BROOKLYN — With No. 21 Michigan clinging to a three-point lead with 37 seconds to go against Oregon, freshman forward Ricky Doyle ripped down a missed jump shot between two yellow jerseys, and took the second-chance opportunity around the right side and laid in the clinching basket in the Wolverines’ 70-63 win over the Ducks in the Legends Classic on Monday night in Brooklyn.
With the outcome decided, the lower bowl went from the Barclays Center to Crisler Arena east with chants of “RI-CKY DOY-LE!”
“It was a new experience for me,” Doyle said in the post-game press conference. “I never experienced anything like that. It felt good.”
The ovation was deserved. The 6-foot-9 freshman played an energized 24 minutes — more than the previous three games combined — scoring 10 points and grabbing three rebounds, including the crucial offensive board in the closing moments.
“It was huge for us,” Michigan junior guard Caris LeVert said of the play. “Coach calls those the outliers and Ricky was definitely one of those today, getting big offensive rebounds and a couple of and-1’s as well. He was big for us tonight.”
Doyle was certainly the outlier on the glass for the Wolverines on Monday night. The Ducks grabbed 18 offensive rebounds. Doyle snagged three of Michigan’s seven offensive boards. Oregon outscored Michigan 17-5 in second-chance points, and all five of those points came from Doyle’s extra effort.
Defensively he has ways to go, but he stayed away from silly fouls while sacrificing his body attempting to draw charges. All of which earned him the boost in playtime.
“Either late in the first, early in the second, he finished a lob pass in a crowd, and I said, ‘Alright, now we got something,'” Michigan head coach John Beilein said. “They have a great shot-blocking team and he took it right through their chin.”
Beilein had seen that sort of play out of Doyle before, but it had been months ago during Michigan’s summer trip in Europe. It was a welcomed sight for a new-look frontline that has lost Mitch McGary to the NBA Draft, graduated Jordan Morgan and saw Jon Horford transfer. But so far, through four games, Beilein has seen glimpses of promise, whether it be Doyle’s late-game heroics Monday night or the 18-point performance Max Bielfeldt poured on Bucknell a week ago.
“I like Mark’s [Donnal] development, as well,” Beilein added. “They all got a piece of it, and we’ll ride the hot hand as we go forward.”
For Tuesday night, in the Legends Classic championship game against No. 12 Villanova, the Michigan interior will face its toughest test. The Wolverines were outrebouned by the Ducks — a team that suited up no one taller than 6-foot-8 — on Monday night. In the title game, Michigan big men will face the duo of JayVaughn Pinkston, a mismatch forward, paired with Daniel Ochefu.
But Michigan will enter the contest with a little momentum. The Wolverines not only tested, they won, and in the process saw another player emerge as a contributor.
“We needed that,” Beilein said. “Whether it be the Detroit game the other night but between that and our European trip, we hadn’t been challenged. This is a huge step in our development.
“I think we find out something more everyday.”