John Beilein utilizes Michigan's bench against Rutgers
Piscataway, N.J. — As it turns out, Michigan wasn't as depleted by injuries and illness as coach John Beilein had feared.
Though leading scorer Caris LeVert is lost for the season because of a complete fracture to his left foot, he was the only regular missing from the lineup Tuesday night's 54-50 victory over Rutgers.
Spike Albrecht, who missed Saturday's win over Northwestern because of an upper-respiratory infection, was back in the starting lineup, along with Derrick Walton Jr., who has been nursing a sprained toe. Freshman Aubrey Dawkins took LeVert's spot as a starter and both Zak Irvin and Ricky Doyle — who also were having upper-respiratory issues — stayed in the starting lineup.
Doyle still was limited, playing only seven minutes because of continued difficulty getting up and down the court. After getting an early foul, he only played the opening stretch of the first half.
"He got that foul right away and he did not play well in that first half," Beilein said. "I said, 'Ricky, you don't look good; you let me know right away in the second half if you don't feel good.'
"And after three minutes, he said, 'Take me out.' We have to get him through this and he will be better for it. He's going through a little health issue right now that we have to solve."
Beilein said Monday that there would be plenty of opportunities for other reserves to try to play significant minutes and make a mark. Beilein nearly emptied the bench, using 10 players in the first half, including walk-on Andrew Dakich, who was considered a redshirt candidate.
But after playing Tuesday, Dakich burned the redshirt chance when he entered the game midway through the first half. Dakich played with a cobbled-together lineup that included another walk-on, Sean Lonergan, and three freshmen: Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Kameron Chatman and Ricky Doyle.
"Sometimes Sean Lonergan can be like a Spike Albrecht — not do a whole lot but make sure the ball gets to the right people," Beilein said. "He did a really good job because Kam wasn't able to practice the last two days. We knew (Kam) wasn't going to be able to give us a whole lot.
"Sean knows all the positions — he's a jack of all trades."
After UM's next-leading scorer, Zak Irvin, picked up two fouls in the first four minutes, Beilein was forced to lean on the inexperienced players more — with Dawkins playing 15 minutes and Lonergan nine minutes in the first half.
The Wolverines (12-7, 5-2 Big Ten) already were without freshman forward D.J. Wilson, who was expected to contribute this season, but has played in just five games and has one field goal.
Wilson has been recovering from a sprained knee and was on the road to a medical redshirt, but with the new injuries, Beilein and Wilson may be revisiting the decision on redshirting this season.
"He still has not been cleared to go full court yet. We were hoping after the Rutgers game to get some type of clearance on that," Beilein said Monday. "We'll definitely consider (burning the redshirt), but it depends on Kam's (knee) injury as well.
"If we were going to burn the redshirt on him, I would like to be able to tell him with 12 regular-season games to go that we're going to be able to play him 15 to 20 minutes a game. I don't think I can do that yet until I know this injury situation right now."
Building a bench
Beilein went 11 deep on the bench and the only healthy active player who didn't get in the game was Austin Hatch. It's a risky proposition, but will help Beilein understand what different players can give him in certain situations.
With Irvin in foul trouble and Doyle limited by fatigue and illness, Michigan was in a tight spot to get minutes from inexperienced players.
"Zak certainly didn't help us by trying to steal the ball when he has one foul," Beilein said. " I said to him five minutes before that, 'You've got one foul and you can't foul.' — and immediately he does. We learn through all that."