Ann Arbor — Michigan seniors Zavier Simpson and Jon Teske knew they’d have plenty of family and friends on hand for their final home game.
One person they didn’t expect to be in the Crisler Center crowd? Former coach John Beilein.
“That was very cool,” Teske said after Thursday’s 82-58 win over Nebraska. “When they showed him on the big screen, I looked up. I give him so much credit for the past three years. He's improved my game so much. I wouldn't be here and have all those wins without him. I just give a lot of credit to him for all the hard work he's put in to X and I.”
Beilein, of course, recruited both Teske and Simpson out of Ohio as the key pieces to Michigan’s 2016 class and played an instrumental role in their development. In the three seasons they spent together, the Wolverines went 89-27, reached three straight Sweet 16s, won back-to-back Big Ten tournament titles and made a trip to the national title game.
It was Beilein’s first time returning to Crisler Center since he left the program last May for the head-coaching job with the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers. However, Beilein’s run in the pros didn’t last long and he stepped down after 54 games.
Beilein, the program’s all-time winningest coach, watched the game from box seats along with his wife, Kathleen, and several other family members. He received a standing ovation and a loud applause when he was recognized during a first-half timeout.
Simpson said he wanted to bring Beilein down to the court when he and Teske each delivered a speech to the crowd after the game, but he was told Beilein had already left.
“I definitely appreciate the support for him and definitely give him a lot of credit for him making me the player I am today,” Simpson said. “Without him, I'm not sure if I'll be in the position I'm in. He obviously played a big part in the two of the winningest players in program history. Without him, who knows where I am today.
“I'm definitely very appreciative of Coach Beilein. I wish he wouldn't have left, but I'm sure he had some things that he had to take care of that were important. I definitely appreciate the support and thanks to Coach Beilein for coming to Senior Night.”
While Simpson and Teske had no idea Beilein would be in attendance, Michigan coach Juwan Howard said he found out Beilein was coming five days ago.
Simpson, Teske and Howard said they didn’t get the chance to talk to Beilein before or after the game.
"I thought that it would be great. It's a great idea to have (Beilein) in the building,” Howard said. “He's meant a lot to the program and he's meant a lot to the players. They've grown with Coach Beilein. He's developed Zavier as well as Jon. He's also recruited them. He's been a huge part of their success.
“It was great to see Coach Beilein in the building. People that know me, my family and friends know that I'm an egoless kind of guy. It's not about me. It's about Zavier, it's about Jon and we know Coach Beilein has been a huge part of their success.”
Nebraska coach Fred Hoiberg got his first look at Simpson after the guard was suspended for the teams’ first meeting on Jan. 28.
Hoiberg said he paid Simpson a home visit back when he was head coach at Iowa State and jokingly compared him to his son Jack, who’s a walk-on guard at Michigan State.
“I've always loved the kid,” Hoiberg said. “I think he's tough as nails. I think he's as tough as any guard in this league not named Hoiberg. He went out there and has such great control of the game. He's mastered that little hook shot. It's so difficult to guard. He's got such a strong lower body. When he gets you on his hip, it's hard to get back in front of him. He's just an unbelievable decision-maker.”
Simpson finished with 11 points and 10 assists for his fifth double-double of the season. It was also the eighth time this year he dished out at least 10 dimes.
Simpson’s dad, Quincey, had to leave immediately after the pregame ceremony to go coach his Lima Senior High basketball team in districts.
“I'm not even sure he made the game,” Simpson said. “I think the game was in Toledo, so about 45 minutes (away). But for him that would be about 30 minutes. He can get by on the highway, so he probably made it.”
According to The Lima News, Quincey Simpson missed the first half of his team’s 78-40 win over Ashland. Lima Senior will play for a district title on Saturday.
… After giving up 11 3-pointers each of the past two games, Michigan’s perimeter defense got back on track and limited Nebraska to 4-for-13 shooting from beyond the arc.
Hoiberg said Michigan made a concerted effort to take away 3-point attempts.
“I thought they tried to make us finish at the rim, which we didn't do a good job of,” Hoiberg said. “That first half we were 6-for-17 at the rim and a lot of those were forced and trying to finish over length as opposed to probing and trying to kick out.”