Michigan Wolverines‘ sophomore guard Caris LeVert is doing everything he can to help make up for the lack of preseason All-American Mitch McGary.
LeVert started out hot in Michigan’s 93-59 victory over South Carolina State at the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, Mich. Tuesday. He scored 17 of his team-leading 24 points in the first half, helping the Wolverines lead South Carolina State 59-23 at the half en route to the easy victory.
LeVert, and others, will need to continue to upgrade their play this season until McGary — hampered by a nagging back injury, but participating in limited on-court drills — returns. LeVert is averaging 20.5 points in the team’s first two games. Michigan’s display Tuesday showed how potent the team can be on offense — even without McGary. The Wolverines shot 52 percent from the field and connected on 14 of their 25 three-point attempts.
Nik Staukas (23 points) and Glenn Robinson III (13 points) added some more punch on the offensive end. Michigan controlled the boards, out-rebounding State 43-30. Jon Horford led UM with 15 rebounds.
Michigan’s effort Tuesday was a carryover from the second half of the Wolverines’ opener against UMass-Lowell Nov. 8. Michigan started very slow against Lowell. The Wolverines left the first half tied with the River Hawks, 23-23. The Wolverines managed to pull away for a 69-42 victory, but McGary was missed. Michigan only out-rebounded Lowell by seven (37-30). McGary’s rebounding prowess will help the Wolverines stop second shots and give them more chances on the offensive end in the paint.
However, Michigan’s defense has been impressive after holding State to only 36 percent shooting and Lowell to only 29 percent shooting. The Wolverines will only get stronger when McGary recovers. If he can be the same dominating force he was during Michigan’s NCAA tournament run last season where he averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds, the Wolverines will be major contender for a Big Ten title, a No. 1 seed and a deep tournament run.
If McGary continues to be hobbled, the team will have to focus on a more perimeter game that coach John Beilein had early last season and during his time at West Virginia. Michigan may not be any worse-for-wear without McGary, but they will look a lot different than many fans anticipated with all the preseason hype for McGary.
Michigan now has 18-straight non-conference home victories and is undefeated at the Crisler Center in its last 28 non-conference games.
Michigan will travel away from its friendly confines as the Wolverines take on Iowa State 5 p.m. Sunday.