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ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — With two minutes remaining in Michigan's 77-62 win over Northern Kentucky Tuesday night, Michigan coach John Beilein was startled by a celebratory eruption from the crowd.
"When everyone started cheering I said, 'What just happened? Are they giving out free hamburgers if we score a certain number of points?'" Beilein said.
There were no hamburgers. Instead, the Crisler Center crowd was cheering for Caris LeVert, who finished off a triple-double by snagging a defensive rebound, racing up the court and dishing to Mark Donnal in the lane for an easy slam dunk.
LeVert checked out of the game right after the play, with 13 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. It's just the fourth triple-double in Wolverine program history.
"The lane just opened up," LeVert said. "I came off a ball screen and got doubled, and Mark just rolled on in."
It was a big night for LeVert, who also scored his 1,000th career point on his first bucket of the game.
"We're really happy for him," said Duncan Robinson, who finished with a team-high 18 points. "That's an incredible accomplishment and it couldn't happen to a better person."
Robinson, who made his first-career start last Saturday, provided a huge spark, hitting 6 of 7 3-point attempts in the opening 20 minutes. After missing three games with an injury, Derrick Walton, Jr. returned to chip in 16, and Zak Irvin added 10 points.
Jalen Billups led the Norse (2-6) with 16 points, Cole Murray finished with 15 and Lavone Holland added 10.
With Robinson and LeVert leading the way, the Wolverines (8-3) opened a first-half lead, but it was never a commanding one, because of defensive breakdowns. Northern Kentucky shot 53.6 percent from the floor in the first half.
Billups, who finished 7 of 11 from the floor, was a particular matchup problem for the Wolverines. Beilein said Michigan couldn't crash down on him, because of his passing ability.
"I felt that team, with their big guys, could score at will against us," Beilein said. "We were having trouble guarding him with our young guys."
The Norse went into the locker room down just nine points, but they mustered just nine buckets after the break.
Northern Kentucky: The Norse officially accepted an offer to the Horizon League on July 1, 2015. After three more non-conference games, the Norse will begin their inaugural Horizon League slate with a trip to Wisconsin-Green Bay on Jan. 2. ... Jalen Billups is shooting 66.2 percent from the field, which ranks No. 24 nationally. He shot 69.2 percent last season, the second-best field goal percentage in the country.
Michigan: LeVert registered just the fourth triple-double in Michigan program history. The others were posted by Darius Morris (2011), Many Harris (2009) and Gary Grant (1987). ... Derrick Walton, Jr. returned from an ankle injury that sidelined him for three games. Beilein said his week that Walton would have been available for last Saturday's 80-33 win over Delaware State in an emergency situation. ... Duncan Robinson has drilled at least five 3-point baskets in five games this season and has made at least two in each of the last seven contests.
ROBINSON FINDING HIS ROLE
This time last year, Duncan Robinson was on the bench in street clothes, sitting out for a year after transferring from Division III Williams College. He was just waiting for his chance.
It's here now, and he's taking full advantage.
Robison has started the last two games — his first two starts at Michigan. Against the Norse, he sank 6 of 7 first-half 3-pointers and finished with 18 points.
"(Since starting), my mentality hasn't changed too much," Duncan said. "I'm just trying to make winning plays, whatever those are, on both ends of the floor."
Robinson is now shooting 61.9 percent from 3-point range, good for third nationally.
"I'm a little more comfortable in the offense, and I'm getting comfortable playing with these guys more and more," Robinson said.
He played a whopping 38 minutes against Northern Kentucky. Beilein admitted that was a little high, and will probably settle into the 25-30 minute range.
Four Wolverines played at least 34 minutes Tuesday night: Robinson (38), LeVert (37), Irvin (34) and Walton, Jr. (34).
After seeing the trouble that Billups and the Norse were giving Michigan on defense, Beilein planned it that way.
"There were points today where I wanted to go to the bench and there was a timeout called and I said, 'No, I want to put these guys away,'" Beilein said. "Their stuff was so hard for us to guard that I didn't want it to get close."
The center position was the only spot with any real rotation at all, with Moe Wagner playing 14 minutes and Mark Donnal 11 in order to spell starter Ricky Doyle.
Beilein said after the game that the short bench may be a strategy he continues to deploy.
"I think we're starting to find our rhythm," he said.
Northern Kentucky will host Southeast Missouri State on Saturday.
Michigan will host Youngstown State on Saturday.
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