Hanging on for a 56-54 win over the Wildcats, the Wolverines fought an illness plaguing the team, enough to keep Spike Albrecht out of the starting lineup, even causing freshman Ricky Doyle to miss the second half.
“Obviously Spike’s upper respiratory infection was really bothering him,” Michigan coach John Beilein said afterward. “He couldn’t practice the last couple days; we held him out. Ricky Doyle in the second half said he can’t go -- similar type of symptoms -- so we held him out.
“We had to just get guys in there and between Max (Bielfeldt), Muhammad (Ali Abdur-Rahkman), they all came up big for us.”
Abdur-Rahkman made the first start of his career in place of Albrecht, scoring nine-points and even grabbing five rebounds from his backcourt spot.
Bielfeldt filled in admirably as well playing 19 minutes and scoring five-points, most importantly doing as much as he could defensively against Northwestern center Alex Olah. Olah did score 22-points and controlled the glass with seven boards.
Earlier in the season Michigan simply didn’t have the luxury of looking down the bench for added production if the starters needed a rest. Now, that issue is slowly trending positively for the Wolverines.
“I hope that’s the direction we’re going,” Beilein said. “Our development of our depth is a huge piece of the puzzle right now and it’s not there. But that was a step today that Muhammad has been there, done that one time.
“And Kam (Chatman) missed a couple easy ones today, he’s better than that so, now it’s how can we get Kam back into it? That’s what it is when you have young guys that are out there, they’re going to be up and down for a little bit and we’ve got to continue to massage their attitudes to make sure they stay positive.”
Sophomore Zak Irvin had an off game Saturday with just six-points in 37 minutes. Afterward, Beilein said even Irvin is under the weather.
“He was another and I hate to play this card again but he’s been on medication for three days too,” Beilein said. “We’ve got something that was going through the team and I just didn’t think he was himself. I saw him and he was really just laboring out there.
“But he’s working a lot of things on his game but he didn’t get great looks; they weren’t going to give them to him. While he still learns to drive the ball and play the game other than a shooter, he’s going to have nights like that but he’s just developing. I wouldn’t discount the fact that he didn’t feel well either.”
The biggest problem for Michigan moving forward will be the loss of junior guard Caris LeVert who will miss the remainder of the season after suffering a foot injury in the final moments of Saturday’s win over Northwestern.
Beilein is expected to have a teleconference with media early Monday afternoon to presumably update the Wolverines’ status prior to heading to Rutgers Tuesday night.