Michigan coach talks about his team's performance in Saturday's 89-78 win that pushed the Wolverines' record to 10-0. James Hawkins, The Detroit News
Ann Arbor — When South Carolina arrived for practice at Crisler Center on Friday, coach Frank Martin could hardly recognize Michigan junior guard Zavier Simpson — in a good way.
Simpson is one of only two players, along with junior center Jon Teske, who were on the Wolverines’ roster the last time the teams met on Nov. 23, 2016.
And while plenty can change in two years, Martin was in awe of the difference — in physique, in skill, in growth — he saw between then and now.
“(Simpson) was shooting around, I grabbed him, and I said, 'Listen, man. I was watching our film from two years ago. You and Teske were like two little kids,' ” Martin said following Michigan’s 89-78 win on Saturday.
“I was watching the film and now I’m watching you guys play and you guys were like — it’s unbelievable how much better you guys are and how different you look.”
Martin said Teske's and Simpson's evolution since their freshman year is a testament to the job Michigan coach John Beilein has done throughout his career — an area he feels often goes overlooked.
“I don't think coach gets the credit that he deserves for the way his players develop. They all speak about his offense because it is a machine, the way they play offense,” Martin said. “John does an unbelievable job making his players better during their career. I think you see that with the guys who have come through here and have gone on and played in the NBA, how they continue to grow once they get there.”
Martin didn’t get to see much of Simpson and Teske in South Carolina’s 61-46 win two seasons ago. Simpson, who served as Derrick Walton Jr.’s backup, played eight minutes and Teske, who was utilized as the second big man off the bench, was only on the floor for four minutes.
But on Saturday, Martin got to see plenty of the two and how far they’ve come. Simpson was able to get in the lane and find his teammates, finishing with seven points and seven assists in 37 minutes. Teske just missed a double-double with 15 points and nine boards in 29 minutes and showed his aggressiveness by attempting a posterizing dunk while being fouled in the second half.
They also showcased how vital they are to Michigan's defensive success, with Simpson swiping three steals and Teske blocking three shots and forcing several other misses around the rim.
“That's what college basketball has to be more about is kids developing over time instead of focusing on all these guys that are impact players right away and forgetting about the other guys,” Beilein said. “That's what these student-athletes have to embrace; there's a process I got to go through here. When you were a freshman in high school, were you the star of the team? I doubt it. Well, now you're a freshman in college. You're not going to be the star of the team.
“There's other people whose bodies are better, bigger, and I think that growth between 17 and 22 (years old) is pretty significant in their body, as well. I love what Jon and (Simpson) are doing right now. They're as key as any of the guys that are getting any other type of attention.”
Michigan entered Saturday’s contest ranked No. 6 in the nation in fewest turnovers per game (9.1) and tied for No. 18 in fewest total turnovers (82).
The Wolverines committed 11 turnovers alone in the first half — more than seven single-game totals this season — before finishing with a season-high 16.
“We had some really careless ones, over-dribbling,” Beilein said. “They're good and you have to be able to adjust to that (press). That's why the game was very close. They shot the ball really well and they got to the right spots, and we gave it back to them way too many times.”
All eight Wolverines who played had at least one turnover. Sophomore guard Jordan Poole and Simpson were the biggest culprits with four apiece, and freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis and Teske each had two.
South Carolina scored 16 points off the turnovers.
Sophomore forward Isaiah Livers and Poole, who are good friends and roommates, did their postgame interview together.
When the subject turned to the Maize Rage's "Poole Party" theme, Livers said, "I need one, you know what I'm saying?"
After briefly deliberating with the media, Poole came up with one possible idea.
"Liverpool would be cool," he said. "We could do a little soccer theme."
... Michigan tied a season-high with 13 offensive rebounds that led to 21 second-chance points. Redshirt junior wing Charles Matthews was responsible for four of them, while Teske grabbed three.
… Poole has made at least four 3-pointers three times in the last four games.
… Michigan has won nine of its 10 games by double digits and has won 12 consecutive home games dating back to last season.
... Michigan is one of only 10 unbeaten teams remaining in the country.