Forward Jon Horford and the rest of the Michigan defense have allowed opponents to shoot at least 43 percent in all but one of the last seven games. (Robin Buckson / Detroit News)
Ann Arbor — With its 75-66 victory over Purdue on Thursday night, Michigan stayed perfect in the Big Ten with its 10th straight win overall.
The Wolverines (16-4, 8-0) shot 68 percent in the second half and 7-of-13 on 3-pointers to avert an upset, which have been popular this week in the Big Ten.
U-M has scored at least 70 points in each of its past seven games — and is 51-10 under Beilein when reaching that mark, including 27-4 against Big Ten foes.
The problem Michigan faces, though, is its defense, which has allowed opponents to shoot at least 43 percent in all but one of the last seven games (Northwestern on Jan. 5).
“It seemed like they got a lot of easy buckets, but 43 percent — for us right now, we’ll take that,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “If you look at the margin between offensive field-goal percentage and defensive field-goal percentage, ours is pretty good. There’s just two or three stops a game we need to get and we can get ourselves down to a number — 40 or 41 (percent) — that we want.”
The Wolverines had a 10-point lead in the first half but gave up an 11-0 run to the Boilers in a three-minute span. That included three sloppy turnovers that led to easy conversions.
“There’s no winning ugly. As long as I get up there, it’s never going to happen,” Beilein said. “I praise the team for sticking in there and fighting through the adversity we had by the (turnovers) they caused and the ones we did.
“We dribbled off our foot, we didn’t catch the ball and we just lost the ball out of bounds. You can’t feel sorry for yourself; just get back and try to defend.”
While the offense has seemed to come easily for U-M, the defense is a work in progress.
“I don’t think we can ever rely on that (offense). The one thing I learned first as a coach is that the only thing that can really be consistent is your defense,” he said. “It’s not (consistent); we’re working on it but it’s the one thing we can plan on.”
While the Wolverines mainly have focused on man-to-man defense, they’ve also sprinkled in their 1-3-1 zone, which is often used to surprise offenses and catch them off guard. It’s had mixed results, but Beilein isn’t ready to ditch it yet.
“My assistants talked me into that several times and each time they score, one of them moves a little further down the bench,” Beilein said, “and when they don’t score, they can’t wait to tell me, ‘I told you so.’ ”
Besides Nik Stauskas, who had 16 points, Michigan has been successful this season when it could find secondary and third scorers in games.
Glenn Robinson III had just eight points against Purdue, which meant U-M needed more production from others.
Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton Jr. filled the bill with 14 points each. With defenses focusing more on Stauskas, LeVert has more opportunity to roam, picking at weaknesses.
“They know Nik’s a great player and they’ll be keying on Nik and I’m going to be able to find my spots a lot,” said LeVert, who added a career-best 11 rebounds.
With LeVert, the expanding offensive repertoire is evident after he averaged just 2.3 points last year as a freshman.
“He does these things and he’s playing off residual action much like Glenn did last year. He just finds spots; there are very few things called for him,” Beilein said. “He’s in space where he can attack or get open for 3s. Having him become a knock-down shooter has been important. He’s got a handle and he has good length to him.”