No. 25 Michigan beats Division II Northern Michigan 70-44
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) Caris LeVert's return makes things quite a bit easier for Michigan coach John Beilein.
''It's not like you're wracking your brain, trying to find ways to score,'' Beilein said. ''He helps you a lot in that area.''
LeVert scored 18 points, and No. 25 Michigan led from the start against Division II Northern Michigan, cruising to a 70-44 victory Friday night. LeVert and Derrick Walton were playing for the first time since January after missing much of the Big Ten schedule last season with injuries.
There was never much doubt who would win, with Michigan scoring the first eight points. But the Wildcats kept the margin respectable throughout the first half.
Michigan had a 36-26 advantage at the break. It eventually pulled away and led by as many as 29.
''We're all still knocking off some jitters, knocking off some rust,'' LeVert said. ''But I think our defense is up to par right now. As soon as our offense catches up, and it will soon, I think we'll be a really good team.''
Michigan junior Zak Irvin did not play. He is working his way back from offseason back surgery.
Naba Echols and Jordan Perez had 13 points apiece for Northern Michigan. Aubrey Dawkins scored 15 for Michigan, and Spike Albrecht added seven.
After Northern Michigan's slow start, the Wildcats trailed by only four at 15-11 before Michigan went on an 8-0 run. Dawkins provided perhaps the game's biggest highlight during that stretch, timing his jump perfectly to slam down an offensive rebound with his left hand, giving the Wolverines a 19-11 lead.
The crowd was ooooohing as replays of that dunk appeared on the videoboard, and Walton's steal and layup put Michigan up by 12.
Michigan missed the NCAA Tournament last season, when LeVert was limited to 18 games because of foot problems and Walton played only 19 because of toe issues. Both are back at full strength now.
LeVert had five assists and four rebounds and shot 7 of 12 from the field. Walton started and played 22 minutes, although he scored only four points in the season opener.
The Wildcats have lost all 11 meetings with Michigan, although this was closer than the previous one, a 97-50 rout by the Wolverines in 2009.
COMPARE AND CONTRAST
It's never too early to talk about how Michigan matches up with Michigan State. Northern Michigan has played both teams this month. The Spartans beat the Wildcats 94-53 in an exhibition game Nov. 4.
''Michigan certainly has more length,'' Northern Michigan coach Bill Sall said. ''I think State hurt us more on the rebounding end.''
IN THE MIX
It wasn't clear coming into the game whether Michigan freshman Moe Wagner would redshirt or not, but the 6-foot-10 forward from Berlin did in fact play a bit in the second half. He had two points and two rebounds.
''With the way things are today, the fifth year, it's not like it used to be. In the fifth year, sometimes he might not be playing with you, or he might be somewhere else,'' Beilein said. ''I really wanted to see him in a game, and I love what we saw. He was active. He's got a motor.''
Northern Michigan: The Wildcats turned the ball over 19 times. ... Northern Michigan shot 7 of 28 from the field in the second half and 33 percent for the game.
Michigan: The Wolverines often rely heavily on their perimeter shooting, but they made only two 3-pointers in the first half. Michigan finished 6 of 16 from long distance.
Northern Michigan plays at Minnesota Duluth on Tuesday night.
Michigan hosts Elon on Monday night.