January 30, 2014

Painter gives high praise for Wolverines' LeVert, Stauskas

Purdue head coach Matt Painter fashioned a laundry list of grievances against his own team's performance in Purdue's 75-66 loss at Crisler Center Thursday night. But his biggest headaches came from Canada and nearby Ohio.

Painter didn't much care for Purdue's 2-for-14 shooting from three-point range, or the Boilermakers' defensive breakdowns. They allowed the Wolverines to shoot 60.9 percent from the floor, including 7 of 13 on three-pointers.

He wasn't crazy about the crucial swing at the end of the half, when a potential four-point Michigan lead turned into eight points at intermission. The Boilermakers fouled while they were at the free throw line, then allowed Derrick Walton Jr. to go coast-to-coast for a layup in four seconds.

Again, Painter stressed, Michigan had a hand in all of that.

"I just didn't think our defense was good enough," he said. "We just didn't defend well. [Nik] Stauskas and Caris LeVert were pretty good. They got to the ball where they wanted to, and Derrick Walton was pretty good in the second half."

Michigan proved plenty good enough to overcome a Halley's Comet-rare 16 turnovers, with Stauskas scoring 16, recording three assists and three blocks. LeVert managed 14 points, 11 rebounds, three steals, two assists and two blocks, while Walton tacked on 14 points, three assists and two steals.

"They're a very good passing team, especially Stauskas," Painter said. "You rarely ever see a guy that scores the ball like that with that ability to pass, especially at that position. He's a very tough match-up. Any time you have your best player passing the ball like that, it's contagious. It really helps everything else."

He's known LeVert for a while, and had nothing but praise for where the lanky swingman has come over the past two years.

"He's a good player," Painter said. "He's very versatile, he understands angles, he can score the basketball. I know his high school coach pretty well, and he's just worked.

"He wasn't a player earlier in his high school career, and those are some of the best guys you can have in college. They appreciate things. They've had to work for everything. He obviously won a state title in high school, and then he didn't get a lot of time last year.

"He had some physical issues, and he's really worked on his body. He's a guy who puts a lot of time into his game and you can tell. He's got a midrange game, he can shoot the three, he can drive it."

In addition, Painter pointed out, Michigan has enough strong players that it allows LeVert to fly under the radar a bit. That lets him go on some notable bombing runs.

"When you put him off those other guys, it's a pretty good situation for him," Painter said. "Everybody is going to think about Stauskas and Glenn Robinson. It's the first two things you think about. Your worst defender goes on him, and I think he enjoys that."

LeVert, and Michigan, enjoyed moving to 8-0 in the conference, and surviving a home game in a Big Ten week where many did not.

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