The minutes per game allotted to freshman guard Caris LeVert continue to rise on a game-to-game basis. Playing nine in Michigan’s win over Penn State, then 16 in the win over Illinois before playing 12 in the Wolverines heartbreaking loss in Happy Valley, LeVert’s focus was on helping his team in anyway possible.
When Nik Stauskas went into the tunnel with a face full of blood after an inadvertent elbow from Spartan forward Branden Dawson Sunday, LeVert quickly realized he had to be ready -- ready to play 30 minutes.
“When he had his hands over his face and then he pulled it out I saw the blood so I knew I was going in,” said LeVert. “I was definitely prepared for it. My teammates got me prepared and told me that Nik probably wouldn’t be coming back into the game.”
Averaging double figures this season for Michigan, the Stauskas loss hurt the Wolverines offensively, allowing Michigan State to pay even more attention to the backcourt duo of Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke. Seeing this, LeVert jumped into action.
“I had to step up a little bit more on offense today,” said LeVert. “They were keying a lot on Trey and Tim so I just tried to get in there a little bit.”
Coming out of high school as a slashing, ‘break people down off the dribble’ offensive player, LeVert flashed some of the ability that made Michigan offer a scholarship last spring in the first place -- even fooling Michigan State.
“LeVert did a great job,” said Michigan State coach Tom Izzo. “I thought he was more aggressive. Usually he’s just a shooter but I thought he was more aggressive with the ball and did a nice job.”
LeVert finished the game shooting 4-of-11 from the field with eight points. Defensively is where LeVert made his biggest impact of the game as a long armed, pestering perimeter defender that drew the responsibility of chasing Spartan freshman Gary Harris all over the floor.
“He’s one of our better defenders,” said John Beilein. “We know that and he played a huge role for us. Gary Harris -- being attached to him, whether it was he or Trey -- is a tough task but he did a great job.”
Unclear of the status of Nik Stauskas heading into Wednesday night’s game at Purdue despite Beilein saying on his Monday night radio show that the battered freshman did practice Monday, LeVert will need to be ready to play a big role once again.