In the final eight minutes of the first half, Caris LeVert sat on the bench with two fouls.
In the final eight minutes of the first half, Michigan made one field goal -- a dunk.
In the final eight minutes of the first half, Michigan was outscored by 15 points.
In the final eight minutes of the first half, Michigan lost the basketball game.
The Wolverines (2-2) were walloped by No. 18 UConn (4-0), 74-60, in the opening round of the Battle 4 Atlantis on Wednesday night. For the second straight game, Caris LeVert was the only Wolverine that showed up offensively, pouring in 21 points on 7-of-12 shooting, while his teammates struggled to find their stroke, making only 11-of-44 shots.
At the start, Michigan seemed to have put the Xavier loss behind them as the Wolverines leaped out to a quick lead. Aubrey Dawkins received a pass from Derrick Walton and dropped in a three, UConn goaltended Zak Irvin's layup in transition, and, after Michigan corralled back-to-back offensive rebounds, LeVert found himself open on the perimeter and buried a triple. Michigan owned a 9-3 edge and looked ready to earn a signature win.
However, Michigan's offense began to sputter. UConn anchors one of the stingiest two-point defenses in the nation thanks to the presence of seven-foot center Amida Brimah in the middle. As Michigan ran ball screen after ball screen, the Wolverines were unable to find clean lanes into which they could penetrate or open looks inside. As a result, Michigan set up shop on the perimeter, shooting 10 of its first 15 shots from behind the three-point line. However, no matter how open Michigan may have been from downtown, their shots would not drop. Nonetheless, UConn was having some of its own offensive struggles, so Michigan clung to a 15-14 lead as the under-8 timeout approached.
But, with 8:04 left, LeVert was caught reaching in on a UConn drive and whistled for his second foul. As John Beilein has done time and time again when one of his players picks up two fouls in the first half, he put LeVert on the bench and left him there for the remainder of the first frame. With no LeVert on the floor and no other Wolverine generating any offense, Michigan fell apart. There was no offensive flow, and points were at a premium. At one point, Michigan had a lineup that didn't include LeVert, Walton, or Irvin. Unsurprisingly, Michigan couldn't make buckets. And UConn capitalized on LeVert's absence, outscoring the Wolverines, 22-7, in the final 8:04 to grab a 36-22 lead.
At that point, the game essentially was over. UConn built its lead to 19 in the second half before LeVert attempted to single-handedly bring the Wolverines back. He made an array of shots to cut UConn's lead to 11 points before Duncan Robinson knocked down a three to make it 61-53 UConn with 3:19 left. However, the Huskies' Daniel Hamilton finished a layup to extend UConn's lead back to 10 and answered a LeVert layup with a three to make it 66-55 with 1:11 left. And UConn made its free throws to finish it off.
There are two main questions that are staring Michigan in the face after this second straight disappointing loss. The first is if Beilein ever will learn that he can't afford to auto-bench his best players anymore. In this game, LeVert was the only player doing anything offensively for Michigan -- Irvin and Robinson combined for seven points on 2-of-18 shooting (1-of-12 3FG). When nothing else is working, Beilein has to be willing to risk LeVert's third foul in the first half, especially when LeVert is unlikely to foul out. However, Beilein kept him on the bench what would be the critical stretch of the game. When LeVert was on the floor, Michigan outscored UConn by three points. Every other Wolverine finished with a negative plus-minus margin. That's how important LeVert is.
Oh, and LeVert finished the game with two fouls.
The second question is if Michigan will find a consistent second scorer. LeVert has scored a total of 50 points in Michigan's two losses to Xavier and UConn, yet Michigan has lost those games by a combined 30 points. LeVert can't be blamed for being too selfish at times because he has received no help from his teammates when Michigan has faced an opponent with a pulse. If Walton, LeVert, Dawkins, or Robinson can't contribute on the scoreboard on a consistent basis, Michigan will be in for a long season.
Michigan faces Charlotte on Thursday at 9:30 p.m. ET on AXS TV.