February 8, 2013
Borton's Blog: Eyes on defense
Jordan Morgan practiced yesterday as well as he has since getting injured at Illinois, head coach John Beilein noted today. What that means for the redshirt junior regarding Wisconsin, Beilein wouldn't say.
Morgan played very sparingly in the last two games, but he practiced "very well" on Thursday, Beilein stressed. The head coach pointedly assured he wasn't going beyond that assessment to talk about Morgan's potential involvement in the noon showdown against the Badgers tomorrow.
Beilein did talk about how Morgan's absence affects Michigan's defense and any consideration of playing two big men at the same time. As to the latter, the coach insisted Morgan's mobility plays a crucial role at the defensive end if he happened to be on the court with redshirt sophomore Jon Horford or freshman Mitch McGary.
"My biggest concern is the defensive end of that," Beilein said. "It's not playing with two guys like that offensively. It depends on who we're playing, and what that guy can do on the perimeter.
"Jordan is one of our guys who we feel really good about going out and chasing around a Deshaun Thomas, a Chris Watford
but can the other guys do that? It's more of a defensive issue than an offensive issue."
Beilein assured that Morgan would have seen more minutes on the court in a two big-man tandem lately, had he been physically able to contribute at length.
"Oh, he would have played five to 10 minutes as a four man, and given Glenn [Robinson] a little bit of rest," he said.
Michigan faced repeated issues with its interior defense in U-M's 76-74 overtime win against Ohio State on Tuesday. The Buckeyes scored 30 points in the paint, including 16 on second-chance efforts. Aided by the point-blank efforts, they shot 51.7 percent overall.
Beilein said after the game Michigan's younger big men were taking some of the same defensive angles Morgan did two years ago, and that the four-year Wolverine's absence was an issue. He expounded on the same topic today.
"We just looked at it, and most of it was out of inexperience," Beilein said of the OSU breakdowns. "We got so locked into individual match-ups. We were trying to shut down a couple of people
but you still have to be in the paint when your man doesn't have the ball. We had a lot of inexperience out there on the defense.
"As every game changes, now it's the Wisconsin offense, which is very different, or the Indiana offense, which is very different. Ohio State was very patient as well, but at times they're very explosive. For our guys, especially in that swing, we haven't had enough repetitions in practice the last two weeks."
Those repetitions proved impossible in a tight schedule, Beilein cautioned. The Wolverines were either recovering from coming off the road, or not wanting to be totally worn out in preparation for the next challenge.
That causes a slippage in fundamentals, an area he and his coaching staff addressed yesterday.
"We have to be stronger with giving help, in our posture and giving help, if we need it," he said. "We have to be able to guard the ball a little bit better. All of it comes with experience and repetition, which we've had none of for two straight weeks.
"We've played games, and that does make it better. Repetition in practice makes it better, and we haven't been able to do that."
And at this point, Beilein noted, zone defense is not the answer.
"If we stay in a zone, they might score 1,000 points," he noted, with a pained grin. "We're working at it. We might lose 1,000-something, because we just give up points in the zone. But we're working at it."
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