Caris LeVert injured in UM win; other players ailing
Ann Arbor — If Michigan was having struggles with a lack of experienced players this season, their situation got a little worse this week.
The Wolverines were without starting point guard Spike Albrecht, who had an upper-respiratory infection. Freshman center Ricky Doyle had a similar issue and played just 10 minutes.
Coach John Beilein said Zak Irvin had been taking medication for symptoms like Albrecht and Doyle's, and leading scorer Caris LeVert had a leg injury and reportedly left Crisler Center after Michigan's 56-54 win over Northwestern on crutches.
"(LeVert) may have done something, sprained his ankle or something, but we're going to have it looked at right now," Beilein said in his postgame press conference.
Freshman Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who got his first start in place of Albrecht, had career highs of nine points and five rebounds in 27 minutes and hit the go-ahead shot in the final minute.
"The next man up is ready and prepared to get in the game and contribute," Abdur-Rahkman said. "It was a game-time decision, so it was surprising to me. We knew Spike was battling a sickness so anything could have happened."
Doyle started the game but labored up the court for the first few trips and Beilein said that when he saw that Doyle looked gassed, he knew that redshirt freshman Mark Donnal (no points in 11 minutes) and Max Bielfeldt (five points in 19 minutes) would have to play bigger roles.
Bielfeldt scored all five of his points during a critical stretch in the second half that helped keep Michigan (11-7, 4-2 Big Ten) close before LeVert and Abdur-Rahkman could get them over the hump.
With Albrecht's illness, Abdur-Rahkman wasn't sure what role he'd play, but was prepared for heavy minutes.
"I was surprised but I was prepared to play an eight-minute game or two-minute game in practice," he said. "It's the same thing, a simulation of the game, so we were all prepared."
Irvin shot 1-for-6 from the field but hit a big 3-pointer with just under four minutes left to give UM a four-point lead. But Beilein saw that Irvin wasn't close to his normal ability.
"I hate to play this card again, but he's been on medication for three days, too. We had something that's going through the team," Beilein said. "I saw him and he was really just laboring out there. He's working a lot of things on his game but he didn't get great looks — they weren't going to give them to him."
Beilein said he's been searching for depth to try to augment some of the inexperience, but with the season more than half over, he's having to mix and match with healthy players, with D.J. Wilson a candidate for a medical redshirt and Duncan Robinson sitting out this season after transferring.
ESPN's "College GameDay" presentation returns to Crisler Center next week for the Wolverines' matchup against No. 7 Wisconsin. The game will tip at 7 p.m. but will be preceded by a one-hour special at 10 a.m. on ESPNU, moving to ESPN at 11 a.m.
The evening time slot features a 6 p.m. pregame show before tip time.
Admission and parking are free for the pregame events and fans are asked to enter through the Northeast and Southwest entrances.
"GameDay" last visited in 2012 for the Ohio State matchup. UM won that game, 56-51.