John Beilein breaks out his 1-3-1 zone for the first time, and Michigan responds with big second half
NEW YORK -- The last time Michigan was here, John Beilein used the 1-3-1 zone to shake things up.
And it worked, as Michigan scored a major upset win over then No. 4 UCLA in the 2K Sports Classic at Madison Square Garden in 2008.
On Wednesday, the Wolverines were back in Madison Square Garden, and Beilein once again leaned on the defense that's been synonymous with his coaching name for years.
Guess what? It worked again.
"We began practicing it a little bit ago," Beilein said after No. 4 Michigan beat Pittsburgh, 67-62, in the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-Off tournament. "But it has some merit when you look at it, with our length at the wings and the (small forward, shooting guard and power forward) spot, it has a chance to work."
On Wednesday, it had more than a chance.
After giving up 16 points in the paint and 5 3-pointers in the first half, Beilein opted to shake things up in the second half by going with the 1-3-1 zone.
Beilein utilized the length and quickness of Tim Hardaway (6-foot-6), Glenn Robinson III (6-foot-6) and Nik Stauskas (6-foot-6) on the wing, and the girth of Mitch McGary (6-foot-10) in the middle, and it worked.
Pitt suddenly couldn't find the basket from anywhere, and Michigan slowly, but surely, regained itself.
The Panthers went without a field goal for nearly six minutes, and during that stretch, the Wolverines rattled off a 9-0 run to grab their largest lead of the game at 48-44 with just 7:03 to go.
"We came out at halftime with a different attitude," Michigan sophomore Trey Burke said. "We pretty much knew what we needed to fix, and pretty much knew the adjustments we needed to make. Coach trusted the (1-3-1) zone enough for us to go to it and that's what slowed them up a little bit."
Beilein admitted he was a bit nervous to run the 1-3-1 this early in the season with so many new faces, especially since the Wolverines hardly ever used the specialty defense for any extended period of time last season.
It was a gamble, and it turned out to be more than worth it.
"We've been working on it a little bit, just to change things up," Beilein said. "We were really having trouble with some of their pick and roll action, they're really good at it."
In 2008, Michigan used the 1-3-1 because it had to -- the Wolverines were small, they weren't very quick, and they needed any advantage they could grab.
In 2012, the Wolverines went with the 1-3-1 because they could. They're long, rangy and have size all over the court.
Will it make another appearance again this season? Beilein will never tell.
But it's definitely not off the table.
"When we had Stu Douglass and Zack Novak out there at 6-4 and 6-2, it was hard to have them out there on the wings and make it effective," Beilein said. "They're still learning, but their length does make a big difference.
"It's something you go to at times just to change tempo, and we'll continue to work at it and continue to get better at it."