John Beilein couldn’t figure out why everybody was cheering. The Michigan men’s basketball team was leading by 17 in the final minutes of a blowout win over Northern Kentucky, and all Caris LeVert had done was come away with a defensive rebound.
It didn’t seem significant to the Wolverines’ ninth-year coach, and it certainly didn’t register that LeVert had just placed himself an assist away from the program’s fourth triple-double — ever.
“I just knew he was having a really good game,” Beilein said. “When everybody started cheering, I said, ‘What just happened? Are they giving out free hamburgers or something, because we scored a certain number of points?’ I didn’t know what was going on.”
The fans at Crisler Center, unfortunately, did have to pay for their hamburgers on Tuesday. What they witnessed instead proved worth the trade.
LeVert’s late-game rebound gave him 10 on the night, and the announced crowd of 10,424 seemed acutely aware of the assist that stood between a guarantee-game blowout and history. Michigan’s student section exploded at the rebound, and waited with bated breath as the Wolverines returned to the offensive end in search of a Levert assist.
It didn’t take long for LeVert to finish it off. On the ensuing possession, he found junior forward Mark Donnal streaking down the lane for a layup. The assist left LeVert with double-digit totals in three statistical categories.
As LeVert ran back on defense, junior guard Zak Irvin gave him a playful, celebratory shove. With the crowd on its feet, LeVert grinning and Michigan’s bench celebrating, things became clearer to Beilein, and LeVert exited to a standing ovation seconds later having recorded his first triple-double at any level.
Unlike Beilein, LeVert knew what was going on the whole time thanks to redshirt freshman forward D.J. Wilson, who made no bones about contextualizing his teammate’s stat line during the under-eight-minute media timeout.
“I think it was more important to my teammates that I get it than me,” LeVert said. “They were out there like, ‘(Caris), get this rebound, get that rebound, and (junior guard Derrick Walton Jr.) was really pushing for me to get in the ball screens and things like that so I could make plays.”
LeVert’s 13 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists place the senior guard in elite company. Only Gary Grant, Manny Harris and Darius Morris — all former Michigan stars who have since gained NBA experience — had previously recorded triple-doubles for the Wolverines.
The triple-double was entirely unexpected, but LeVert also reached another milestone Tuesday — one that was a long time coming. He entered the game with 997 points, and reached 1,000 in the game’s opening sequence with an and-1 layup.
LeVert admitted the final point’s significance occurred to him in the few seconds between the layup, which brought him to 999 career points, and the ensuing free throw, which brought him to 1,000.
“I thought I was going to miss it,” LeVert said.
But on a night when LeVert stole the show even from redshirt sophomore guard Duncan Robinson, who scored 18 points in the first half on 6-for-7 shooting from 3-point range, LeVert didn’t miss much of anything.
“You dream about stuff like this,” LeVert said. “Back to when you’re a kid, playing basketball, watching TV, you dream about being a senior on a college team, winning games.”