Senior point guard Mike Smith was at the forefront of the Michigan Wolverines’ 82-66 Round of 64 victory over Texas Southern in the NCAA Tournament. A big reason for the victory had to do with one of Smith’s best stat lines of the season, which saw him score 18 points to go with five assists and four rebounds.
Here is the full transcript of his postgame session with the media, courtesy of ASAP Sports:
Q. Mike, congratulations on the great game. Zeb and Terrance played big minutes today, probably the most minutes they’ve had all season. How big is it to have those freshmen off the bench that are ready to go when you guys need them to step into the rotation?
MIKE SMITH: It’s huge. Coach always preaches the next-man-up mentality and stay ready so you don’t have to get ready, and they came out there and did a tremendous job out there to help us.
Q. I’ll just follow up right there. On Zeb specifically, what have you kind of seen from him in terms of trying to navigate this year and not getting consistent minutes, not kind of having a defined role and things like that? Him just trying to kind of process that and play through it?
MIKE SMITH: Zeb is a tremendously hard worker. He wants to be out there and help us. Each and every day he wakes up at like 8:00 a.m., 7:00 a.m., and gets shots up, you know what I mean? That just kind of shows the character of Zeb. He’s going to be a tremendous player for Michigan. I believe it, and I’m saying it now, and I’m going to stick with it.
Today he just showed a little bit of what he has to his game and came out there and did a great job.
Q. Mike, how would you assess your play in this game and in your team’s play in this game? What did you like? Maybe what weren’t you pleased with?
MIKE SMITH: I like how we came out aggressive. We played defense. We played really hard. What I didn’t like is we kind of let up, you know what I mean? We kind of played to score, and they came back. Obviously, there were some calls that didn’t go our way, but we can’t let that hinder us and affect us in a way where we played to their pace.
That was kind of on me to not — that’s kind of on me to not let that happen, and I should have taken control of the game when they started pressing. I take full responsibility for that. But we finished strong, and it feels really good to get a win.
Q. Mike, trying to live without Isaiah Livers on the court with you guys. I know you guys have been adapting to that for a couple of weeks now. But are you starting to see this team getting more comfortable with the new roles for everybody?
MIKE SMITH: For sure. Coach during practice is instilling confidence in everybody that we’re fine. Obviously, Isaiah is a big part of this team, a leader, a scorer, a defender. He just does it all. Without him, it’s been tough, but we’ve been adjusting, and I think we’ve done a tremendous job so far.
Q. Hey, Mike, a lot of guys playing in their first NCAA Tournament game, including yourself. Did you sense any jitters? I know you guys have played a lot of big games this year, but anything different about today?
MIKE SMITH: Personally, I was a little nervous at first, you know what I mean? I’ve watched it all my life, and to finally be a part of this was surreal during tip-off. But after that, I don’t think anybody else was nervous. Me being the oldest on the team and I was the most nervous, but it was a feeling I will never forget, and obviously, the job’s not done. We have to lock in and get ready for the next game.
Q. Hey, Mike, I was curious what you’ve seen from Brandon in practice since Isaiah was injured and if there’s any noted difference in how he’s played since the beginning of the season.
MIKE SMITH: He’s playing a lot more aggressively, you know what I mean? He has more minutes. Me and Coach and everybody has been telling him that he has to be more aggressive. He’s a talent that not a lot of people know about. If you’re a huge Michigan fan, you would know how good Brandon Johns really is. He can play. He stepped up the last couple of games and played really well for us.
I’m going to keep instilling confidence in him because he’s a great player, and we can use that.
Q. Hey, Mike, I was wondering if you could talk about Franz Wagner’s play today and how he’s able to contribute in every facet of the game.
MIKE SMITH: Franz is a two-way player. It’s hard to find somebody who doesn’t worry so much about offense and is still going to play so hard on defense and be a leader out there. Obviously, he didn’t have the offensive game that he wanted, but he stuck out there, and he played great defense, made the right plays, didn’t force anything, and that’s hard to find in a player, especially in college.
That just kind of shows the character of Franz, and that’s going to help him at the next level whenever he’s ready to go.
Q. Mike, I know a lot of us saw the T-shirt that Isaiah was wearing on the bench, the not NCAA property shirt. What do you guys make of how he’s used his voice, even though he’s not able to be on the court with you guys during this tournament?
MIKE SMITH: Isaiah, he’s going to speak his mind. Everybody has their own opinion, and he speaks his mind all the time. That’s all I can say to that.
Q. I was wondering what it does for guys like and Zeb and Terrance’s confidence when they haven’t gotten regular playing time this season to then be able to see some shots go in today when they got their chance?
MIKE SMITH: That just builds confidence, you know what I mean? Your confidence comes from when you see the ball go in or when you do something good. You start to get confident in that area of the game, and that’s going to help them down the stretch, especially next game when their name is called.
Q. You see so many Big Ten teams and other teams that are expected to win going out of this tournament. Does it become a matter of just you’re glad to get through any way you can and look forward to the next one?
MIKE SMITH: A win is a win, but at the end of the day, it’s one game at a time. I can only speak for Michigan and the University of Michigan and how we go about it, and we just take one game at a time and focus on that game and try to win that game and move on to the next one after we focused and game planned and executed our game plan.