Nov. 16, 2011
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- With two games crossed off the regular-season schedule and a pair of wins in the books for the University of Michigan men's basketball team, head coach John Beilein and select players addressed the media on Wednesday (Nov. 16) to recap the first two wins of the season and preview tomorrow's (Thursday, Nov. 17) matchup with Western Illinois inside Crisler Arena.
The Wolverines will host WIU in their third consecutive home game inside Crisler Arena in a doubleheader with the women's basketball team. The game will tip off at 8:30 p.m. and be streamed live on ESPN3.com. Following the Western Illinois matchup, the squad will head to the island of Maui for the EA Sports Maui Invitational (Nov. 21-23).
The Wolverines recently recorded wins in their first two games of the regular season over Ferris State, 59-33, on Nov. 11 and Towson, 64-47, on Monday (Nov. 14).
Here's what coach Beilein and members of the team had to say about their performance in the first two games and the upcoming schedule.
Michigan Head Coach John Beilein
Opening statement ... "This has been a good stretch for us as far as our guys playing these three games back-to-back-to-back in getting ready for our season and getting as much experience as we can before we get into our trip over to Hawaii. We have one more to get -- Western Illinois looks like a team that plays very good defense. We all remember (WIU Head Coach) Jim Molinari when he was at Bradley and at Minnesota. They're a really well-coached team, they've got a few guys back, they've got a guy who's becoming eligible right now that is back playing again, and a great additional transfer inside as well. So we see some challenges. They played Dayton to halftime, led most of the first half until Dayton got away from them in the second half, so we'll have to play well."
On the offensive strides made during the win over Towson ... "Particularly, the first 25 minutes were exceptional. We were getting points out of our defense, so we ran well. We really moved the ball very well. I just liked some of Evan (Smotrycz)'s points; they were a great step for us. None of them were pretty, they were just these gutty points when he just found ways to get the ball in the basket, and so that's a big step for him. The shots didn't always fall, we didn't finish at the foul line, some things like that, but we were playing so well and that wasn't going to continue."
On the decision to start Jordan Morgan over Jon Horford ... "As we watched them going into the preseason, Jon and Jordan, we were looking at mixes. I put so much stock into who's coming off the bench and then you put so much stock on who plays well in certain situations. It backfired a little bit when Stu (Douglass) had his worst shooting night in a while coming off the bench and he's usually pretty good at that. I would just say it's been a very tight race, they're both playing and they're both playing at the end of the game. You'll see one with 18, one with 17, and Evan (Smotrycz) with five, and that's where it's gone so far. So there isn't a big difference right now."
On Nik Stauskas signing his NLI to play for Michigan in 2012-12 ... "We heard about Nik when he attended the NBA camp as a rising junior. I think he had a great day the first day. Then the more we got to know Nik, the more we realized what a perfect match he was for Michigan. As we watched him over the last two summers, we could really see this kid evolving as a player with incredible passion. That's what I like about all three of these guys; you don't need to say 'Hey, you need to work out today.' They're going to beat everybody to a workout, and Nik is one of those guys. But guys sometimes are shooters, sometimes guys are scorers, and sometimes guys are passers. There have been times when he's showed all three of those things at a very high level."
On fun plans for the players and coaches in Maui ... "There probably won't be any for the coaches, but we'll make sure to get our players' toes in the water somewhere and get out there. It's a cultural experience and we'll do that. The three games in three days may be difficult, but we'll make sure we have two hours to go out and walk around when they're not hanging out in their hotel rooms. They'll get their sleep, but they'll get fresh air too."
U-M Sophomore Evan Smotrycz
On the team and individual performances thus far ... "Things are going well from a team perspective. We'd like to put together a more complete game. We had some lapses at times on the offensive and defensive ends, but it's still early. Personally, I'd like to shoot the ball a little better, but I'm just trying to do the little things -- get on the floor, rebound and do whatever it takes to win."
On how these early regular season games help prepare the team for what's to come ... "Right now we're just focused on this game Thursday against Western Illinois. Like I said, we just want to put together a complete game. We played really well in stretches at times in both games, but I think if we can play 40 minutes on the offensive and defensive ends, that will really give us a confidence boost going to Maui."
On what specifically the team needs to improve on ... "I think offensively we need to not relay so much o the three-point shot. We have guys that can shoot it and it will always be there, but we need to work on getting it to the basket more because we have guys that can do that too. I think on the defensive end, we just need to stay focused and really commit to our principles."
U-M Sophomore Tim Hardaway Jr.
On the balance of the offense through two games ... "The balance of our offense is going alright right now, but I feel like we could do a little better at getting into the lane and creating for others. We're relying too much on our three-point ball as you can see from our stats. I feel like if we can just get in the paint more and create for others and go to the foul like a little more, we should be fine. Coach has been focusing on that in practice, but he says that if the three is open, we have confidence in you to knock it down if you've been showing it in practice. We just have to turn down threes if they're not open and stop forcing them with defenders in our face."
On his increased leadership role this season ... "It's gone well so far. Zack (Novak) and Stu (Douglass) have been keeping a close eye on me. They keep saying I still have to learn little things here and there, but they said overall I'm doing really well with the guys and the freshmen and just keeping their heads up."
On what the team needs to improve on before the Maui Invitational ... "We're just focused on ourselves and Michigan basketball. We're focusing on what we could do to prepare better and what we need to do to put together a full 40 minutes game. If we can do that -- boxing out and playing defense for 40 minutes straight, we should have a great chance of winning."
Contact: Tom Wywrot, Whitney Dixon (734) 763-4423