ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The celebration for John Beilein’s 200th win as the men’s basketball coach wasn’t necessarily understated. At least by his standards.
Following Michigan’s 72-69 win against Penn State on Wednesday at the Crisler Center, the 10th-year Wolverines coach took his place in the middle of his team and led the group in the singing of “The Victors,” the school’s traditional fight song.
It isn’t something he typically does, and that was about as wild as the celebration became for Beilein — though Derrick Walton Jr. said he may have accidentally choked Beilein with the coach’s necktie during a locker-room celebration.
“Coach doesn’t like to discuss personal accolades and stuff like that,” said Michigan forward D.J. Wilson, who scored 12 points against the Nittany Lions. “But we all knew that we wanted to get this for him.”
What was emphatic was his team’s response to a double-digit deficit against Penn State (9-7, 1-2 Big Ten). Put it this way: They didn’t choke on designer neckwear, a potentially fleeting lead or anything else.
Michigan (11-4, 1-1) trailed for the bulk of Wednesday’s game, its Big Ten Conference home opener. But with about 11 minutes left in regulation, Michigan swingman Duncan Robinson scored 5 points in a span of 20 seconds to cut Penn State’s lead to 55-47, bringing the Wolverines within reach.
Then, with less than four minutes left, Wilson’s alley-oop from Walton gave Michigan a 62-61 lead — its first lead since early in the first half (7-6). Eighty-five seconds later, Zak Irvin (14 points) gave Michigan another lead, 64-63.
“There was a time out, a media timeout when they went up by 14, after they hit the 3,” Wilson said. “Our vocal leaders, Zak and Mo (Wagner), they told us that we’re not going to dig ourselves a deeper hole. We changed our defense, coach called up a few plays and we executed. Duncan hit (two) open 3s and Zak hit a bunch of pull-up (jumpers) and from there on out, we had the momentum.”
Penn State coach Pat Chambers pointed to Michigan’s senior leadership as a factor in the comeback. Twenty of Michigan’s 43 second-half points, he said, came off turnovers (Penn State committed 14 in the loss).
“Their seniors made plays at the end, and we made some youthful decisions,” Chambers said. “We’ll learn from the last five minutes. The last four minutes. We played 36 minutes of Big Ten basketball and it’s great to see. I’ve been coming to this gym for six years and it’s been over by halftime.”
After the game, the always-understated Beilein didn’t even bring up the fact that he earned his 200th win as Michigan’s coach until he was reminded of it at the end of his news conference.
“It’s a great 10 years,” said Beilein, who is second in Michigan coaching wins behind Johnny Orr (209). “It just seems like it’s still in the process. It doesn’t seem like we’re in this … it feels like we’re still just new. We’ve been building since we’ve been here. We’ve had these injuries. We’ve had the NBA, we’re just always building and building, like it was the first couple years. It’s flown by because when you’re doing that, you’re never content. You’re driven to make this thing work.”
Wilson, however, is seeing the changes. The Beilein impact, if you will. Wednesday night against Penn State, Michigan had that drive to make things work in their favor.
“I’m not too sure that in the beginning of the season, we would have come back the way we did,” Wilson said. “It kind of shows that from here on out, in the future, when we’re down in games late in the second half, we have the ability to come back.”
Michigan forward D.J. Wilson discusses John Beilein’s 200th coaching win at Michigan.