The run continues for the Michigan men’s basketball team.
Two days after walking away from a plane accident in which its charter flight skidded off the runway at Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti, Mich., Michigan won its second Big Ten Tournament game — 74-70 in overtime against top-seeded Purdue in a quarterfinal Friday at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.
Michigan coach John Beilein discussed D.J. Wilson’s game-high 26 points, as well as Zak Irvin playing the entire game and the presence of Michigan’s fans at the Verizon Center — a crowd that included some of Beilein’s family.
On Michigan’s goals and how the win against Purdue fits in
“We feel very fortunate about that win because I have so much respect for the Purdue program, how good they are, how good they’ve been all year. To be able to beat them [Friday], especially in overtime, in a great basketball game really, just a great basketball game. We’re thrilled by it.
“Our kids early in the year, there was a lot of speculation about their defense. There should have been. We were not a good defensive team. The growth, our success over this last month and a half, is in direct correlation to how our defense has improved.
“That was a great display [Friday] against a team that has a lot of options. They got some easy points in the paint. They made a few 3s. All their 3s were well-earned.
“Really thrilled for these kids because they came on a mission to win this championship. We talk about it every day. We’re one day closer.”
On D.J. Wilson’s play against Purdue
“I was actually surprised that D.J. just moved his feet and used his length, not his strength, used his length and his quickness to guard defensively.
“But offensively, if you had a shooting contest between D.J. and Mo [Wagner], I don’t know who would win. The big man in most offenses, it’s the easiest place to get a 3-point shot. Most teams have been switching screens. That’s all we’ve been seeing. We learned better ways to counter it. Our kids are getting some volume in their shooting, in games, so they feel more comfortable.”
On taking away Purdue’s inside presence
“Any time that you have big post men, the only way you can counter it is to pressure the ball more, make sure that they do not get looks inside. So we came in there with that philosophy going into the game, but we didn’t execute it. We just didn’t do it.
“They have to throw it in there a couple times for them to realize that’s not the pressure you need [Friday]. You got to step it up and really make them dribblers in those situations.”
On being a believer in ‘tournament time’
“I believe a lot in it. It’s happened to us. It’s happened to us at Michigan. It’s happened prior in my coaching career. It’s just this time of the year, you’re trying to keep everybody fresh. I think it bodes well for a team that really has no agenda, really loves each other, because other teams have very little time to prepare for you. You have very little time to prepare for them.
“If you have a high-IQ team that is passionate about Michigan, passionate about their teammates, it’s much easier to coach them. It can be a lot of fun.
“We’ve been selling the fun of a run. … You throw in what happened on Wednesday, now they got a lot of memories. We don’t want it to stop.”
On the plane accident Wednesday
“I think I only mentioned it once [Friday] because it continues — I continue to think about what could have happened.
“I don’t think they want to lose sight of that as they go forward in their lives, of how different that could have turned out.
“I mentioned it once, how great it was to be here playing right now, right? Carpe diem, seize the day today, because you’re never promised another one.”
On playing Zak Irvin the entire game
“Zak and I and Derrick [Walton], we have a special bond. We’ve been together here four years. I think we started recruiting them when they were sophomores. I’ve just seen more than the common eye would see of what he can do.
“But if he had any type of, again, agendas, if he had any type of bad attitudes, poor body language in games, it would be much different. It’s never happened.
“He has handled this perceived slump that he’s had by just becoming a better defender. He cares about his team. It’s like, yeah, he’s going to miss a few shots, but what he gives us in intangibles, the shot is not as important as what he does.”
On Michigan’s fan presence at the Verizon Center
“Wherever we go, I mean, there’s a lot of Michigan people. We love ’em. We love the way they’re so passionate about their university and their athletic program. My family was all in the front row. I got three grandkids now that made the trip, made it through a 12 [o’clock] game. It was good to see them. I think they’re really happy to be another day in Washington. My son, Andy, lives here in town. It was just great to see that.
“All the maize and blue behind them was great. I hope we can continue to do that. Hopefully we can be selected for the March NCAA Tournament.”