- Patrick Barron/Daily
By Daniel Feldman, Daily Sports Writer
Published November 18, 2013
1. Mitch McGary is not at 100 percent.
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Despite playing in his first game of the season, sophomore forward Mitch McGary is not close to being the player the nation saw in the NCAA Tournament last year.
Just five days ago, McGary took part in a 60-minute practice for the first time since his back injury, after being limited to individual practices and workouts with a coach on the side. It wasn’t until Saturday that McGary took part in his first full practice.
According to Michigan coach John Beilein, McGary has only had one-and-a-half days of reps with the first team before Sunday’s game. Knowing that, it’s clear that McGary will need some practice and, more importantly, game action early on to get back in playing shape.
Such was the reason that McGary played only 22 minutes, divided into 3-5 minute spurts.
One of the reasons that McGary was able to play was because he didn’t feel sore after Saturday’s practice and said he felt comfortable enough in warmups before the game to give it a go. And with that, Beilein was willing to let him.
And Beilein, for the most part, was rewarded as McGary put up nine points, six rebounds and four steals.
“Let’s just get him in the game, right, and see where it goes.” Beilein said. “As long as we don’t overtax his body and get him in and out, and a suggestion was to keep him on the bike in between to just keep him warm, as he gradually gets into playing shape.”
2. There’s still no clear go-to option late in the game.
Though sophomore guard Nik Stauskas did score 15 points in the second half – out of his team-high 20 – and was the Wolverines’ hot hand in the game, he’s still not the person to take the last shot for Michigan. In fact, even Beilein doesn’t know who that person will be moving forward.
And that’s OK.
Michigan had its chances throughout the game. Despite letting the game get away in the final five minutes, Beilein and Stauskas both echoed the sentiment that the team was getting good looks and shots. It was just that they weren’t falling. Perhaps that was due to the crowd. Perhaps that was due to Beilein’s core three of Stauskas, sophomore forward Glenn Robinson III and sophomore guard Caris LeVert playing a combined 108 minutes and just being tired.
Whether it was from any of those or not, Michigan was able to learn a lesson on Sunday: replacing the late-game heroics of Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke will be difficult, but having the question come about now, in November, will benefit the team in the long run.
“Obviously, we have a new team this year,” Stauskas said. “Last year, we were really reliant on Tim and Trey to step up in (these late-game situations). I think we’re perfectly fine with guys this year with stepping up. We have a lot of guys that are capable of doing that. I don’t think we’re too worried about that.”
3. LeVert can’t be relied on every game.
After averaging 20.5 points in Michigan’s first two regular-season games, LeVert finally fell back to earth a bit on Sunday. Though he did play a career-high 37 minutes, LeVert regressed back to the mean, scoring just five points on 2-for-9 shooting.
Despite putting on 15 pounds in the offseason, LeVert looked overmatched late in the game when defensive switches forced him to guard Iowa State’s Melvin Ejim, a 6-foot-6 power forward that constantly used his 220-pound body to back up and post-up at the hoop.
Needing shooters and height to battle him and Georges Niang, though, Beilein had to keep LeVert on the floor as Michigan started to fade and then attempt to come back late in the game.
But unlike in the Wolverines’ game against South Carolina State, LeVert didn’t go 6-for-7 from beyond the arc. Instead, he went 1-for-5 as Michigan struggled, shooting just 8-for-29 from three.
Though it was just one game, LeVert’s struggle could force Beilein to give freshman guard Zak Irvin and his 6-foot-6, 200-pound frame more minutes if it appears Levert doesn’t have his shot. Conversely, depending on McGary’s return to playing shape, a big lineup with McGary and either redshirt junior Jon Horford or fifth-year senior forward Jordan Morgan might see more time later in games.
4. Derrick Walton Jr. gained experience he’ll need down the road.
Playing in his first away game in college, freshman guard Derrick Walton Jr. looked impressive.