The Wolverine

February 2017

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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42 THE WOLVERINE FEBRUARY 2017 PLAYERS TAKE THE BLAME Part of that "something" could include rebounding. The Wolverines tied for 333rd in the country for defensive rebounds per game (21.83), and while it's not the only metric that matters and has never been a huge emphasis under Beilein, it can help in a possession game. Michigan's players insist they can be better in all facets on defense, and they're perplexed why they aren't. "If I knew, we wouldn't lose," Wagner said. "Coach Beilein has a point — at some point, it's not the coaches, it's not the defense, it's us, the guys that are out there. It's not the circumstances. We've got to pick it up at some point. We've got to go out with the mentality to stop the opponent and be mad about. Every time we turn around, it feels like the shot goes in. "Disciplined, aggressive, aware — it's about details. Know your opponent. Know what he's doing. Know the ball screen coverage. It's a lot of stuff." Ten teams had shot better than 40 percent from three-point range against U-M as of Jan. 16, including all but one (South Carolina) of the six teams to beat the Wolverines. "We work on it a lot in practice. Iowa [for one] just hit a lot of tough shots, a lot of threes," Wilson said. "They were all contested, for the most part. They just happened to go in. "But sometimes we just have mental lapses, individually, as players. Everybody goes through it a couple times a game, and sometimes it costs us down the stretch." Sometimes it's the same mistakes, at other times it's different ones. In some cases, Beilein said, it's veterans doing things they've been taught repeatedly and a case of bad habits being hard to break. On the plus side, both Wagner and Wilson — two with sophomore eligibility — have shown a lot of improvement at times. "They're making steps in some areas. Moe [Wagner], we continue to see the great promise there," Beilein said. "D.J. offensively right now does a really good job. But he still has a long way to go." LIMITED OPTIONS In the past, the Wolverines have been able to try other options — a bit of 2-3 zone, some of Beilein's unique 1-3-1 that has allowed U-M to keep teams off balance. The hope was there would be more bodies this year, too, so the bench would be a viable option if someone wasn't performing, but that hasn't been the case. Through 18 games, only six players had gotten more than 15.3 minutes a game. As for the 1-3-1, it simply hasn't worked this year. U-M employed it on only one possession in the loss to Maryland and it resulted in a layup. "We're really bad at it," Beilein said, noting opponents might have literally scored every time U-M played it this year. "Really bad at it." Even that isn't for lack of trying, he said. But at some point, working hard isn't good enough. In a results- oriented game, it's about winning. This team simply needs to get tougher in order to accomplish its goals. "The good news is this is a bunch of good kids. The bad news is the edge that a lot of teams have has been lacking in some games," Beilein said. "There's no way we can win without that edge — just no way. "We just need to have this tough mindset about us, and we can get through things. We haven't proven we're a tough team. We have proved that we can be tough at times. We have to be tough every single game, all the way through. There has to be more grit, determination … 'I know we're losing the lead, I've got to get this stop.' It's a thing we've just got to emphasize … 'I don't know how to do it, but I've got to focus and get this done.'" Defensive lapses and a lack of physical play have resulted in redshirt sophomore forward D.J. Wilson and U-M surrendering 80.4 points per contest in the first five Big Ten outings. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN Head coach John Beilein on U-M's defense "There's probably some [bad] luck, but they could have gone the other way and it would have been fool's gold because we're still not good enough. We've just got to keep working."

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