The Wolverine

February 2017

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 40 of 75

FEBRUARY 2017 THE WOLVERINE 41 can't be taught. Beilein has spoken of playing with more toughness many times this year and challenging his guys to want it more down the stretch — making a stop at the end of the game, not allowing someone to penetrate past them as if they were a road pylon. Former Michigan captain Zack Novak, for example, wasn't the most athletic guy on the floor, but nobody played with more passion or heart. When it came time to mix it up, he did that, too. "It's a combination of physical contact and being more physical — we have guys [redshirt sophomore D.J. Wilson] playing 37 minutes who don't have a personal foul," Beilein said after the Maryland game. "In a loss, that's not good. We had to give three fouls at the end of the game. We also don't want guys out there just fouling to foul, putting guys at the line. "It's a processing speed with several of our guys, and we've talked about it before — there's this little tape delay and we're trying to hasten it with all these coaching strategies, crazy drills. The game needs to slow down for some of our guys. Some of them are in their first year. Some of them are in their fourth year, but it's still there." Halfway through the season, Beilein was still spending much of his press conferences talking about the need for more toughness and "grit," about playing with an edge — taking charges, diving on the floor for loose balls. That includes coming out of the gate ready to play. Michigan fell behind against both Penn State and Maryland, and trailed by double digits in both games before rallying. "We had some moments there where we're not playing with the same IQ and intensity that you need, and it bites you," Beilein said. "You have six- point swings in a matter of seconds. We'd make a big play and then they'd come down and get it right back. It's hard to keep doing that. "There are a lot of factors. … It's a great time for us to learn and to be a better team." The season could depend on it, former Michigan standout and current ESPN analyst Tim McCormick said in early January. "There is no denying the fact that they're streaky. Their defense is not physical," McCormick said. "Because of the fact that they're so reliant on three-point shooting, and they do get hurt in the paint, I think we're going to see stretches all year long in which they look unbeatable, then they look pathetic. … To their credit, they don't panic, and they've got some veteran players that seem to have great maturity. "We've been talking for years about the fact that Michigan gives up too many layups. It starts with the guards on the perimeter. They don't have that one great shot blocker that can eliminate perimeter defensive mistakes, so they just have to shore up their containment defense." Through five Big Ten games, that's been easier said than done. In fact, it's been the team's biggest problem through 18 games and one of the reasons it hasn't met its potential. There was no guarantee it would get better, Beilein cautioned. "There's just been that thing that paralyzes guys for a second. I wish I could say it's going to change," he said. "You can't say they can't do it. … There are a few guys that seem to be always in that situation. We've got to get them to understanding the urgency. "Do something. Even if it's the wrong thing, do something." After allowing their first five Big Ten opponents, including Maryland, to connect on 55.3 per- cent from long distance, senior wing Zak Irvin and the Wolverines ranked dead last of 347 teams nationally in three-point field goal percentage defense at 43.1 percent. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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