Michigan experienced a first half uglier than an ottoman after a good torching, leading to Wisconsin's 75-62 win at Crisler Center on Sunday. But despite what it might have looked like, John Beilein doesn't want to hear the word "effort" in the equation.
Redshirt junior center Jon Horford didn't necessarily say the Wolverines lacked effort against the Badgers. But they did lack energy, he observed, especially in a first half that featured the Anti-Beilein dichotomy of seven turnovers and zero assists.
That unfolded into a 34-19 deficit after 20 minutes. Beilein didn't have enough whiteboard shovels to dig out of that hole, even though the Wolverines cut it to three points in the second half.
Horford felt something different.
"There are going to be days when you just don't have the energy," he said. "You don't want to put in the effort, but you have to look within yourself and you have to bring that energy out. You have to force it.
"I hate to use the word 'force,' but it is something that, you have to get it done if you want to have success
it was pretty apparent a couple of minutes into the game."
Meanwhile, Beilein drew a sharp distinction between playing hard and playing well. The Wolverines didn't do the latter, obviously, he insisted, while giving Wisconsin great credit.
He wasn't buying any lack-of-effort scenario, though.
"I don't agree with that," he said, regarding any insinuation as to lack of effort. "I don't agree with that. Everybody can always point fingers at people and say lack of effort, and they're probably blaming themselves. No. Wisconsin is good, and we were going to have to play really good basketball to do it.
"I'm not going to beat our guys up for effort. Our guys played hard, as hard as they could play, I believe. But probably not smart enough. They didn't play smart enough today, and I believe they'll get better from it."
When Michigan's recent pattern of win-loss, win-loss again brought up the effort and mentality question, Beilein offered a ready answer.
"I think it speaks to the Big Ten," he said. "It's not about, okay, they weren't up for this game or down for this game. No. What it is about is, we're playing really good teams and you have to play well, and sometimes you can't control that.
"Sometimes a ball is not going to bounce your way. Caris [LeVert] had one halfway down that would have made it a five-point game. That goes in other times."
The sophomore tossed in 25 on the game, but didn't get a lot of scoring help. The Wolverines couldn't get in sync throughout the first half in front of a sellout home crowd that wanted to jump into the game full force, but was given little reason to early.
They kicked it in after intermission, when the Wolverines did. But a 19-point first half isn't going to get any home arena rocking, and the Crisler crew wound up as stymied as the Wolverines themselves over the opening 20 minutes.
They absorbed a big gulp of 'Oh-No,' seeing Wisconsin run out to the 15-point lead. In a game in which the Badgers would turn the ball over just twice and get 25 out of big man Frank Kaminsky, it was just too much.
"They just were really good today," Beilein said. "We helped them in the first have with our seven turnovers. We can't do that. We sort of shored that up, but once we got down like we got down, it's tough to come back because of their ball control offense. They make timely shots, they've got a great plan, and they really played a high-IQ game today."
Beilein also noted he couldn't recall an assist-to-turnover combo like Michigan had in the first half, one that eventually became five assists and nine turnovers for the game.
"They're going to lock up on the shooters, and we're going to have to create our own," he said. "You have to play a two-man game. Different people have to get downhill and make plays.
"I can't explain, until I watch the video, why we were a little bit tentative at times. We threw the ball to them. It's a short possession game, but you give them the ball seven times in one half, to a team that doesn't turn people over? You're going to have a tough time. If you throw the ball away, you can't get an assist."
He talked about Michigan committing some "out-of-character" mistakes. He noted how the Wolverines hurt themselves. Mostly, he put an emphasis on how Wisconsin simply played better.
"They're good," he said. "They're really good, and we weren't so good today. You're going to have to play. We fought back, and that's a long way to fight back. I thought we were going to come all the way back.
"But they made a couple of tough shots and we missed some. It was one of those games where, if you bury yourself, you're going to have to play a super second half. While we played much better, not good enough."
Defensively, the Wolverines gave up a number of blow-by buckets, especially early on. They also found themselves out-rebounded in the first half, 20-15, before out-boarding the Badgers by one over the final 20 minutes.
"Our post defense is our post defense," Beilein said. "They're going to keep moving and trying to do their best, but he made some great moves and finished around the hoop. A couple of offensive rebounds were big, too."
But rebounding as effort? Again, Beilein blocked that insinuation.
"Block-out is not like an effort thing," he said. "It's a mental thing. If our guys are not running, not getting back on defense, it's a different thing. All of a sudden we just have these mental breakdowns where we don't do some of the things we need to do."
They have seven days to get right - mentally, physically, and in any other way necessary. If they want to stay in the Big Ten race, it's likely going to involve a home win over Michigan State.
Whatever the reason, Michigan can't come out seven days hence like it did versus the Badgers. What Beilein says to his team will obviously be more pointed and detailed than what he offers up to the media.
And some of it will involve effectiveness from the neck up.
"I'd say Wisconsin was mentally sharper than us today," Beilein stressed. "That's a credit to them. They've got an experienced team, a tremendous coach, a great plan. They were better than us today."
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