Michigan coach John Beilein wanted to clear the air.
One game after freshman wing Jordan Poole scored a career-high 19 points in 27 minutes against Indiana in the Big Ten opener last week, he saw only eight minutes off the bench in Monday’s loss at Ohio State.
It became a topic on radio shows and had some people scratching their heads as to why Poole’s playing time was severely reduced coming off such a stellar performance.
“I don't know if people are clear on why people play and don't play,” Beilein said on WTKA’s “The Michigan Insider” Thursday morning. “It is not the offense. It is the defense why people don't play.
“If you continually in every practice, in every game, give your man open 3s or don't talk or don't play hard – offensively turnovers might get in there – but usually it's not a lack of understanding. It's do you understand how to play defense? Jordan has shown in the last two weeks great growth in that area in practice, and that's why he's in there. That's why he was in there because we know he can do that fairly well.”
Poole stole the show against Indiana and wasted little time making a splash when he was pressed into action early after redshirt sophomore wing Charles Matthews picked up a foul 14 seconds into the game.
He knocked down two of his first three attempts from 3-point range and finished the game shooting 7-for-12 from the field, with five made 3-pointers and a pair of layups – one on a cut to the rim and another off the dribble against an Indiana defender.
Following the win, Poole received praise from junior center Moritz Wagner for his play on both ends of the floor.
“JP did an incredible job,” Wagner said. “Defensively people don't talk about that now just because he got 19 points. He did a really good job defensively. It was very solid. He didn't make too many 50-50 plays."
But another factor that led to Poole’s limited role after his career game was the fact Matthews wasn’t in early foul trouble. Against Indiana, Matthews picked up his second foul with 11:55 left in the first half and rode the bench until halftime.
Against Ohio State, Matthews didn’t draw an early whistle in the first half before Poole was the fifth reserve off the bench and checked in for him at the 8:04 mark. Matthews was also never in serious foul trouble throughout the game, and Poole finished with five points (2-for-5 shooting).
Beilein made it clear going forward that the freshmen’s and sophomores’ minutes will hinge more on how they’re progressing and what they’re providing on the defensive end.
“There are some guys on our team that I love, but I could count within one minute their man is going to be open for a wide open 3 somewhere along that line,” Beilein said. “I can put it on stopwatch, it'll be two minutes and his man is getting open. Until we shore that up, it's just going to be like this for a little bit.”