'Not today': Donlon makes mark on Wolverines’ psyche

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

Washington — Michigan coach John Beilein might have to start hiding the markers from assistant Billy Donlon.

Prior to Michigan’s 74-70 overtime win over top-seeded Purdue in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals, Donlon gave a brief pregame speech that left a lasting mark — both literally and figuratively.

Donlon wrote “NOT TODAY” in marker above the dry erase board on a white wall in Michigan’s locker room at the Verizon Center, in reference to the Boilermakers ousting the Wolverines in last season’s semifinals.

“He’ll probably get a fine for that, but I’m sure he doesn’t mind,” junior guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman said. “It’s from last year when Purdue beat us in the Big Ten tournament and he just said that’s not going to happen today, not today.

“We knew that we were just going to have to fight and scrap the whole 40 minutes — actually it went 45 minutes — and we just weren’t going to let them beat us.”

Earlier this season, Donlon gave a rousing pregame speech prior to Michigan’s rematch against Illinois on Jan. 21 that ended with him writing “Street fight” on a wall in the Wolverines’ locker room. Michigan responded with an inspired performance in a 66-57 win.

“He’s a big fan of just writing on walls,” redshirt sophomore forward D.J. Wilson said. “He was just harping on ‘not today, not today’ so that’s the mentality we had going into the game.”

It was the message senior forward Zak Irvin was even preaching in the huddle heading into overtime.

“We didn’t want to leave,” Irvin said. “After all we’ve been through, we know how important this is to all of our guys. We just wanted to be able to outlast Purdue. We knew it was going to be a tough battle.”

But perhaps not as tough as it’ll be to remove Donlon’s rallying cry.

“I don’t know how he’s going to get that off (the wall). It smeared. That’s on him,” Wilson said. “But I like. It gets us wins, so I’m not tripping.”

Wagner’s back

Late in the second half, sophomore center Moritz Wagner was wearing a wrap around his back as he sat on the bench.

Following the game, Wagner said it was nothing serious, just tightness.

“It’s a small thing,” Beilein said. “When you’re in there bumping up against (Caleb) Swanigan and (Isaac) Haas, a small pain in your back can become a huge pain in the back.”

Beilein added Wagner’s ailment had nothing to do with him not playing in overtime.

“D.J. was doing just a great job in the post and guarding defense,” Beilein said. “If he hadn’t guarded, (Wagner) would’ve been back in. It appeared at times we weren’t good enough individually in the post, except D.J. did the job.”

Wagner had five points and three rebounds but was limited to 17 minutes due to foul trouble. He finished 0-for-5 from the field with all five points coming from the free-throw line.

“Moe’s shot wasn’t coming out of his hand well. He wasn’t rebounding well,” Beilein said. “I just felt he was a little slowed.”

Slam dunks

Beilein was hit with a technical foul with 6:40 left in the first half following a turnover by Xavier Simpson.

Beilein said he “probably deserved it” and wished he hadn’t crossed the line with the officials.

“There’s some things that happen between officials and I in a game that I really do not like,” he said. “So I pushed it probably too far but hopefully the message is for later on.

“I felt that during that time it was warranted. I’m sorry I did it. If we would’ve lost by one, I really would’ve felt bad. But sometimes there’s some trends in the game, I want to make sure that I really believe in and want them to stay where they are and disagreeing is part of it. They do a fabulous job, just a few misses.”

… Michigan had no choice but to wear its practice uniforms — blue shorts with maize trim and maize jerseys — in Thursday’s 75-55 win over Illinois due to an investigation following Wednesday’s plane accident.

But the team was back to wearing its traditional blue road jerseys against Purdue after its gear was retrieved and shipped to D.C. Thursday night.

Abdur-Rahkman said while he misses the maize practice uniform, he continued to wear his pink Nikes out of superstition.

“We have our shoes back but I figured since we played well, everybody played well in the first game, I figured I’d ride it out all the way until the end,” Abdur-Rahkman said.

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