UM’s D.J. Wilson resets bar with breakout game
Ann Arbor — Michigan basketball coach John Beilein and his staff did not draw up one play for D.J. Wilson in the Big Ten opener at Iowa last Sunday.
But Wilson finished with 28 points and 14 rebounds in the 86-83 overtime loss.
Wilson had a lot of moments of being in the right spot at the right time, and he scored points off offensive rebounds.
“I was just playing my game,” Wilson said Tuesday. “A lot of guys attacked and kicked to the corner, and I happened to be there in the first half. They found me in transition and just made some plays myself off the rebounds.”
Michigan (10-4, 0-1 Big Ten) plays Penn State (9-6, 1-1) Wednesday night at the Crisler Center.
While it was a breakout game for Wilson, the 6-foot-10, 240-pound junior forward, Beilein was hesitant to declare this will be the norm.
“He’s going to give and take with this for a little bit,” Beilein said. “You can’t expect that out of him every game. We’d love that out of him, but he knows there are other ways he can help the team. I just want him to focus on rebounding and defending and all that other stuff will come through.
“He had those 28 points, we didn’t draw up one play for him. He’s playing off residual action and sometimes it’s perfect. We trust him to make the right plays. There wasn’t anything we did with him in particular other than we know he’s in position to shoot the ball, where the last couple of years he would not be there. His position now will grow.”
Wilson’s game still needs to be shaped.
Beilein praised his assist-to-turnover ratio, 21-to-14, and his three-point shooting has picked up.
He was asked Tuesday if Wilson’s ceiling can get higher than his performance at Iowa.
“That would be a good ceiling for anybody if he could do that consistently,” Beilein said. “Look at his assists-turnover ratio. I don’t think we’ve had out of that position that we’ve had the rebounds assists-to-turnovers and now the three-point shooting.
“One big goal is to get him to post up more. We have tried several times. We haven’t had a lot of success with it yet. I say yet because he’s only a (redshirt) sophomore. He’s got a lot of other things he has to work on and making sure he grows from even this. He wanted to take those last shots. That’s a positive. He’s still learning. And you know what it is? He’s really coachable. He understands that what makes him better.”
An area Beilein would like to see improvement across the board is having a louder, more communicative team. Wilson, soft-spoken in that area, is making strides.
“We’ve seen really big steps in that area from him,” Beilein said. “Watch him on the court now and you’ll see a lot of pointing, pointing at his teammates of where you’re supposed to go and I’ve got my guy. He blew one coverage, the entire time (at Iowa). He was on it. He was telling everybody, directing traffic. You may not see that.”
Wilson admits that off the court, he’s not exactly boisterous.
“I’m pretty loud on the court,” he said. “Off the court I’m low key and mellow. On the court, especially on the defensive end, I try to talk and use my voice as much as possible because I know we need it and it helps us.”
If Michigan beats Penn State Wednesday night, it will be Beilein’s 200th victory at Michigan. He would become the second coach with a 200-plus win season, behind all-time leader Johnny Orr (209).
“I’m only aware of them when you guys say it,” Beilein said of reaching a milestone. “I’’ll find out after the fact what happened. It’s never been a thing with me in any way. I never consider it. You’re in this a long time you’re going to have some milestones, but it doesn’t mean anything the next day.”
Penn State at Michigan
Tip-off: 8:30 Wednesday, Crisler Center, Ann Arbor
TV/radio: Big Ten Network/WWJ 950
Records: Penn State 9-6, 1-1 Big Ten; Michigan 10-5, 0-1
Outlook: John Beilein needs one win to reach 200 at Michigan. Johnny Orr is the Michigan leader with 209 victories. … With four more assists, Derrick Walton Jr. will move into 10th among Michigan’s career leaders; he has 363. Manny Harris is in 10th currently with 366. … This is the 46th meeting between Michigan and Penn State, and the Wolverines lead the series, 33-12.