Beilein: Winston 'destroyed' Michigan's ball-screen defense
Ann Arbor — While Michigan coach John Beilein was speaking during his postgame presser, he wanted to hand out an assignment to anyone who was willing to do some research.
How many times was Michigan State guard Cassius Winston put in a ball screen? How many times did Michigan junior guard Zavier Simpson get hit with a ball screen while defending Winston?
For Michigan team that has been effective in ball-screen defense all season, it was rendered ineffective in Sunday’s 77-70 loss at Crisler Center for one reason: Winston.
“Our ball screen has been terrific all year,” Beilein said. “Cassius Winston was terrific. He destroyed our ball-screen defense.
“He was absolutely tremendous. We've had a lot of point guards come into this building. I've coached some great ones. That was as good a performance as you would've seen.”
Winston played the entire game and led a short-handed Michigan State squad with 27 points on 7-for-13 shooting, eight assists and three turnovers. He also drew eight fouls and finished 13-for-14 from the free-throw line.
According to Beilein, there were a couple looks Michigan State’s offense gave that he wasn’t expecting but noted most of the problems stemmed from Winston’s knack for getting into “the nooks and crannies.”
“His mid-range game is one of the very tops in the country,” Beilein said. “At the rim, not so. His 3-point game and his mid-range game are one of the top, like elite. He got to his mid-range, and those runners and those floaters there's not a lot of defense for those things.
“If Jon (Teske) stays too long, then he finds drop-off guys. He looked like Joe Montana throwing to the other side of the court today. He had a terrific, terrific game. And he's playing against a tremendous defensive point guard.”
Freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis thought his team made more mistakes in its ball-screen defense than usual and cited some of that had to do with what Michigan State was doing.
“The defensive coverage was definitely tough,” Brazdeikis said. “We saw some things we didn't really expect, and they did a tremendous job playing off that and making reads.
“We didn't expect the double ball screens where they both came off and they slipped a lot, which created a lot of space for them. They had a great game plan.”
Beilein added his team had some problems recovering from its hard hedges on screens and getting back in position to defend.
There were times Winston was able to use some hesitation and deceptiveness to get around Teske and into the lane. Then there were other instances when Simpson didn’t have leverage when he got back and couldn’t cut off Winston from getting to the basket.
Beilein added he never gave any thought to having his team back up off hedging screens because that’s when Winston and his floater become dangerous.
“I've seen the teams that have done that, but he had the same game,” Beilein said. “Look at his numbers. He's good at drawing fouls. He was just tremendous today…So, let’s give a lot of credit where it's due. We're going to do everything we can to learn from it and get better.”
During the early stages of the first half, redshirt junior wing Charles Matthews injured his ankle and was hobbling a bit at one point.
He exited with 11:37 left in the half and had his right ankle looked at by the training staff on the bench before heading back to the locker room.
Matthews had to have his ankle re-taped and rode the stationary bike beside the bench for a brief period before he eventually returned with 5:26 remaining before halftime.
“They've got more injuries than we do, so I'm not crying,” Beilein said. “But Charles is injured. Charles tweaked his ankle just a little bit and it threw us off a little bit. Still, it shouldn't be a factor in the game. We've got to be better than we were and we weren’t.”
Matthews finished with four points on 1-for-8 shooting in 28 minutes, but there were a few instances where he came up gingerly and appeared to be hampered by the ailment.
Yet, Beilein didn’t seem too concerned about Matthews’ status moving forward.
“He was able to come back in, so you really don't worry too much about that,” Beilein said. “But he's going to have to do work, I'm sure.”
Sunday’s defeat snapped Michigan’s 22-game win streak at Crisler Center and was its first home loss since Jan. 9, 2018.
… Michigan celebrated the 30th anniversary of the 1989 national title team at halftime and also honored the 1964 and 1974 Big Ten title teams during timeouts in the first half.
… More than 200 former Michigan basketball players were in attendance for the game, which is believed to be the most ever.
… Michigan finished with a season-low six assists, its fewest since its loss to Villanova in last season’s national title game.