The Michigan Wolverines were soaring after their big win over Syracuse earlier this week in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. But when the NJIT Highlanders traveled to Ann Arbor, it didn’t take long for that mood to swing around 180 degrees, as the Wolverines fell in a stunner, 72-70.
Caris LeVert had the game of his career, scoring 32 points, 28 of which came in the second half. It was his turnover, however, down one point with 44 seconds to play that ultimately lifted NJIT over the top. LeVert had just hit a three-pointer on the previous possession and tried to make a cross-court pass to Spike Albrecht, which was picked off Winfield Willis. Willis then made an incredibly athletic and thoughtful play, bouncing the ball off Albrecht as both were falling out of bounds.
From there, the Highlanders did not relinquish the lead as they tacked on two free throws in the final seconds to complete their first win over a top 25 team in program history.
Zak Irvin was obnoxiously quiet in this one. He only connected on two of 11 shots from the field. Though he didn’t turn the ball over once, it’s easy to assume that an average day from Irvin helps lift the Wolverines in this one. Irvin did however come up with a big block at the rim with 61 seconds remaining. Michigan wasn’t able to turn that possession into points, but Irvin’s block kept it at a one-point game.
As a team, NJIT shot 11 of 17 (64.7%) from behind the arc. The Wolverines also knocked in 11 three’s, but it wasn’t done with quite the same efficiency. Other than overall field goal percentage, Michigan and NJIT were neck and neck throughout this game on paper (and the scoreboard). In the end, it was the Highlander’s ability to come up with the loose balls that helped them over the hump. NJIT consistently played with more enthusiasm than Michigan, and it showed in the final score.
Coach John Beilein will surely find 1,000 teaching points in this one when the Wolverines head back to practice, and it was undoubtedly result in better play moving forward, but for now, this remains a stinger.
NJIT Team Leaders…
Points: Damon Lynn, 20
Rebounds: Daquan Holiday, 6
Assists: Ky Howard, 6
Michigan Team Leaders…
Points: Caris LeVert, 32
Rebounds: Caris LeVert, 6
Assists: Derrick Walton Jr., 3
Tyler Fenwick is the managing editor of The Big House Report. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.