Dec 6, 2014 5:04 PM
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - Michigan is in the midst of a basketball renaissance, reaching the Elite Eight last season and the national championship game in 2013.
With success also comes attention. So when a team like New Jersey Institute of Technology leaves Crisler Center with a 72-70 upset, the 17th-ranked Wolverines know there will be backlash.
"We're on this national stage," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "You have to react both ways. When you beat a team like Syracuse, you have to say, 'OK, that's good.' But this is no different. This is something that is humbling. We have to grow through that humility."
The Highlanders (3-5) had never played a ranked opponent before, much less beat one. They used a 13-0 run midway through the second half to build a lead and held the Wolverines' comeback efforts at bay, sealing the win when Daquan Holiday corralled the ball with 4.3 seconds remaining and made two free throws.
"I don't think it's as much adversity as it is attitude that we stay positive," Beilein said. "We have to play through it. That's a real area of growth and maturity for us, when things aren't going well for us.
"We're going to grow from this one. We'll do some soul searching, 'What can we learn?' And we'll have them identify some of it, as well."
The Highlanders turned the ball over on their first four possessions of the game, but Michigan didn't take advantage of it, shooting just 12-of-30 in the first half.
"I didn't sense that we looked past the team at all," Beilein said. "We had a bad night, and we let it bother us."
As the pressure started to build, the Wolverines played tighter. Michigan shot 42.6 percent from the field overall and Caris LeVert scored 32 points. But Derrick Walton's 16 points was the only other total above double digits.
Beilein is hoping some of the freshmen, including Aubrey Dawkins and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, will be able to step in and spell struggling players in the near future.
"The big thing we need, going forward, is to continue to develop our bench, so when we see a guy who is not right at the time, we can get him out of there and put someone else in," Beilein said. "We have to keep working at that. We've been working at in practice, but not in games, because they still have to earn some trust."
Wolverines: Derrick Walton played despite recovering from a sprained toe. ... Mark Donnal knocked down his first-career 3-point shot in the first half. ... The Wolverines have shot better than 40 percent from the floor in all but one game this year (38.5 percent vs. Syracuse).
Highlanders: In the midst of a brutal road trip. From Nov. 24 to a Dec. 23 game at Villanova, nine of NJIT's 10 games are away from home. . This game was the first time the NJIT program has ever played a ranked foe, since transitioning to Division I for the 2007 season. ... This was the first meeting between the two teams.
IRVIN HAS A COLD SPELL
Sophomore Zak Irvin can be a deadly scorer for the Wolverines when he is on the top of his game. He came into Saturday's contest leading the team in scoring (17.7 points per game) and shooting 43.4-percent from 3-point range.
But Irvin went through a drought against the Highlanders, finishing with just five points on 2-of-11 shooting, including 1-of-8 from behind the arc, in 39 minutes.
"We have to make sure he remains positive when he's not shooting the ball as well as he can," Beilein said. "He is certainly a better player than some of the misfortune he went through today."
LEVERT LEADS THE WAY
The Wolverines, as a whole, may not have looked terrific in their loss to NJIT, but LeVert continued to post impressive numbers - and nearly single-handedly have Michigan a chance to win.
Along with his 32 points, LeVert had four steals and an assist and shot 11-of-18 from the field and 6-of-8 from 3-point range.
"Caris was really good," Beilein said. "He did so many things out there. Big shots. It is tough, when they answer, then you have to answer, and again. I love his growth right now. All our other guys, certainly didn't have as good a game as him."
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