Caris LeVert's triple-double made things worse for the Norse.
The senior star tallied 13 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists to propel Michigan (8-3) to a 77-62 win against Northern Kentucky (2-6) at the Crisler Center on Tuesday night. Not only was it the first triple-double in LeVert's career, it was just the fourth in Michigan history. LeVert joins Gary Grant, Manny Harris, and Darius Morris in that exclusive club.
LeVert wasn't the only Wolverine to shine tonight. Duncan Robinson demonstrated yet again that he's one of the best sharpshooters in the country, pouring in 18 points -- all in the first half -- on 6-of-8 shooting from behind the three-point line. Derrick Walton looked just fine in his return from a left ankle sprain that caused him to miss three games, registering 16 points on 5-of-10 shooting. And Mark Donnal (11 points) and Zak Irvin (10 points) reached at least 10 points to give Michigan five double-digit scorers.
Michigan's offense came out the gates scorching. LeVert started it off when he used a euro-step to shake a Norse defender and dropped in a finger roll despite the contact:
Sweet Eurostep for an and-one for LeVert. pic.twitter.com/26KdL05M9E— Drew Hallett (@DrewCHallett) December 16, 2015
LeVert hit the ensuing free throw, which gave him 1,000 points in his Michigan career.
From there, it was Robinson and Donnal that stole the show in the first half. Northern Kentucky kept losing sight of Robinson on the perimeter, even opting to try a zone (WHY?), and Robinson repeatedly had open three-point looks from the right wing. Anyone who's watched Michigan basketball this season knows how that ends. Robinson drilled 6-of-7 triples in the first half. And, in the middle of Robinson's three-point barrage, Donnal showed an offensive spark that hasn't been seen in quite some time. He had his own personal 7-0 run around the 10-minute mark, converting three close-range shots and a free throw, to extend Michigan's lead to 12 points as U-M's defense suffered.
And, boy, did Michigan's defense suffer. There were moments when Northern Kentucky hit contested outside jumpers, to which all Michigan could do was tip its cap. However, too often did the Norse exploit the Wolverines' slow rotations with the pick and roll and feed 6-foot-6 Jalen Billups, who feasted on Ricky Doyle to the tune of 16 points (7-11 FG).
But, no matter how many looks Northern Kentucky garnered, it just couldn't keep pace with the high-octane Wolverines. LeVert and Walton took control to open the second half, scoring the team's first 14 points of the frame to increase Michigan's nine-point halftime lead to 19 in the first four minutes. After that, the Wolverines cruised as LeVert sliced the Norse's defense, earning points for himself and his teammates, and Walton appeared nimble, starting and stopping on a dime but not quite moving at full speed. The duo powered Michigan to the finish line, where Andrew Dakich "ran out the clock":
It wasn't a perfect night for Michigan. There still are questions about this defense and the big men, particularly Ricky Doyle, who had a game he'd like to forget. But Michigan came out of it with a win, a LeVert triple-double, and Walton's health seemingly intact.