Johns' sick day gives Castleton rare Big Ten minutes
Minneapolis — It’s a play that won’t stand out in the box score at all.
But for freshman center Colin Castleton, the traveling violation he forced on Minnesota big man Eric Curry late in the first half of Thursday’s 69-60 win was a big deal.
It didn’t go unnoticed by his Michigan teammates, who were fired up after Castleton got in position, stood his ground and made Curry shuffle his feet while under the rim.
“It felt good. It gives me confidence when my teammates boost my head and give me high-fives because it's a little play, but in my eyes it's a really big play because I barely get any minutes,” Castleton said. “When something like that happens, it gives me confidence and shows they care.”
The rare four-minute stint came about due to freshman forward Brandon Johns Jr. being sick the past couple days.
And for a player whose only other meaningful minutes came earlier this month at Iowa due to foul trouble, it was an adequate outing in a huge moment for Castleton.
“He did OK,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “He and Austin (Davis) both auditioned the last two days, but Brandon could not practice at all. He was in reserve if we got in foul trouble, but he didn't go through any walkthroughs. He didn't do anything, so it was a pretty good flu bug.
“The team loves (Castleton). He's got a great personality. It was a shot for him to go in there and I think he affected some shots. He did a good job.”
Castleton was a little more critical of his own performance, which included a rebound, a foul and one shot that rolled off the rim.
“I feel like I played decent, but there were some mistakes I made which I knew I was going to make because it's the first big game I was in besides Iowa,” he said. “I knew there were going to be some ball screens and stuff like that that I messed up, but I'm going to keep working and hopefully I can fix those things in the future.”
Beilein said Castleton (6-foot-11, 210 pounds) is “very young in his knowledge of what’s next” and the coaching staff has been bringing him along more slowly than fellow freshmen David DeJulius and Johns because their bodies are more physically equipped for Big Ten play.
Yet, Beilein said he wouldn’t hesitate to put Castleton in again if the team faces a similar situation like Thursday and added he’s unsure who will play backup center in Sunday’s game against Michigan State.
Regardless of what happens moving forward, though, Castleton’s focus is on making improvements and stacking little plays — much like the one he made against Curry.
“It's getting more serious now,” Castleton said. “The season is coming to the endpoint almost and I’ve got to be ready because I never know when my name can get called like tonight.”
Michigan has won 13 of the last 14 meetings against Minnesota and is 9-2 in its last 11 games in Minneapolis.
… Minnesota’s 18 first-half points tied for the fewest points Michigan has allowed in a half this season (vs. Maryland, at Indiana), and the Gophers' 42 second-half points tied for the most allowed by the Wolverines in a half (at Iowa, vs. South Carolina).
... Michigan allowed a season-low one 3-pointer against Minnesota, who finished 1-for-10 from deep.