Michigan coach John Beilein and Detroit coach Ray McCallum Sr. on Caris LeVert 's role in Michigan's victory.
Ann Arbor — Ray McCallum liked what he saw until John Beilein had seen enough.
Or at least that's how it appeared, as Detroit's upset bid at Crisler Center vanished just like that Thursday night, with No. 24 Michigan fighting off some growing pains before fending off McCallum's team for a 71-62 victory.
The Wolverines (3-0) are a talented group with big expectations and little experience right now. And Thursday that was painfully evident, what with the Titans' small lineup and pressure defense throwing Michigan's freshman-laden rotation for a loop.
Just as McCallum hoped … and feared, actually.
"We told our guys, if the freshmen are gonna be out there (for Michigan), that's not gonna be good for us," he said.
By that, McCallum meant he figured heavy minutes for the Wolverines' youngsters would indicate a romp for Michigan. Instead, what he got was what he wanted, with Beilein forced to sit his freshmen on their collective rump.
"As we grow the young guys, we've still got to try to win games," explained Beilein, who turned to his bench — notably junior Spike Albrecht and senior Max Bielfeldt — to calm the waters after the second half started the way the first one ended Thursday.
"They have a lot of young players like we do," said McCallum, whose team was coming off a similar loss Monday night at Oregon. "And I would do the same thing: I mean, you're gonna play guys that you trust, that are gonna take care of the ball and make decisions and get you good shots. I can see why John did that."
And though he was quick to note he's not coaching Beilein's team, McCallum added, "I would continue to do that."
Beilein would prefer not to, obviously. But he felt he didn't have a choice when the Titans went up 34-30 barely a minute into the second half Thursday.
Lean on experience
Kameron Chatman, Michigan's lone freshman starter, got lost in the defensive rotation, leaving Brandan Kearney for a wide-open 3-pointer in the corner. Then Chatman fouled Juwan Howard Jr., who led the Titans with 24 points and eight rebounds, to give Detroit another three-point play.
That brought the freshman back to the bench and Beilein back to a smaller lineup with Albrecht joining fellow point guard Derrick Walton Jr. in the backcourt.
"This'll be my third year — I'm pretty old now," Albrecht joked afterward. "So I think we both know the game, we know Coach Beilein's system, and we know what he wants."
Or doesn't want, in some cases.
"We've got some of the freshmen still trying to learn the system and pick things up," added Albrecht, who ended up playing 32 minutes — the second-highest total of his career. "I think Coach Beilein just trusted me and Derrick out there right now. … Just having the experience, I think that's what he was looking at."
Bielfeldt, the scout-team center, also got another long look, replacing D.J. Wilson, who picked up three fouls and a turnover in 5 minutes on the court.
Not surprisingly, that "veteran" group keyed a 13-0 run — including 10 in a row from junior Caris LeVert — that gave the Wolverines some breathing room. And Beilein some relief from what had to be a splitting headache at halftime.
Good learning curve
The Wolverines missed nine of their first 10 three-point attempts and were just 6-for-25 from the field at one point, finishing the first half shooting just 34.5 percent. They also had more turnovers (six) than assists (five), as sure a sign as any that Beilein, who looked genuinely exasperated at times, has more than a little work to do with this group.
Particularly with tougher nonconference games looming: Oregon and either VCU or Villanova next week in Brooklyn, N.Y., Syracuse the following week and then a trip to Arizona the week after that.
Beilein's relief was only temporary Thursday night, though. After Wilson subbed in to give Bielfeldt a breather later, things started to go haywire again.
Howard Jr. kept shooting, the Titans kept pressuring, and Wilson, the lanky, 6-foot-9 prospect, continued to look out of place at both ends of the court. So back came Bielfedt, and the lead soon followed, much to the Wolverines' collective relief.
When it was over, the statistics drew a pretty stark conclusion: With one or more of the freshmen on the floor, the Wolverines were outscored 16-7 in the second half. With no freshmen, Michigan nearly doubled up Detroit, 37-18.
"There's certain ways you can learn," Beilein said. "Sometimes you throw 'em in there and you learn through real adversity, through losses."
But he wasn't going to allow Thursday night to be one of those times.