Ann Arbor — Michigan coach John Beilein feared a game like this might be coming.
After all, he’s seen it in practice daily, with probable redshirts Andrew Dakich and Sean Lonergan torching the Wolverines defense.
Michigan is a work in progress, still trying to find the right rotation. It wasn’t discovered Friday, in an 86-70 loss to Xavier at Crisler Center.
“When I see Andrew and Sean doing what they want to do (in practice), we’re preaching it, we’re trying to get better at it,” Beilein said., “This is the best way to teach them. Now you see how the really good teams play.
“We’ll learn from it. We’ve gotta learn to play harder and smarter, and that’s my job. That falls with me.”
Michigan’s offense scored enough points Friday to win most games. But the defense was brutal. It gave too many free passes in the paint, and grabbed too few rebounds.
Xavier is big, and strong, but Michigan’s not exactly a schoolyard weakling.
“That’s enough for us to win,” said Caris LeVert, who scored 29 of Michigan’s 70 points. “We’ve gotta do better on the defensive end. ... We’ve gotta hang our hats on defense.”
Michigan will get its first crack to fix that when it meets a similar team, Connecticut, on Wednesday in the Bahamas.
Beilein wasn’t ready to announce any lineup changes late Friday night, still feeling the sting of defeat.
But he’ll take a hard look at Mark Donnal, who finished with four fouls in just six minutes.
“Mark certainly didn’t have a good day,” Beilein said of the junior forward, who’s started all three of Michigan’s games. “He appeared to be a bit overmatched.”
Beilein was pleased with the play of freshman Moritz Wagner, though, like many Wolverines, he’s got a ways to go.
And that’s no surprise.
“I’ve seen Ricky (Doyle) making good progress, Mo’s making good progress,” Beilein said. “But right now, (Mo) and (Xavier’s) Jalen Reynolds, or him and (James) Farr in a rebounding contest is a mismatch. Maybe it won’t be a mismatch as he learns more in March and February.
“I know it won’t be a mismatch in a few years.”
Xavier coach Chris Mack said he was “scared to death” of Michigan’s 3-point shooters.
But Xavier was able to hold the Wolverines to 10-of-26 from 3-point range.
Five of those were made by senior LeVert — including two back-to-back in the first half to put Michigan up two and force Mack to call a timeout.
“Caris LeVert,” Mack said, shaking his head. “I don’t know how you guys kept him here as a senior.”