The Michigan Wolverines advanced to the second round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament on Saturday with its 82-66 win over Texas Southern. Michigan head coach Juwan Howard spoke after the win, which sets up a showdown with LSU on Monday night.
Here is the full transcript of Howard’s media availability courtesy of the NCAA and ASAP Sports:
JUWAN HOWARD: I just want to say I’m so proud of our guys’ effort today after having a week layoff. The practice has been great leading up to this game. I love the fact our guys’ mindset and how they approach practice each and every day, working on our habits, on how we can improve as a team.
We expect Texas Southern, who earned the right to be here, well-coached team, was going to play hard from start to finish. Of course, we definitely wanted them to match our energy from start to finish. I really enjoyed the effort that our guys brought and the mindset that they had coming into this game.
Q. Hey, Coach, congrats on the big win. With Zeb and Terrance getting more minutes than they’ve gotten probably throughout the season and seeing time on the court at the same time, how big was it to have those guys step into the rotation and pick up some of the slack on the scoring?
JUWAN HOWARD: It was great, man. It’s all hands on deck. If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready, and the young guys gave us a big lift because we had guys that was in foul trouble. Austin, unfortunately for him in the first half, as well as Chaundee, they picked up two quick fouls. And Zeb and Terrance was ready to go, and they gave us a really big spark coming off the bench.
Q. Juwan, can you talk a little bit about the play of Brandon Johns and how he’s adjusted to his role in the starting lineup?
JUWAN HOWARD: Brandon, this is not his first time. Last season, Isaiah was out with an injury, and Brandon was inserted into the starting lineup. Brandon understands, by being ready each and every time, you never know when your name’s going to be called on. But he pretty much expected that possibly he would be the guy that would have to fill in for the starting role, and I’m so happy that each and every day in practice, just knowing the fact that at times you’re going to play some four, you’re going to play some five, understanding his role and being a starter in his role.
Q. I wanted to ask you what you liked best about your team’s play today and what you saw, looking ahead from, obviously, a coaching perspective, where you thought you could have played better as a team.
JUWAN HOWARD: Our team, I love the fact that we came out, didn’t show any type of sign of fatigue. Like I said earlier, our practice was really good preparing for this moment right here. Offensively, we did a really good job of sharing the basketball. If you look at the numbers, each and every guy got an opportunity to shoot a shot when the shot is open, make a play for others.
I felt like, as far as cleaning up, we had too many turnovers, more on Hunter’s end. He had six. We’re going to go back and watch the film and see what we can do better to improve it. That’s what it’s all about this year. You’re always going to get teams’ best. You’ve just got to be ready to go out there and compete, and our guys did a really good job of competing.
Q. Turning the page a little bit, as the nature of this tournament is, LSU next on deck. What do you know about them, or have you not really started your prep there yet?
JUWAN HOWARD: I haven’t started my prep yet. One game at a time. Let me enjoy this victory now.
Q. Let’s enjoy the victory by talking about Hunter Dickinson’s first NCAA Tournament game. Once again, a strong inside presence. He’s continuing to seemingly just grow up right before our eyes.
JUWAN HOWARD: Well, he’s been doing that all season long. Once he got started with the season and understanding the pace of the game, the physicality of the game, and then also knowing all the practice of improving day after day, whether it was on the practice court or in film.
He’s been growing. Hunter, it’s no surprise. Everyone knows about Hunter’s production this season because it’s been well documented, and he’s earned that right.
The key today is just being ready to understand that there are going to be times when teams double, making the right decision with the basketball, with the high IQ that he has. At times he wants to make that exciting play, but he knows that at times you have to keep it simple. That’s our motto. Let’s hunt for singles.
Q. Juwan, you mentioned enjoying this win. You didn’t get the chance last year, you and your guys. Can you say what nailing down the first NCAA win for this group means to you?
JUWAN HOWARD: It means a lot, man, because of what this group has dealt with since last year when we had a pause. First, before the pause, when we ended our season early before the Big Ten Tournament started.
To get to this point right here, I’m happy for every college team. I want to give the NCAA credit, also the Big Ten Conference credit as well, as well as our Michigan medicine and our athletic director, Warde Manuel. I know it hasn’t been easy. They’ve been learning as we go.
I’ve always said it before, the virus, no one can control the virus, but we’ve done a really good job of now having this opportunity to play, but being disciplined throughout the process and sacrificing a lot.
So I’m so proud of these kids and what they’ve dealt with this year. Now to be able to play this season, look forward to March, be part of the March Madness. It’s a blessing.
Q. Hey, Juwan, first of all, can you see us or only hear us?
JUWAN HOWARD: No, I can’t see you. How are you doing? I want to see you.
Q. That’s fine. I just didn’t know how it worked. I know you talk about staying ready so you don’t have to get ready, but for a guy like Zeb, who hadn’t scored in a game in a couple months, it’s impressive to see him do it in an NCAA Tournament. What confidence — you know, what have you seen in practice that gave you the confidence that he could do that?
JUWAN HOWARD: I’ve been seeing Zeb work hard every day in practice. Every day before practice, when I’m walking past the weight room and there’s a window, I can’t help him on off days because NCAA rules, but he’s always the first guy in the gym. It says a lot about his character, about his passion for the game, about his attitude. Zeb has not walked in our building one time and had a session about me, me, me, I, I, I, or asked anyone to feel sorry for him.
I knew that, if I put him in, he’s going to be able to provide. I didn’t know the type of scoring he’s going to do. It’s not about all that. He knows that, when I say you’re open, take your shot, and make or miss, live with the results. But it’s not about the point of making any shots. He just played very solid basketball.
Q. Juwan, as a former player, what do you make of the way Isaiah Livers has used his voice, wearing the shirt that he wore today, with the hashtag campaign —
JUWAN HOWARD: Honestly, I did not pay attention to his shirt. I was so locked in to the game, game prep. Texas Southern. I didn’t pay attention to his T-shirt.