Michigan’s 75-55 win against Illinois in the second round of the 2017 Big Ten Tournament in Washington, D.C., on Thursday was no ordinary win for the Wolverines. John Beilein became the program’s all-time leader in coaching wins with 210, surpassing Johnny Orr. The team led by 20 points in the first half and shut down one of the Big Ten’s best players in Illinois senior guard Malcolm Hill, holding Hill to just 4 points after he had scored in double figures 25 straight games.
Oh yeah, and then there was the fact that the team was involved in an airplane accident on Wednesday when high winds forced Michigan’s charter flight to abort takeoff. The plane skidded off the runway at Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti and, while no one was seriously injured physically, psychologically it was a traumatic event.
Michigan rearranged its travel plans to get to Washington and the Verizon Center in time for a noon ET tipoff, but it had to go without its game uniforms and equipment because that was all still on the plane, in the baggage compartment. That’s where it will remain until the FAA finishes up its investigation of the incident.
The start of the game was delayed 30 minutes to accommodate Michigan after it had to deal with D.C. traffic getting from Dulles International Airport to the Verizon Center downtown. The Michigan players never showed any signs of what they had been through the previous 24 hours.
Here’s what Beilein had to say after the game:
John Beilein halftime interview on BTN
From post-game press conference
“It’s been an incredible 24 hours. At this time 24 hours ago we were aborting a takeoff at a couple hundred miles an hour. What these guys have been through these last 24 hours has been incredible. It’s been bonding. It’s been emotional for many of them, but it’s made them so resilient. They played connected today like they were connected yesterday when we got a hundred-and-some people off an airplane it seemed like in two minutes. So we just feel really blessed today to be in this situation, to not only play but to win against a good Illinois team. Illinois has been playing as good of basketball as anyone in the country, and for us to come out like that, and then they made their run and continued to hammer away was just a great response by all of our team.”
On the emotions and energy of Moritz Wagner
“We have a team here of really great kids, and you don’t see their personality when they play. You see Moe’s personality when he plays. He just brings an energy to us. Not that the (other) kids don’t; they just don’t show it. Their body language is a little different. But Moe wants to win. He’s very young. He’s 19 years old, he’s very young. His parents came from Germany to watch him today. He’s just a pleasure to coach. I don’t know if I’ve seen a more beloved teammate over the time. We’ve had a lot of great players that are all beloved. He’s as good as any of them as far as the way his teammates feel about him.”
On if they’ll continue playing in their practice jerseys
“I don’t know if we have a choice. All of the baggage is in the baggage area of the plane. The plane is damaged and they’re doing the investigation. I do not know if we’ll be able to get them here logistically. We have washers and dryers here in D.C. Our equipment manager, Bob Bland, through this whole thing was incredible. If it was a one-game series, we would have had other uniforms to where but we’ve got all three sets on that plane. Some other things you’re not going to see: you’re not going to see any more suits by me. I’ve got one of my suits right here. The rest of them are on that plane. You couldn’t repack. I might have to make a visit to the drug store, get some toothpaste and the whole thing. We’re here bare-bones.”
On if he knew what to expect from his team going into the game
“We got a hotel in Ann Arbor and we were doing our regular pregame walk-through and film, I walked in there and I said, ‘We’re not doing this.’ We just got to let time take care of this a little bit. We had a couple of counselors at school come visit them and we said, ‘We’re not talking basketball until tomorrow.’ Even in the locker room today, until they came in, I think after the anthem, when they came back in, I could tell we were going to be ready. But it was very quiet everywhere. I wasn’t going to shout, ‘What’s wrong with you guys? This is a big game.’ It wasn’t a big game anymore. It was an important game but being safe and I’m just glad they’re out there hugging their families pretty soon. It’s pretty good.”
On how scary Wednesday was for him personally
“When I thought about that today, it was like a game. When I watch other people coach, my son included or great friends, I get so nervous (because) I want them to win. But when I’m in the game, you’re at work. I felt we were at work yesterday. It wasn’t about being emotional or what’s happening. It’s going to be ‘How can we get everybody off this plane?’ The engine’s still running, there’s gas fumes coming on everybody and when the engine finally shut down, there was this big pop. I said ‘Oh, my goodness.” But everybody was away from the plane and we were good. So, I don’t think there was anything other than like a game situation or what everybody does in their workday when they’re in a crisis. They don’t stop and cry and get emotional. They try to find, what’s the answer? What’s the solution to this issue we’re involved in?”