Beilein pushes UM to be 'tougher, smarter' with Texas on tap

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News


Ann Arbor — Moritz Wagner did not hold back while describing Michigan’s game against Texas last season.

“It was nasty, ugly and disgusting to watch,” Wagner said Monday.

And he was talking about a win.

The Wolverines defeated Texas 53-50 last season and now head to Austin to face the Longhorns Tuesday night. They are coming off a 78-69 overtime win over UCLA last Saturday at Crisler Center. Michigan is 8-3 overall and are 0-2 in true road games.

“I’m just very curious to see how we play on the road and just respond to a win, because in the past we haven’t responded well from a good win, a quality win,” Wagner said. “That’s the mission right now.”

More: Wojo: Michigan basketball makes an important point

After beating Indiana in the Big Ten opener, the Wolverines gave up a huge lead in a loss on the road to Ohio State. Wagner wants to see if the team can follow the gut-check comeback victory against UCLA with another on the road when Michigan faces Texas.

Michigan coach John Beilein said Monday his team is still trying to identify its identity. That takes time for any team, but Beilein wants his to play smarter, because that’s where road wins start.

“While we’re very inexperienced, (we’re) not necessarily young because we have a few sophomores playing and three juniors and seniors, and we’ve got to play above that with our IQ,” Beilein said. “We have to take everything we’ve learned in practice, or watching prior teams play, and somehow apply that on the court.

“That has been a big issue thus far is getting our guys to just say, ‘OK, this is why Michigan teams win and this is how we have to do it.’ They’re getting there. I don’t have any issue with people playing hard out there. That’s been an issue before. I don’t think there’s any issue with guys not being tough enough physically and diving on the floor and getting 50-50 balls.”

The issue, he said, is getting the players to push through difficult stretches in games, especially on the road.

“The issue would be, right now, ‘Can you play through adversity? Can you be mentally tough when you’re tired?’ ” Beilein said. “Those are the two things. People are going to get soft-minded when they’re tired or when things aren’t going their way. We’ve got to be tougher and smarter in both those situations.”

Beilein has been all about making his players accountable this season in light of errors they continue to make. He thought they were too “handsy” in the loss at Ohio State and he saw that at times against UCLA.

He said three players had the same issue in the most recent game. He has added sprints at the start of practice to remind them of consequences.

“And so while I didn’t think it was right to pull them out, I said, ‘They’re going to pay. They’re going to pay, but it’s going to be tomorrow,’ ” Beilein said. “Somehow we’ve got to get them to understand that these things cost games, cost teammates games.

“We’re going to have to rely on them being better the next time they’re at it and they’re not going to make the same recurring mistakes,” Beilein said. “All four, five of those guys we started yesterday with them running the gauntlet for the same mistakes. If they make the same mistakes that they did in Ohio State, then they’re running. We will do it all year long. They’re tired, we didn’t care. We didn’t practice that long but those three minutes that they were running, they understood in some way we have to stop just teaching and holding them more accountable for them to understand. I think it’ll go a long way.”

The players understand why Beilein is sending this message of accountability.

“We’ve been talking about that since October, there are certain things you’ve got to improve at some point,” Wagner said. “Whether that’s running, whether that’s watching film — believe me, that’s enough punishment — I enjoy watching film (but) you don’t want to see mistakes. That’s human nature.

“Believe me, the guys really care. They don’t do mistakes on purpose, but at some point you’ve got to step up and coach B is holding us accountable to that.”

Michigan at Texas

Tip-off: Tuesday, 9:05 p.m., Frank Erwin Center, Austin, Texas.

Records: Michigan is 8-3; Texas is 6-2

Series: Michigan leads, 4-2

TV/radio: ESPN2/WWJ 950