On back-to-back wins since the first time since early January
It’s always great to get a win at home versus what some would say a rivalry. Ohio State, give Chris Holtmann a lot of credit, his team came in and played hard from start to finish. Our team, they looked like they were really ready from the go. From the jump ball, you could see the energy on the defensive end. You look at the box score, it shows that we’re dialed into making every shot that Ohio State took or every drive to the basket, they saw bodies, or every shot was contested. Overall, one game at a time. Keep plugging away.
On communication on defense
I’ve been stressing it since the start of the season and I’m going to continue to keep pushing that message through to our guys on how important communication has to be. Precise, it has to be loud. With communication, what it does is it breathes more confidence. Also, it can become intimidating. You look at some of the mistakes that we had today on the defensive end, it was because of a lack of communication. Calling out coverages but, also, calling your teammate’s name to make sure that guy is hears exactly who you’re speaking to so we can have the reaction, what we will get on the defensive end so there’s no blow-by’s or there’s a missed communication or there’s an open shot or something like that. Our defense is predicated on everyone and if one guy breaks it down, it hurts the team. That’s what’s been a huge focus and point of emphasis since the stretch run started.
On Kobe Bufkin’s performance
Kobe, he’s been solid all year. He’s one of the young men that’s had a buy-in since the time he stepped foot on campus. Last season, it’s very challenging when you come from a high school where you are the focal point, you are the guy and you’re joining a team where the other guys were the guy, the main focal point of their high school team. It takes guys to make an adjustment. Kobe was patient knowing that his timetable was a little bit different from others, waiting his turn and then putting in the work in the offseason. You just see how this young man has improved defensively. I’ll start with that. Last year, defensively, there were times when he would get blown by or he was not engaged defensively. There were a lot of different concepts that took time to learn and there’s a learning curve with that. That’s a part of that as a freshman. Now, his second year and he has a bigger role, he’s earned it. That’s what makes it so special so its a process, moving in the right direction because of the buy-in that he had in the beginning.
On whether the backs against the wall mentality is powerful
When you’re coaching in college as well as any level, the key is however your culture is built on or whether you believe in that gives your team the best chance to win, you’ve gotta have trust in it. Your team has to understand it and believe it as well. It takes a little time for it to develop. You can see a lot of these schools that have a bunch of freshmen, it’s a process. With our group, I’m sure Ohio State—they have a young group too and there are other schools out there that have younger teams. It’s a lot for young guys to be able to hit the ground running. It takes time and I touched on it with Kobe last year, now we have a guy like Duggie, Jett, Tarris, Gregg, Youssef. It takes for these guys to get to that level where they feel they are comfortable out there on the floor. Overall, we look at it as let’s just handle whoever that opponent is. Right now, it’s Ohio State. Now, enjoy this victory and tomorrow we’ll start to look at who is our next opponent, Nebraska.
On Hunter Dickinson
Hunter recognizes as well as his teammates, the big fella had it going inside. We’ve got to continue feeding him the ball. I’ll never forget, during a time out, Terrance Williams was like, ‘Let’s keep going to Hunter.’ I said, ‘You know what, I agree, let’s keep going to Hunter,’ because he had it going. It’s nice to see that he’s not selfish. He reads the defense. When he’s not doubled, he’s going to make his move one-on-one. If he gets doubled, he’s going to throw the ball out. There are times late in the second half when he had a chance to go one-on-one and still threw it out to the perimeter because that’s just the nature of being an unselfish player wanting to make the right play. Gotta give a lot of credit to the kind of competitor that Hunter is. He’s also dialed into the team, the team, the team.
On whether he’s addressed the team about the NCAA Tournament chances
(Laughs) Good question, though, that’s a good question. No, I have not. The Big Ten is tough. A very competitive conference. Every game you play in the Big Ten, it’s going to be a battle. We’re just approaching it one game at a time. That’s how we always approach it.
On Joey Baker
Joey was great today and was big for us against Northwestern. He’s picking his spots, fitting in with the group. Ohio State was pressing with 2-2-1, give it to Hunter in the middle and threw it ahead to Joey in the corner, it was more like a three-on-one. He shot a three, he made it. If he had missed the three, I would say that was a great shot because he can shoot. If you’re that wide open, let it fly. I told him that. Overall I’m just happy he’s a part of our team because we need that type of level of player that can not only shoot the ball but he knows, too, that guys try to run him off the line and he’s not afraid to put the ball down on the deck and finish. By the way, I subbed him out when he threw the ball behind the back. That wasn’t the reason I subbed him out. I had him coming out because he had spent 8-to-9 minutes straight on the floor so that was not the reason I subbed him out, for the turnover. I have to go back and tell him that.
On Brice Sensabaugh
Brice is tough. He’s a three-level scorer, her can shoot the ball extremely well. A freshman that is making a lot of noise in our league. He’s great from midrange. He has a big, strong body. Very patient getting to his spots. He’s another young guy that’s also scratching the surface with a lot to learn. I think he has a bright future in the game of basketball. I really do, I believe it. It’ll be nice if I don’t see him ever again (laughs). He’s that good.
On Kobe Bufkin’s communication
The game has slowed down for Kobe. That part has come so quickly for a sophomore. If you really think about it, last year he averaged 10 minutes a game but it wasn’t consistent every game. You can just tell the work he’s put in during the offseason. Not just in the weight room, on the floor, but also just being all in and learning, growing, putting time in film. That’s why the game has slowed down to him. Now he’s our second primary ballhandler because you can’t play Dug 40 minutes and Jaelin Llewellyn with his knee injury, he’s out, we miss him. You just never know how the season goes when you have injuries to one or two key guys. Kobe has shown that he’s not just a scorer. He’s an all-around player.
On Jalen Rose on the sidelines
First I’ll start with, the players haven’t discussed it, we haven’t had a conversation about it. I’m so happy to have Jalen and the team is so excited to see my brother supporting the team from day one. I’ll never forget when I first was hired, bought season tickets to show his support. He can’t come out here all the time because of his job, he’s in the same field that you’re in and has a busy schedule. It’s nice that he made time and got a free day this Sunday to be here. I’m sure the team really appreciates the brotherhood of the Michigan alums supporting them. I haven’t seen social media or know what the hell is going on with social media. I know I have two of my brothers here today supporting us and that’s Jimmy King and Jalen. It’s just beautiful to see that brotherhood, it’s so real. We’ve had some great times together here wearing that Michigan uniform.
On consistency and the importance of Bufkin in that
Kobe is huge to our team’s success. We’re going to need him and there will be times where we go through him. He’s a guy that’s really embraced becoming a two-way player. Like I said about Brice earlier, Kobe is going to—his basketball is really going to do some wonderful things for his future. He continues to, which I know he will, work, he embraces learning. I am buying a ticket to watch him play at that next level. I can’t wait to see on the sidelines eating some popcorn cheering him on.
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