The film doesn’t lie.
And after watching tape from Sunday’s 70-62 loss at Michigan State, Michigan coach John Beilein didn’t hold back about his team’s defensive effort.
“(Michigan State) ran great stuff,” Beilein said Monday night during his weekly radio show. “Credit them for everything but we, at the same time, did not just play good defense. I mean, there were some plays that we just — it's an ole, get out of the way and let them go.
“We took a drop step to a whole different level. It's like come on into my home and do whatever you want to do because they certainly did it to us. We saw it, they know and we've got to address it."
Michigan’s defensive woes have been a reoccurring topic of discussion throughout the Big Ten season. In conference play, the Wolverines rank last in field-goal percentage defense (51.8 percent), 3-point field-goal percentage defense (48.9 percent) and defensive rebounds (19.8).
But after showing improvement in three straight games by creating more turnovers and limiting possessions against Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana, Michigan’s defense took a step back against Michigan State. The Wolverines allowed the Spartans to shoot 52.2 percent (24-for-46) from the field, 45.5 percent (5-for-11) from 3-point range and attempt 23 free throws.
According to Beilein, Michigan didn’t play with the same level of intensity it had in its two previous games in a revengeful performance against Illinois and a 30-point thrashing of Indiana.
“I'm not mincing words right now. We did not handle the (Indiana) win well,” Beilein said. “It was a short turnaround. We went into the Illinois game with that fire in our belly and then Indiana, we know that they're a very good team and have (James) Blackmon and we're in there. Then we went in there (to Michigan State) and we were just very average playing with the type of edge that you have to play with, that type of precision.
“It was just a bad game. It was sickening. It was sick, to me, watching parts of the film."
Nobody was spared from Beilein’s scorn, not even senior guard Derrick Walton Jr., who single-handedly kept Michigan in the game in the second half with a season-high 24 points.
While Walton was the best player on the floor offensively, he was far from it on the defensive end, according to Beilein.
“I just love that he embraced the game, he embraced the contact. It was the most I've seen him take the ball to the basket,” Beilein said. “He's got to do that at the defensive end. All our guys, he’s not alone. He's got to do it at the defensive end as well. Take that same type of great talent that he has and put it on defense. It's going to be huge for us when his defense matches up with that offense that is really impressive right now.”
Through 22 games, Michigan’s defense has been historically bad under Beilein this season. The Wolverines rank last in the nation – out of 347 Division I teams – in 3-point field-goal percentage defense (42.4 percent) and 321st in field-goal percentage defense (47.3 percent).
"Defensively if you look at our numbers, I showed the team (Monday), the defensive field-goal percentages in six of the last eight years that we've been in the NCAA Tournament and this is a drastic change,” Beilein said. “We're giving up this high 3-point percentage, we're giving up the high 2-point percentage. With the 3-point percentage, even in the years that were just OK but we made the NCAA Tournament, we were 32, 33 (percent) defense on threes and 43, 42 for twos overall.
“This right now is just astronomical. We got to take ownership of it as a coaching staff but our team has got to take ownership of it and understand this is not an anomaly anymore. This is consistent that we're not challenging shots, we're not playing good defense, not a whole lot. Yeah, we have different coaches right now, but we practice more on defense than we ever had. This is a genuine concern. We're not going to be able to do what we want to do this season if we can't be consistent in that area."
But at the midway point of conference play and with nine games remaining before the Big Ten tournament, time is running out.
"We're trying to work on everything,” Beilein said. “I'm very hopeful that as we go down into February, defenses should get better as the year goes on and you can see us grow in those areas."