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Michigan escaped a brutal November schedule undefeated and hadn’t won a game by less than 17 points.
Last Saturday, the Wolverines had to rally from eight points down to beat Western Michigan.
Such is life during a long basketball season.
There will likely be more games like this during the year (there always are). While head coach John Beilein knows this, he made it clear to his team that he expected more.
“We tried to get back to some basics during this time,” Beilein said. “We felt Western Michigan deserved a lot of credit in the way they played us and how well they played. We had to get back to playing with the edge we played with early in the year. I think we’ve done that in practice.
“You’re not going to play every game all year long the exact same intensity. Attention to detail probably was the biggest slippage we had. There’s a lot going on, and you have to have that. You have to understand anybody can beat you.”
That includes Air Force, which plays a style similar to Holy Cross, a team that led Michigan at the half earlier this year. Beilein believes his team learned a lot from not just the Western Michigan game, but also wins at Northwestern and against South Carolina that proved tougher than expected.
“Attention to detail was really [missing], the flow was not [there]. We … call plays that were two plus or three gap, and we played in two gap all day long,” he said. “My analogy as a team was we didn’t see [Purdue’s] Carsen Edwards get this open. He never got open, never had looks whether he was switching or whatever. All of a sudden [WMU’s] Michael Flowers is better than Carsen Edwards? That was sort of message.
“Coby White did not get this open. That’s why we have to have that mentality no matter who we’re playing. We have to have that mentality.”
They used Synergy, a software program, to self-scout, and still found plenty to like. There were also some bad things he didn’t want to share … as he said after the win over Western Michigan, it helped ground them a bit and let them know they still had a lot of work to do.
His hope is that they’ll come out stronger against the Falcons and be able to expand the bench.
It’s up to them, too, to realize the need for patience and that learning is part of the process … especially for the freshmen.
“That was my message in practice today for all the young guys,” Beilein said. “Watching Air Force for two days now, watching some other teams I was saying, ‘wow … why didn’t I ever think of that?’” Beilein said. “I’ve been coaching, I’m supposed to know and it was an epiphany to me.
“My message to my players was as long as you play basketball, you’re going to keep learning. That’s the toughest thing for most freshmen: ‘I thought I had it down against Western, now I have to throw out all my rules and get ready for Air Force?. That’s the difficulty [for freshman David DeJulius [and everyone else].”