March 5, 2013
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The University of Michigan men's basketball team held a media roundtable on Tuesday (March 5) prior to traveling to West Lafayette, Ind., for the team's final regular-season road matchup with Purdue on Wednesday (March 6) at 7 p.m.
The Wolverines are coming off a 58-57 win over in-state rival Michigan State on Sunday (March 3) and are looking to carry that momentum into Mackey Arena tomorrow night. With Sunday's win, Michigan not only avenged a loss to the Spartans in East Lansing, Mich., earlier in the season but also bounced back from a disappointing loss at Penn State on Feb. 27.
In the locker room after that loss to the Nittany Lions, senior captain Josh Bartelstein sat back and watched the many emotions coming from his teammates and knew he had to do something.
Bartelstein and some of Michigan's other vocal leaders, including fifth-year senior Corey Person and sophomore Trey Burke, brought the team together to hash out what was holding the Wolverines back. The message from the three leaders to the rest of the team was essentially two-fold -- hold each other accountable in adverse situations and get back to having fun playing together.
In Sunday's matchup with the Spartans, the Wolverines accomplished both of those things in front of a capacity crowd at Crisler Center. Despite not converting a single three-pointer, Michigan found other ways to be successful, as good teams do. The Wolverines scored 44 of its 58 points in the paint and forced the Spartans into 18 turnovers to help hold them to just 57 points. After 40 minutes of tough play with smiles on their faces, the Wolverines seemed to have their edge back.
That same edge will be essential to Michigan success when they face Purdue, which most recently defeated Wisconsin by 13 points on the road. In U-M's first matchup of the season with the Boilermakers, the Wolverines were trailing by one at the half, 33-32. Deciding that defense was going to drive its offense and put the squad in a position to win, Michigan came out of the locker room and outscored Purdue, 36-20, in the final 20 minutes of play. The Maize and Blue defense held Purdue's three leading scorers to a combined nine points and emerged with a 15-point victory.
Michigan has just two games remaining before tournament season, and in addition to Coach Beilein, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jordan Morgan speaking with the media, Bartelstein sat down for a brief interview.
U-M Senior Guard Josh Bartelstein
On what he saw from the team's performance vs. Michigan State ... "I just think we hadn't really had an edge to us and been playing really tough. More than anything, against Michigan State, guys were having fun again. Sometimes with the grind of a season, you get tired and you forget for a second that you're playing basketball. I think we embraced the moment, and guys were smiling and having fun out there."
On his role in the team meeting after the loss to Penn State ... "I was sitting by myself in the locker room after the Penn State game, and I saw the looks on the guy's faces and how rough it was on everyone. I thought the worst thing we could do was to go our separate ways. I arranged for a team dinner/meeting. Me, Corey Person and Trey Burke were the ones who really spoke. It was all about keeping perspective on everything, but at the same time, we need to start holding each other accountable for some of the things that were going wrong. The other message was, which we did on Sunday, was to have fun playing with each other again."
On finishing the season strong ... "This is the last stretch. There isn't a lot of practice now, so this is the time to go for it. We've had a great season so far, and I think we'll have a lot of special memories that will keep coming. We need to carry over that toughness and sense of urgency we had on Sunday, and I think everything else will take care of itself."
On being able to go inside when three pointers aren't falling ... "That's huge because you can't control three-point shots, but you can get layups and really good shots around the basket -- that's something we can do every single game. To be a top-ranked team without hitting a three, most people would say that Michigan could never do that. It shows a ton of confidence -- when things aren't going well, we can't put our heads down, we have to keep playing great defense and get to the baskets because we have players who are talented enough to do that."
On the team's defense producing offense against Purdue ... "Purdue is playing really well right now -- they just won at Wisconsin. They run a lot of really good ball-screen sets. The key against them is to take them out of their rhythm. D.J. Byrd and the Johnson brothers are really good players and when they get hot, there really isn't much you can do. We just have to talk a lot, make sure we don't miss any switches and make sure we take them out of their rhythm."
Contact: Tom Wywrot, Whitney Dixon (734) 763-4423