“It’s so hard when you had that. I think we handled it okay,” Beilein said. “I don’t know how to handle that … like how a rookie kid comes in to Major League Baseball and hits five home runs in his first week and then all of a sudden goes into it.
“It’s really hard to keep that going, and I’d probably prefer the other. But it did give us a heck of a resume as we go into this time of year. I think we were okay with it, but there certainly were some times they needed their memory jogged how we got to that point with incredible defense, attention to detail, etc.”
They went through the motions in some of the games, and that’s to be expected. They got through some incredibly tough games with ease before facing the “guarantee game” portion of the schedule, and it’s human nature to take the foot off the gas a little bit.
They brought their ‘C’ game against Binghamton, but it was good enough to pull away late in a 74-52 win Sunday.
“They didn’t have an impressive record, had some tough losses, but I watched their Notre Dame game the other day and said, ‘this team can stay with anybody,’” Beilein said. “They were down five at Notre Dame, Notre Dame got out and [Binghamton] came back, hit a shot with two minutes to go to make it a five or six point game.
“They’ve got a really good point guard, and when you can control the tempo, have shooters … you can stay in games. Some teams don’t have a plan … they had a plan.”
Some of that comes with scouting, as Beilein has said more than once. Their weaknesses are now on film, and Binghamton’s strategy was a good one … let the Wolverines take midrange jumpers. They missed most of them until they started getting more aggressive.
“I didn’t have plays. If we can get you an open 13 footer, you’ve got to make it,” Beilein said. “We did attack did with balance, not floaters in the second half, got to the foul line or made shots.”
And now it’s onward to resume Big Ten play, and teams that will have scouted them even better. U-M starts January 2-0 in the conference with Penn State and Indiana on tap and as one of the favorites to win the Big Ten. Remaining undefeated isn’t a realistic goal, but winning at home is, Beilein said.
They’re ready for the next challenge — to play the way they were in November. They haven’t brought their ‘A’ game for a few weeks, but they haven’t brought out the ‘A’ game plan, either.
If they win the conference, however, it’s going to be because they started playing defense again the way they did early in the season.
“People will probably say you’d like more non-conference games, games you’ll win by 20… we don’t want them,” Beilein said. “We’re done with that. We need to play right now with a continued sense of urgency, and if we want to win a championship in the Big Ten, we’ve got to improve.”
And yes, part of that is finding the same urgency they played with early. As Beilein noted, U-M didn’t win many 50-50 balls against Binghamton.
That shouldn’t be tough knowing what’s at stake.
“When Penn State comes here Thursday, they won’t be saying it’s just coach speak again when I look and say they are 4-9,” Beilein said. “Penn State has been a legit big ten team last couple years, was an NIT champion last year with a lot of those guys.
“A goal is to win all home games, win the Big Ten Championship. That’s still in front of us. We can compete for that, and if you do you can win the National Championship.
“It’s little by little as we go forward … let’s just get ready and have the best practice ever the next day.”