably don't have a very good team. So, as a result, they're all important. At the same time, Illinois is fighting as well. Three wins at the end of their season would certainly change their look going in to the Big Ten Tournament."
On having four days to prep for Illinois and the players having off from school ... "We try to use that to our advantage. We've had double sessions with guys that don't play a lot because after somebody tells us we can't play anymore, a guy like Max Bielfeldt I might have six hours all spring to work with total. He and all of our guys that our redshirts, Jon Horford and Sai (Tummala), even Carlton Brundidge who hasn't had the time, we've worked lots of hours with them. At the same time we tried to rest and watch film -- there are no restrictions on our hours this week -- so we can watch more film and we can do more things."
Contact: Tom Wywrot, Whitney Dixon (734) 763-4423