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Beilein, Wolverines Had A Surprise Visitor Tuesday Night At Rutgers

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Caris LeVert played at Michigan from 2012-16.
Caris LeVert played at Michigan from 2012-16. (Michigan Basketball Twitter Account)

Not only did Tuesday night’s 77-65 win at Rutgers help give Michigan sole possession of first place in the Big Ten at 10-2 (combined with MSU’s loss at Illinois), but it also gave head coach John Beilein yet another incredible milestone.

The victory was his 121st in conference play during his time at Michigan, passing Johnny Orr (1968-80) for the most in program history.

Beilein, however, had no interest in talking about the achievement last night on his weekly radio show, instead acting like his usual humble self and deflecting the credit elsewhere.

“I wish I could embrace it more, but I just struggle with it,” he said. “We all know I’ve had a lot of help from my assistant coaches throughout the years.

“In reality, the players are the ones who get those records.”

Of those 121 league wins, 10 have come so far this year in what has been an incredible 21-2 start to the season.

Defense has been the team’s calling card, as the Maize and Blue rank No. 2 nationally in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency rankings, and are tied for 17th nationally in field goal percentage defense (39.6 percent).

“During timeouts, I usually talk offense while [defensive assistant] Luke [Yaklich] talks defense,” Beilein explained. “[Junior guard] Zavier [Simpson] then chimes in to talk more defense.

“Defense is the mantra of our team, and it has helped us so much, especially when we’ve been bad offensively. Other than the game at Iowa [on Friday night, when the Hawkeyes shot 45.6 percent], we really haven’t been bad at all defensively this year.”

The Maize and Blue’s next challenge will come from a red-hot Wisconsin team on Saturday afternoon, who has won six games in a row and is tied for third place in the conference at 9-3.

On top of that, the Badgers held Michigan to its lowest point total of the year (54) on Jan. 19, ruining its perfect 17-0 start in the process.

“They were brilliant when they beat us,” Beilein recalled. “We hadn’t really been behind at all in a game since the National Title last year, and we didn’t react well to it in Madison.

“I’ve never seen a player like [fifth-year senior center] Ethan Happ — he has something like 60 assists and 30 turnovers, and is so clever when he backs people down.

“Wisconsin didn’t have shooters last year, but now that they do, Happ always seems to find them.

“I have so much respect for Wisconsin and the way they play. Plus, they’re only losing Happ and will have [sophomore power forward Nathan] Reuvers playing the 5 next year, so they’re back and here to stay.”

Immediately following Beilein’s preview of Wisconsin on the radio show, he turned his attention back to the Rutgers victory to discuss something that occurred in Piscataway.

His focus wasn’t on the game itself, however, but instead a visitor the team received afterward in the locker room.

“[Brooklyn Nets guard and former Wolverine] Caris [LeVert] was at the game and spoke to our team after it,” Beilein revealed.

“He’s been hit with so many injuries during his career, but has such great faith — he sees the world from such an amazing angle and I love him for it.

“Most of our guys don’t even know Caris. They’ve watched him and have seen the way he plays, but don’t know how much adversity he’s been through.

“He’s had to deal with all his injuries and his father dying, and yet he’s persevered through it all because of his attitude.

“I’m so proud of all our guys in the NBA, G-League, Lithuania — that’s where Derrick Walton is — or wherever they may be.

“Matt Vogrich and Blake McLimans are actually partners right now in a company they created, and it's doing very well."

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