ANN ARBOR—After starting both Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford in the Wolverines two exhibition games, Michigan coach John Beilein mixed up his starting lineup Friday inserting sophomore wing Caris LeVert in place of the senior Morgan for the Wolverines season opening win over UMass Lowell.
“We gave 30 practice days of trying to find some way to play with two big guys, and really it wasn’t about that it was about Caris LeVert,” Beilein said afterward. “Let’s get him on the floor any way we can; and so that was our thought.
“We’ve played that way before and while, we have a lot of people playing better in space than we have before.”
LeVert lead Michigan in scoring with 17-points to go with five rebounds and two steals.
At point guard, freshman Derrick Walton got the nod over sophomore and Ann Arbor cult hero Spike Albrecht.
Walton finished the night with six-points and four-assists in 27 minutes.
“Derrick, you can see, every day its just going to take him time to get used to what we’re trying to do and trying to emphasize,” Beilein said. “But he’s getting there.”
Michigan struggled to find a rhythm in their half court offense in the first half of their 69-42 win. The Wolverines scored just 23-points in the first 20-minutes of play, heading into the break tied as the River Hawks kept the Maize & Blue from turning the contest into a track meet.
Michigan shot just 11-percent (1-for-9) from the three-point stripe in the first half.
“The halftime is teaching and just saying look we got a little antsy there with a few offensive possessions and we’ve got to value them better, the timing,” Beilein said. “As I said, we were working with one lineup a lot of times trying to make things work and in the last couple days we just said let’s just go with this.”
Beilein added, “Overall, we’ll grow from it.”
The constant for Michigan Friday night was on the defensive end. With size and length on the perimeter between Robinson III, Nik Stauskas and LeVert, the Wolverines held UMass Lowell to just two-points in the first 10-minutes of play in the second half as they stretched out their lead and coasted to victory.
“Especially when we go to our bench and we bring Zak (Irvin) and Jordan off the bench, that’s a pretty good two defensive guys to come off, as well as Spike,” Beilein said. “They (UMass Lowell) got the steal on a turnover, they got two baskets on stupid passes, really, and that was two of their six baskets in the second half.
“The defense was really good and then we got out and got some clean rebounds and made some plays in transition.”
Michigan plays host to South Carolina State Tuesday night at 7 p.m.
Michigan freshman wing Zak Irvin came off the bench to score 10-points in his college debut, knocking down 2 of his 4 three-point attempts.