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LeVert sparks No. 24 Michigan against upstart Detroit

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — In Michigan's last game, junior Caris LeVert didn't have his shooting touch.

He finished with six points, six rebounds and six assists, shooting 2-of-11 from the field and 0-of-3 on 3-pointers. But UM had other players to pick up the slack in a win over Bucknell.

Against Detroit, the Wolverines needed LeVert — and he came through in a critical stretch to avert an upset.

LeVert, a preseason All-Big Ten selection, scored 10 straight points in a second-half run to give No. 24 Michigan the lead for good, and they held on for a 71-62 win over Detroit on Thursday night at Crisler Center.

LeVert finished with 21 points and nine rebounds, Zak Irvin had 18 points and Derrick Walton Jr. 16 points and six rebounds for Michigan (3-0). Michigan next faces Oregon on Monday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, in the championship rounds of the Legends Classic tournament.

"Going into this game, it was exactly what we expected: a team that was going to come out and pressure us, try to run us out of stuff and see how we could handle it," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "When they sped us up in the beginning of the game, we didn't play with the poise we expect of our guys. We learned in the second half and played with more deliberate poise, read the defense and made it a pretty good win."

Detroit was trying to get its first win in the series since Dec. 19, 1981 but fell short in the final minutes.

The Titans' strategy was to deny LeVert the ball and try to make other Michigan players beat them. But they couldn't keep him covered the entire game — and when it counted, he came through with a clutch performance.

"He's that kind of player," Detroit coach Ray McCallum Sr. said. "That's what good players do — what All-Americans do — they take over games. We limited his touches and gave him some different looks and he settled down and took over."

Unlike the Wolverines' first two games, they had a close margin, as neither team led by double digits until the final three minutes.

Michigan struggled form the field in the first half, going just 10-of-29 (35 percent) and Detroit led, 28-27, at halftime. Detroit looked to be a threat after a 3-pointer by Brandan Kearney and a three-point play by Juwan Howard Jr. to open the second half.

But Michigan answered with a 13-0 run — capped by LeVert's 10 straight points — and took control, 43-34, with 12:55 left.

Howard, the son of Michigan "Fab Five" member, had 24 points — including 16 of Detroit's 18 during a second-half stretch — to keep the Titans close.

Howard hit a 3-pointer and followed with a three-point play at the 5:39 mark to tie it at 52.

"Being in position, it's 52-52 and you have to get stops and you have to get scores down the stretch and it was their ability to extend the lead and our lack of patience in terms of getting the shots we wanted," McCallum said. "That opened up the lead for them."

But LeVert answered with one of two free throws, Irvin hit a triple and Walton added a basket, spurring a 16-1 spurt that made it 65-53 with 2:23 and put the game away for the Wolverines.

Detroit (1-2) had just three field goals in the final five minutes and Michigan went on a 19-10 spurt to finish the game.

"We showed some grit and got some stops late in the game and showed some pride on our home court," LeVert said. "You saw today they were denying Zak a lot as well. We just have to work to get touches. We had some shots go in and out. We'll shoot the ball well, but to get a win when we didn't shoot the ball was great."