Michigan was without starting point guard, Derrick Walton, but had no problem dispatching an overmatched Nicholls State team on Saturday afternoon.
The Wolverines outscored the Colonels by 33 points in the first half and the outcome of the game was never in doubt as Michigan cruised to a 91-62 victory. Caris LeVert paced Michigan with 24 points and six assists, but he had plenty of help.
While LeVert was dominant, Michigan had its most balanced scoring output of the young season. Five Wolverines reached double figures with Ricky Doyle (15 points) and Kameron Chatman (11 points) notching career highs. Zak Irvin also added 14 points for the Wolverines while Spike Albrecht added 10 points and seven assists in the second start of his career.
Michigan reeled off its best offensive performance of the season at 1.41 points per possession in the dominant victory. The Wolverines were uncharacteristically sloppy with the ball, turning it over on 20% of their offensive possessions, but dominated the other four factors.
Michigan shot 53% on twos and 58% on threes for a sizzling 67.2 eFG%. The threes were falling from the opening tip-off and Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman (0-1) was the only Wolverine to shoot worse than 50% from long distance on the night. This was also the best offensive rebounding performance of the season for Michigan, which grabbed 48% of its misses and scored 11 second chance points.
Michigan was terrific defensively in the first half, holding the Colonels to just 20 points in 33 first half possessions — .61 points per possession. Nicholls turned the ball over on nearly a third of its first half possessions which led directly to 14 Wolverine points. While the first half performance was dominant, Michigan took the foot off the gas defensively in the second half.
Beilein noted that some offensive correction was inevitable because it’s tough to hold a team to 20 points in a half twice, but Nicholls State scored 42 points in 32 second half possessions (1.32 PPP) – one of Michigan’s worst defensive halves of the season. Much of that production came against Michigan’s younger players – starters played a maximum of 13 minutes in the second – but there were plenty of teaching moments down the stretch.
Michigan is in the middle of a stretch where it will play four games in eight days and next up is a difficult test against Syracuse. Syracuse already dropped a game against Cal this season, but Jim Boeheim’s zone defense is a tough challenge for any team early in the season.
- Caris LeVert: LeVert was hitting video game style shots in the first half. He was unfazed by the degree of difficulty of his shots and he connected on open shots, contested shots and shots off the dribble. LeVert was unstoppable on the night, finishing with 24 points on 8-of-12 (5-6 3pt) shooting with six assists, three steals and a block. After the game, Beilein didn’t praise his shooting or his ball handling, instead he noted that LeVert has one of the best attitudes of any players that he’s ever coached.
- Spike Albrecht: Albrecht stepped up in Walton’s absence, finishing with 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting, 7 assists, three steals (and a drawn charge) and zero turnovers in 32 minutes. The Michigan offense looks different with Albrecht at the helm – Beilein compared it to the difference between a drop back passer that sees the whole field and a rollout quarterback that can attack on the ground – but his style of play suits a game like this perfectly.
- Zak Irvin: Irvin played a quiet game, but still scored 14 points and shot 50% from three-point range. The fact that this would probably be labeled an ‘average’ game for Irvin is a good sign. He just needs to get his shot attempts and its a safe bet that he’ll make his fair share. Irvin’s highlight of the night was an off-the-dribble crossover three from the top of the key.
- Kameron Chatman: It was great to see Chatman find his jumper (he was 2-of-4 from three), but his game around the basket continues to be a work in progress. Chatman managed career highs in points (11) and rebounds (8 ) in 29 minutes. There were still plenty of growing pains – Beilein looked frustrated when he was stripped for an easy layup around midcourt – but he has been improving consistently over the last several games.
- Ricky Doyle: Doyle has quietly strung together three very solid performances and posted a career-high scoring total in the first half alone. Doyle finished a couple of jump hooks (a shot that Beilein says any coach in the country would love) and he played hard by running the floor, crashing the glass and hustling around the rim. Doyle finished with 14 points, six rebounds (4 offensive) and two assists in 21 minutes.
- Mark Donnal: Donnal finished with 6 points and five rebounds in 14 minutes and he might gradually be losing playing time to Ricky Doyle. Donnal was solid on the night, but doesn’t seem to bring quite as much to the game as Doyle.
- Aubrey Dawkins: Dawkins knocked down a three and scored on a beautiful eurostep in transition, but he also had a few freshman rough patches including some out of control drives to the basket. As Dawkins continues to adapt on both ends of the floor, there’s a really nice niche for him to fill with his rebounding, defense and shooting.
- Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman: It was great to see Rahkman earn some extended playing time, but it’s clear that he’s not quite ready yet. He finished with 0 points on 0-4 shooting in 12 minutes off the bench, earning several minutes at point guard. The long-term plan is to develop MAAR as a player that can serve as a primary ball handler in a pinch, but right now Michigan needs Walton and Albrecht to shoulder the load.
- Max Bielfeldt: Bielfeldt showed off some nice finishing around the basket, but his size will continue to limit him. He scored 4 points on 2-of-3 shooting with two offensive rebounds on the day.
- Derrick Walton: Walton missed Saturday’s game with a sprained toe. Beilein reported afterward that Walton sprained his toe in the Villanova game and is expected to go through further tests in the next two days.
- DJ Wilson: Wilson sprained his knee against Villanova and was on crutches Saturday. Beilein reported that he’s undergone a MRI and is waiting for further results (and reduced swelling) to make a better prognosis.