Beilein pushes Wolverines with UCLA up next

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — A day after Michigan’s basketball team blew a 20-point lead and lost at Ohio State, John Beilein got his players’ attention at practice.

The Wolverines, who host UCLA on Saturday at Crisler Center, fell 71-62 to the Buckeyes on Monday and went through a tough practice. Beilein felt his players played hard, just not smart in Columbus. He said he wanted to send a “strong message” to the Wolverines (7-3 overall, 1-1 Big Ten).

“We ran sprints at the beginning for what we call the ‘F Chart,” when you really failed something,” Beilein said Friday.

Moritz Wagner said his coach’s message was perfectly clear and that the practices are physical and intense right now “as it should be.”

“It sucks to be honest with you because when you lose a game like that on Monday, especially the way we did, you kind of want to put a checkmark behind it,” Wagner said Friday. “You kinda want to move on. You’ve got to embrace it because practices count as much as games right now, especially we felt like we were better than Ohio State, and we gave that game away based on our own ability, nobody else.

“We’ve just got to find a way to move on from that. Practice harder and more intensively than in the past.”

More: Beilein: Defense, not offense, is 'why people don't play'

Wagner said the Wolverines are a committed group and that has been the case since the spring.

“We have really good kids here,” Wagner said. “This is a really committed group, as I’ve been saying since the spring term. We consider every practice as a game. Give all we got. We’ve just got to be committed as a unit and take this very seriously. You can’t give away games like that. We’re all aware of that fact, and that’s the way we practice.”

So while Wagner said the team wished it had another game shortly after the Ohio State loss instead of waiting until facing UCLA on Saturday, the break did give the Wolverines a breather after traveling to Hawaii, then playing a game at defending national champion North Carolina before opening Big Ten play two days later at home against Indiana.

After facing UCLA on Saturday, Michigan travels to Austin to face Texas on Tuesday. The Wolverines finish the calendar year with three non-conference games before playing at Iowa on Jan. 2.

The UCLA and Texas games will be tests, but as Wagner said, no one is looking at practices or games differently. Practice was just as intense Thursday as Beilein tries to start fixing what he has diagnosed as the issues so far this season.

“Just get back to Michigan basketball,” Beilein said. “A lot of things we’d say, ‘All right, as soon as we get to breathe, we’re going to work on that.’ We were able to clean up stuff (this week). It’s not fixed, right? But at the same time, they’re consciously now aware of some of the incompetence we have in some areas.

“Two weeks ago, they weren’t even consciously aware of it and neither was I because you don’t know everything that’s going to happen in the game — ‘Oh, my goodness, we’re really weak in that area. I thought we had that.’ It’s been good for us.”

Beilein said the work has been required all around, on offense and defense.

“But we spend an awful lot of time on defense,” he said. “The timing, what we’re doing out of timeouts and all of these things are just the focus. All of those things are big.”

UCLA at Michigan

Tip-off: Noon Saturday, Crisler Center, Ann Arbor

TV/radio: CBS/WWJ 950

Records: UCLA 7-1; Michigan 7-3

Notable: Moritz Wagner, who is averaging 15.4 points per game, is the only Michigan player to score in double figures every game this season. … UCLA defeated Detroit Mercy 106-73 on Sunday night. The Bruins’ only loss was to Creighton in the Hall of Fame Classic. … Aaron Holiday leads UCLA in scoring (16.5) and assists (5.5).