NEW YORK — John Beilein is persistent in his habits. If you take a second foul at any point in the first half, he will take you out for the remainder of the frame.
With 8:19 left in No. 19 Michigan’s 70-63 win over Oregon in the Progressive Legends Classic, that’s exactly what the men’s basketball coach did, pulling sophomore guard Derrick Walton Jr.
And after Walton committed his third infraction with 17:45 left in the game, he was forced to rest some more.
Unlike in Michigan’s previous game against Detroit, Michigan (4-0) couldn’t turn straight to its veteran lineup to cushion the blow. Instead, it had to rely on its freshman big men to keep things steady before a late push by the group.
Beilein had to throw some of his young Wolverines into the fire.
One in particular, freshman forward Ricky Doyle, stepped up to answer his coach’s call. With Michigan up three with 43 seconds left, the big man gathered a huge offensive rebound before putting it back up and in to seal the game. The play helped cap a career-high 10-point performance that included three rebounds, as well as multiple serenades of his name by the Michigan crowd at Barclays Center.
“(Doyle) was huge for us down the stretch,” said junior guard Caris LeVert. “Coach (Beilein) calls those the ‘outliers.’ Ricky was definitely one of those.”
Before Doyle’s putback, the Ducks had hung around, crashing the glass hard and outrebounding Michigan, 41-29. Led by forwards Dwayne Benjamin, Elgin Cook and Dillon Brooks — who posted a combined 35 points and 24 boards — Oregon was able to keep the game close.
But when Walton drew his fourth foul with 1:56 left and Michigan up four, Beilein didn’t lift him. The Wolverines needed him then.
Unlike in the first half, when it was a “no-brainer” to take him out, Beilein closely monitored junior guard Spike Albrecht’s minutes before determining Walton would play out the rest of the game.
“In the second half, with the extra TV timeouts, the whole thing was when were we going to put him back (in),” Beilein said. “(Whether) the 12th minute or the 14th, or something, I said, ‘He can do this.’ ”
With Walton on the floor along with LeVert, Albrecht and sophomore forward Zak Irvin, the quartet stood tight. Irvin knocked down a triple with 1:25 left, and Walton nailed two free throws to elevate the lead to five.
While Beilein still relied heavily on the trio of Albrecht, LeVert and Irvin, he had to work in the three-headed forward monster of freshman Kameron Chatman, redshirt freshman Mark Donnal and Doyle filling the final two spots in the lineup for a chunk of time. Battling against a tough Oregon team, the trio balanced out the loss of Walton by combining for 18 points and six rebounds.
It wasn’t until 14:35 left in the game, with Michigan up 40-37, that Walton returned to action and Michigan took the lead for good after a brief tie. Michigan would never trail in the game.
With the Detroit native and two-point guard system back in action, Michigan’s veteran core forced a series of turnovers — 14 total for the game — and got to the basket with more ease as it opened up an eight-point lead. Walton finally scored his first points with 10:54 left.
With Walton fresh after playing just seven first-half minutes, Beilein relied on him to close out the victory. On the floor for the final 14-plus minutes, Walton helped facilitate the offense, getting the ball to his wings, who were able to drive to the basket more often and draw fouls in the process.
Though Beilein used a total of 11 different Wolverines in the first half, he settled down his rotation in the second half, as Walton and Doyle stepped up and the veteran quartet closed it out.