Michigan continued the Big Ten’s surge in the NCAA Tournament on Sunday.
The Wolverines rallied from a 9-point deficit to defeat Louisville 73-69 in the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament. Knocking off the second-seeded Cardinals clinched the seventh consecutive victory for Michigan, which advanced to the Sweet 16 for the third time in five seasons.
Michigan is the third team from the Big Ten to reach the second weekend. Rival Michigan State could make it four later in the day. The Wolverines will play either Oregon or Rhode Island in Kansas City in the Midwest Region.
Moritz Wagner scored 26 points for Michigan, while D.J. Wilson had 17, including 4 free throws in the final minute. Derrick Walton Jr. finished with 10 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists. He missed 10 of his first 11 shots but made the final 2 — including a difficult layup to put Michigan ahead 69-65.
Coach John Beilien…ALWAYS ready!!! pic.twitter.com/ssZ5S11Zm9
— Freddie Coleman (@ColemanESPN) March 19, 2017
What Michigan coach John Beilein said after beating Louisville in NCAA Tournament
Opening statement: “A little damp right now, but our guys, we started a tradition of taking a shower, I guess, without going into the shower after good wins. It’s not stopping. So proud of these guys. The end of the first half, I thought was a defining moment for our team in this particular game. We could have approached that differently. We were coming back, shot clock’s down, they nail a 3. I think they came back down again, nailed another 3. Then, all of a sudden, we got a foul, and they get 2 more. We’re down 8 at half.
“A team that isn’t as experienced would come back and try to win it all right away. We won every 4-minute period until we got ahead in the game. And just by playing in those little increments made a big difference. Coaches helping me, assistant coach is helping me, great game plan, Billy Donlon, 69 points. I can’t tell you how many plays Jeff [Meyer] and Saddi [Washington] suggested that worked. It was a great team win for everybody.”
On focusing more on scoring in the paint: “You can’t do both with them. We work on it a lot. You won’t believe. People think we’re a 3-point-shooting machine. You can’t do that anymore unless you can drive the ball or both D.J. and Moe. We’ve worked hard, Saddi Washington, to play 1-on-1 in the post. People are sticking with our shooters. We do that a little bit with Jordan Morgan during good years and Mitch McGary and DeShawn Sims. We haven’t been able to do that in many of our years now.
“It’s a big game-changer, as well as Derrick Walton and Muhammad [-Ali Abdur-Rahkman] settling for jump shots. They can take the ball to the basket and finish. We’ve been working on it endlessly. We’ve been working on it for four years.”
Surprised only 6 turnovers? “We only average 9 a game. So I didn’t know in short prep, you know, we were expecting anything. We try to prepare for all of it. But, again, you open up the floor, people don’t press much anymore because you know what it gives you? A wide-open 3 at the other end, which we do at five positions. So that’s why John Wooden pressed for years. You can’t do that today.
“I’m sure it’s something to do with that. And, at the same time, they really played really good. We could not get used to their length on offense. A lot of screens. We had to settle down to realize we can take the ball to the basket.”
On the Big Ten getting three teams in the Sweet 16: “I don’t know how they’d judge how teams were, but we’re all going to be judged a lot on what happens in November, December. We had a tremendous league last year with a lot of turnover. Guys going pro, great seniors in the league. We had some injuries to some players as well. So you get judged by that. I thought we had a pretty good record, actually, as a league, but it didn’t measure up.
“There’s always going to be a lot of hype about what teams are getting most hype early, and it just doesn’t go away. And so, as a result, I just told everybody, just wait. The level of coaching in this league, the resources in this league, the level of talent in this league, it will come to the top at the end of the year. Moritz, he averaged 2 points a game last year. He’s 19 years old. You got to watch this guy. D.J. averaged the same. There’s a process that people go through to develop their teams, and we had a lot of good seniors last year who graduated and a lot of guys waiting in the wings. It may have not showed in November, December. It’s showing in March.”
Adjustments when shots weren’t falling: “We run a bunch of action. Some of it is non-ball screen. Some of it is ball screen. You throw it out there, and you read how they’re doing. So now we’re training every 4 minutes. We get to huddle up, and we talk about it, and then we try to get the game to evolve in the way they’re playing us.
“Now Louisville could have changed in the middle and then we’d have to re-evaluate, but there’s a process we go through to figure out how people are playing us, to then apply the right type of action. That was happening. And we had expected they may switch ball screens because their big guys are long and they’re athletic and they’re going to try. As Derrick said, ‘Man, coach, those guys are long, and they’re shooting over.’ Once we knew that, there was some action we were going to delete, and we were going to go with other stuff. Part of that is just post-up action.”