Michigan knocked off Northern Kentucky on Tuesday evening to pick up its eighth win of the season. The Wolverines had their point guard back, Caris LeVert had a triple-double and Duncan Robinson just kept on shooting in the comfortable win. Here are Five Key Plays from the victory:
1. Duncan Robinson hits six first half threes
Duncan Robinson is the best shooter in the country. Literally.
His 86 effective field goal percentage leads the nation by almost 10% among KenPom’s qualified players who play at least 60% of available minutes.
When you have the best shooter in the country on your roster, you have to get him open looks and that’s exactly what Michigan managed to do in the first half. Robinson had seven first half three-point attempts and made six of them to lead all scorers with 18 at the half.
“He was shooting behind screens, he had guys on him and he was shooting, he had a swag to when he was shooting it, that was impressive,” Beilein said after the win. “Those weren’t six open 3s, about three or four of them there was a guy on him pretty good. That’s where his height helps him.”
Robinson loves shooting from the corners, but he is and incredible shooter from the right side in particular. All of his makes were on the right side of the floor on Tuesday night and he’s only missed a couple shots on that side of the floor.
2. Mark Donnal’s 7-0 run
Ricky Doyle continues to be Michigan’s starting big man with Moritz Wagner the second big man off the bench. But when Wagner blew a pick-and-roll coverage in one of his first defensive possessions, the opportunity was there for Mark Donnal.
Donnal answered the bell with a personal 7-0 run. He didn’t have to do anything very fancy other than catch drop-off passes and lay them in, but that’s really all Michigan needs out of its big men. He did throw a nice pass to Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman out of the post and then follow up the miss for an easy bucket.
“You earn your time in practice, and yesterday he had just a terrific day in practice,” Beilein said after the win. “He threw in three left-handed hooks and he battles on rebounds. We’ve been talking to him about this because there’s a reason he’s got a scholarship at Michigan — we saw some talent and ability in him. It’s in there, but he’s gotta bring it. He did that today.”
3. Walton, LeVert put the game away after halftime
The last four minutes of the first half and the first four minutes of the second half are fixtures in Five Key Plays and this is a terrific example of why. Michigan led by nine at the break after a good first half performance, but relied on Derrick Walton and Caris LeVert to extend the lead.
LeVert and Walton scored Michigan’s first 16 points of the second half and expanded the lead to 19 points before the first media timeout. Walton scored on a pair of three-pointers, both assisted by LeVert, and the game was out of reach.
“Yesterday, he couldn’t make a shot in practice, so I loved seeing his first 3 go in in the second half, but I thought he looked good,” Beilein said. “He still has trouble pushing off the bad ankle a little bit, but he looked good out there. He really helps us with defense and rebounding, that’s really encouraging.”
4. LeVert answers with hustle
Michigan’s offense sputtered midway through the second half and allowed Northern Kentucky to slowly creep back into the game. An 8-1 NKU run cut the Wolverine lead to just 12 points with 6:18 to play and the Norse immediately called timeout. Out of the timeout, John Beilein dialed up his star and LeVert rose to the occasion. He got into the lane and finished off of one leg with a beautiful floater.
That basket put Michigan up 14 and on the ensuing possession LeVert made up for a missed jumper with an incredible steal and hustle play to save the ball resulting in a mid-range jumper for Zak Irvin to push the lead back to 16. The steal and dive out of bounds was the sort of play that Michigan fans would expect from now-retired guard Spike Albrecht, rather than Caris LeVert. But with Michigan’s other captain sidelined, it was LeVert who stepped up and helped keep the Norse at bay.
5. LeVert notches triple double
Caris LeVert became the fourth Wolverine to ever record a triple-double when he notched 13 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. He secured the final rebound and final assist on back-to-back possessions late in the game and the crowd was well aware of the potential milestone. John Beilein was not.
“You all are looking at that scoreboard, and when everybody started cheering I said ‘What just happened? Are they giving out free hamburgers or something? Did we score a certain number of points?’ I didn’t know what was going on,” Beilein said. “You guys can see all that stuff, I didn’t know. I just knew he was having a really good game.”
LeVert joins Darius Morris, Manny Harris and Gary Grant in Michigan’s triple-double club and coincidentally three of the four triple-double performances have been coached by Beilein. Even with Walton back, LeVert took on considerable playmaking duties from start to finish and was excellent at passing the ball in the ball screen game (he probably should have had three or four more assists), but also driving and kicking to shooters like Derrick Walton and Duncan Robinson.