ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The numbers speak for themselves when it comes to Ohio State freshman wing D’Angelo Russell.
Leading the Buckeyes in scoring with 17.9 points per game, Russell also plays the most minutes on the team, has made more field goals than anyone by a wide margin (105-for-232) all the while shooting nearly 45-percent on three-point attempts.
“He’s got the unique skill set right now, he’s really shooting the ball well, which a lot of young kids do not come in and are shooting,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “And with his assist numbers, he’s got a flow to his game that just, he snap passes the ball, he sees, he’s got great quickness, he’s got a nose for the rim, gets to the foul line enough.
“A 6-4, 6-5 guard, he’ll play a lot with the ball when Shannon Scott gets a rest so I think his numbers defensively are very good too. Shannon Scott has become the new Aaron Craft as far as what he’s doing, two and a half steals a game and the same stuff but really a talented, talented freshman.”
Russell’s biggest moment of the season came during a 25-point first half performance in a road win at Minnesota on Jan. 6, proof the freshman can take over a game at a moment’s notice.
Praising the defensive quickness of Michigan sophomore point guard Derrick Walton Jr. Monday, it appears Beilein could give Walton Jr. the first stab at slowing down Russell Tuesday night in Columbus as Michigan tips things off with Ohio State at 7 p.m.
Michigan looking for outliers
For Michigan’s first year players, the 2014-15 season has been a much rougher go of things.
Center Ricky Doyle emerged enough to snatch up a starting spot in the non-conference for the Wolverines, averaging 7.9 points per game along with 3.3 rebounds per contest.
Beyond that though, Michigan is still looking to find consistency off the bench with spotty performances coming from Kameron Chatman, Aubrey Dawkins, Mark Donnal and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, all showing progress.
“Well I think they have,” Beilein said. “They’ve all had their little points during the season. Kam and Rick were very good in our Syracuse game. They’re going to have different points. Muhammad came in and hit a shot, he hadn’t hit a shot hardly all year, against Penn State in his home state. I think it will happen. Is it critical that they’re all doing it tomorrow? No.
“They just got to continue to get better and all the sudden it will be there because the better they feel on the court, the more rest we’ll get our other guys and as I mentioned last week, some of our guys could be really good 35 minute players, some need to be 27 to 32 minute players and they’re much better when they’re in that capacity.”
Junior Spike Albrecht is one player Michigan needed to contribute more, being inserted into the lineup prior to the Wolverines win on the road at Penn State.
While Albrecht is adjusting well to the move, still playing roughly the same amount of minutes every night, he understands the youngsters will be counted on moving forward in the Big Ten.
“It’s going to be huge,” Albrecht said. “As Coach Beilein would call them, outliers, just guys that are going to continue to step-up for us and there’s been games where the freshmen have stepped up.
“Aubrey, Kam, Ricky obviously and I know Muhammad came in against Penn State and gave us quality minutes so as those guys continue to develop we’re going to need them down the stretch this year.”
Due to the heavy workload placed on Michigan’s veterans, Beilein decided to switch up the practice strategy to ensure fresh legs will travel with the Wolverines Tuesday night.
“We had a different workout yesterday where we worked with our freshmen for a long time,” Beilein said. “And the other guys really just refined a few things and we sent them to the weight room.
“We really got to get enough rest, get enough development -- tough mix -- just do what we do and hope it works.”