ANN ARBOR, Mich. — By the time the final moments of the first half ticked away, the rout was on for the Michigan basketball team.
Guard Derrick Walton Jr. scored 20 points and reached a career milestone, four players scored in double figures and Michigan avoided a three-game losing streak with an 86-57 blowout victory Tuesday against Michigan State.
— Michigan Basketball (@umichbball) February 8, 2017
In scoring 9 of the game’s first 11 points, leading by more than 20 in the game’s opening half and stretching its lead to 30 at one point, Michigan handed Michigan State coach Tom Izzo his worst loss to the Wolverines in more than 20 years; Michigan defeated Michigan State 75-46 on Feb. 2, 1996, Izzo’s first in East Lansing.
Here’s what Michigan coach John Beilein had to say after the win against Michigan State on Tuesday:
On what worked for Michigan: “You can tell by our kids, we’ve really worked so hard all year long and it hasn’t always paid off the way you’d like to. Today, like the Indiana game, everything was really in sync. Michigan State has an extremely talented team, but they’re young. If they had those two kids who were hurt, they’d be a much different team right now. They have really good, hurt players, and it’s really difficult to have the consistency you’d like to have.
“Any time you can beat a Tom Izzo-coached team, it’s a good thing for us. It means that we’re doing the right things.”
On the late tip-off time: “We have no more 9 p.m. games, right? I apologize for all that. Maybe if you’re a team in the middle of the league or projected to be in the middle, you get rewarded with 9 p.m. games.”
On the development of Walton: “Can’t say enough about Derrick Walton. The transformation in the last month. He came into this, in a star-studded team and was forced into being a leader, probably when he wasn’t ready to do that. We had injuries his sophomore year, and then his junior year. Now, I think he’s finally comfortable with all that experience he gained to really play with that extra that you need to be really good, especially as a guard.”
On how team has responded to its last two losses: “I’ve never been able to figure it out. It does happen when somebody, we make a couple baskets, there is a relief that we’re doing alright. It’s like when, the old adage is, when you play a 2-for-1 basketball, you say, ‘any shot is a good shot,’ they make it more often. When you see other guys make shots, you relax and make shots. You’ve got to make those first two, and then we made some great plays.
“Ever since the Michigan State game, the loss up there (70-62 on Jan. 29), we haven’t been happy with not taking that next step, pushing through the ceiling that some of us have. Then against Ohio State (a 70-66 loss on Feb. 4), Ohio State played great. We almost played good enough at the same time. When I saw the Ohio State film, I was ready to get upset for two to three hours. I watched it and said, ‘you know what, we made some steps in this game though the results weren’t good.’ But our practice and our intensity has been really good.”
On Walton being from Detroit and defeating Michigan State: “Just for Derrick, for him wearing blue all over the city of Detroit, that’s important for him, as he goes through this. It wasn’t about, when we were freshmen, we were able to beat you. … I know he feels really good representing his home state and being a kid from Detroit and beating Michigan State like that.”
On if his team’s sense of desperation was there, or if the rivalry’s intensity factored in: “I said, ‘guys, no game is more important. You have three home games and five on the road left. You’re not going anywhere if you don’t win some of these home games to prepare you for the road.’ One of the best things was making the NCAA Tournament last year. Losing Caris (LeVert to the NBA) and making the tournament, that was a tremendous achievement by them but it also hurt us. You go in the summer and think, we’re going to be naturally good. But Derrick Walton didn’t have that.”
On his team taking a large lead in a game: “Believe it or not, I don’t like getting huge leads. It is really had to coach the second half. When everything is clicking, I don’t know what I feel other than, we’ve got to keep playing, we’ve got to keep attacking, how can you keep attacking without giving them (opportunities) to come back? That was on my mind, whenever you had a huge lead like that. Don’t let them take their foot off the pedal, but don’t let them get crazy, either.”
On D.J. Wilson’s technical foul: “That young man has been here for three years and he’s been able to do things right now on national TV. But you just can’t go in a guy’s face like that. Those days are gone. But I do like that he showed great emotion. Do the same thing, but run down the court and look at your teammates like that. It was a good call by the officials, I watched the replay and it was a good call they should make. We can’t have people do that every time they dunk on somebody. We’d have a lot more trouble in basketball.”