The Michigan Wolverines did the Big Ten a favor with a 66-59 victory over the North Carolina State Wolfpack in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, but took a hit with the loss of point guard Derrick Walton Jr. late in the first half with a left ankle injury.
Last season, Walton missed the final two months with a sore foot and toe injury. On Tuesday, Walton moved slowly to the bench after the injury and then made his way to the locker room.
"When I saw him over there, I said, this can't happen two times in a row to him — I don't care if it happens to me, I don't want it to happen to him," University of Michigan coach John Beilein said. "It looks like it's not going to be a long-range thing. That's the hope."
Since Walton could not continue, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman took over at point guard. Abdur-Rahkman took over most of the role because senior point guard Spike Albrecht was limited. Albrecht was still recovering from offseason double hip surgery and only appeared to give Abdur-Rahkman a quick break. Walton had four points, two rebounds and two assists over 13 minutes.
"Muhammad-Ali did a wonderful job of staying with (N.C. State's Anthony) Barber, using his quickness as well, he's quick too, keeping him from getting the ball in spaces he likes it and playing out of that," Beilein said. "He was certainly an outlier today because Derrick's been playing so well."
Duncan Robinson led the way for the Wolverines (5-2) with 17 points, while Caris LeVert added 18 to the win. The duo helped push Michigan to a 15 point lead with 14 minutes left in the game. Robinson hit 5-of-7 threes while adding three rebounds to an impressive performance off the bench.
"I know I'm surprised, because if we were playing against a guy like Duncan, we'd never leave him open," LeVert said. "That's what we'd be preaching."
The Wolfpack (4-3) did not go down without a fight. N.C. State hopped on a 12-1 run to cut the Wolverine lead to four, 50-46. Zak Irvin and Robinson cashed out on back-to-back three-point jumpers to make it a 10 point lead for the Maize and Blue with six minutes left.
Mortiz Wagner played 23 minutes off the bench and was comfortable in the paint, scoring on 4-of-7 tries to log eight points.
As for N.C. State, Caleb Martin scored 19 points and Anthony Barber scored 16 for the team that shot just 33 percent from the field. Meanwhile, the Wolverines shot 50 percent from the field to help take their third straight win.
"We had one of those nights where we couldn't seem to get the ball in the basket," Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried said. "A lot of that is on us. I don't want to sit up here and act like they had nothing to do with it. ... They did."
Michigan continued to avoid fouls as they kept Barber from getting to the stripe for most the game. Barber is known as a player who can get to the rim and draw fouls. Earlier this season, Barber connected on 19-of-22 from the charity stripe during a single game.
"Our defense is developing, little by little," Beilein said.