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November 8, 2013

Hoops notebook: Who's the man?

Trey Burke is gone. So is Tim Hardaway Jr. Their scoring prowess was missed in the first half of Friday night's 69-42 win over UMass-Lowell, leaving head coach John Beilein to wonder who would step up as the scorer when things weren't going well.

Michigan shot only 6-for-23 in the first half, 1-for-9 from long range in scoring 23 points. The Wolverines got to the line 15 times (32 for the game), but the offensive spacing looked disjointed at times.

"They shortened the first half, didn't give us any transition and made us make shots, and we didn't," Beilein said. "The silver lining is we had to play basketball and somebody had to make some plays to get us going because we were 1 for 9 in the first half, shot awful from wherever we were."

They took some quick ones in the shot clock, too, and seemed to press when UMass-Lowell stayed close after falling behind 8-0.

That didn't happen in the second half. Drive and kick gave way to pick and roll, transition buckets and a few backdoor plays.

"We did get clean stops and really got out and ran," Beilein said. "Guys made some shots. I don't think in the second half we took an early shot. In the first half it was four or five. When it was not working, there were things we had before from our veterans. Now who are those veterans who are going to help us out there?"

They went to sophomore Nik Stauskas with the first play of the second half, but he left a runner a foot short.

"When Nik missed the shot I said, 'who is going to do this thing?'" Beilein added. "And it became the team for a while. Glenn [Robinson], then Caris [LeVert]. It was by committee. We went to Glenn to end the half and they blew up they play. Who do you go to? We've still got to find out when the lights are on and 12,000 people are there. It's a little different.

"Offensively we had to make a couple shots. Guys might have had a couple good games, but they never had to make those big plays in games Trey and Tim used to make. Somebody had to make a few, and everybody shared."

LeVert was impressive again, notching 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting and adding five rebounds in a starting role. The coaches had played with two bigs in a pair of exhibition games but found they needed to get the sophomore on the floor from the get-go, at least until sophomore big man Mitch McGary returns from a back injury.

Robinson III added 15 points, four assists and three steals, Stauskas nine points, freshman Zak Irvin 10 and Jon Horford five points and 12 rebounds. Freshman Derrick Walton Jr. notched six points, four assists and three steals. He and LeVert were catalysts in a smothering, second half defensive effort. The Riverhawks when 10 minutes without scoring in one stretch.

"They play off each other really well," Beliein said. "That's a really good defense backcourt. They can guard a lot of people. [Guard Akeem Williams] averages 20 points and can get his own shot. He got some baskets, but Caris did a great job.

"[On offense], his quickness and second dribble - he has a good first step, but that second dribble, he just explodes by people. He'll complement that with a really solid three-point shot, and he's a tough close out."

He's learning spacing, too, and continues to learn seeing the floor.

Overall? Not bad for openers, with room to improve.


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