Behind LeVert’s onslaught, Michigan wins Battle of the Beileins

Friday, November 6, 2015 - 7:51pm

For a fleeting moment Friday night — after the Michigan men’s basketball team missed four straight 3-point attempts and Le Moyne’s Qwadere Lovell sank a free throw to give his team a one-point lead — it appeared Patrick Beilein’s squad might actually make a run at his father’s.

Unfortunately for the younger Beilein, that moment occurred in the first five minutes of the game, and it passed very quickly.

Sophomore guard Aubrey Dawkins spun across the lane for a flashy go-ahead layup and redshirt sophomore guard Duncan Robinson drilled a 3-pointer for his first points in a Michigan uniform, igniting a 22-6 run and ultimately leading John Beilein’s Wolverines to a 74-52 exhibition victory over his oldest son’s Dolphins.

Senior guard Caris LeVert, playing in his first game since breaking his foot in January, showed exactly why his name generated NBA Draft buzz in the offseason. The preseason All-Big Ten star dazzled in his return to the court, exploding for 22 points on the strength of four 3-pointers, a highlight-reel dunk midway through the first half and 11 points in the first five and a half minutes of the second frame.

LeVert still came away slightly disappointed after missing a dunk in the second half — to his memory, the first dunk he’s ever missed in a game — but he was thrilled to be back on the floor for the first time in 10 months.

“I’ve been playing (in practice) for a few months, but I had some pre-game jitters,” LeVert said. “It felt great to be back out there.”

LeVert stole the show on the court, but most of the attention surrounding the game remained focused on the father-son coaching battle, with both teams running many of the same plays. Though Patrick couldn’t match the deep roster of the Division I recruits his father threw at him, the Wolverines’ slow offensive start — they made just three of their first 15 3-point attempts — and a few surges by the Dolphins kept the family affair somewhat competitive.

“That 3-for-15, we had like five (shots) wide, wide, wide open, but we didn’t get them,” the elder Beilein said, “but that’s gonna happen sometimes. That’s why it’s important we find other ways to score — throw the ball to the post, drive the ball better.”

Added Patrick Beilein: “We just relaxed a little bit. I told them in the huddle, ‘We’re running the same offense. How are they scoring and we aren’t?’ They were just cutting harder than us. We really took that and got defensive stops, got to run in transition a little bit. I’m really glad the way we responded.”

For Michigan, both Robinson and freshman forward Moritz Wagner made their team debuts in the rout, with slightly mixed results. Robinson put his highly touted scoring ability on display, tallying 15 points and knocking down three of six shots from his comfort zone: beyond the arc.

Wagner, who has been a work in progress early in his first season away from his native Germany, struggled initially and exited the first half with two fouls in under four minutes. The freshman settled down for a better second half, finishing the game with three rebounds and a late 3-pointer for his first collegiate basket.

In total, 12 Wolverines saw action Friday night. There were just three notable absences: junior forward Zak Irvin, who was ruled out Thursday as he continues to recover from back surgery, and a pair of junior walk-ons — guard Andrew Dakich and forward Sean Lonergan — who are exploring the possibility of redshirting this season.

After facing his father’s deep roster for the first (and possibly only) time, Patrick Beilein couldn’t help but find the moment surreal.

“I look down and I see him huddled with his assistant coaches, talking about how they’re going to stop us,” he said. “He was game-planning to stop Le Moyne, to stop myself and our coaching staff, and that was kind of funny.”

Apart from a few exchanged words in the pregame and postgame handshakes, though, John Beilein claimed he wasn’t distracted at all by his son’s presence.

“No moments like that. I was trying to get my team to play better,” John Beilein said. “That’s gonna be the issue for me forever. (My wife) Kathleen could’ve been on the other bench, and I (still) would’ve been trying to get my team to play better.”