Michigan sophomore point guard Derrick Walton Jr. has been plagued with a sprained toe which carried over into Tuesday afternoon’s 73-65 overtime win over Illinois in the Big Ten opener.
Walton struggled through his 27 minutes of action against the Illini, scoring no points off 0-of-8 shooting with four rebounds, one assist and one steal. Michigan needed to rely heavily on reserve guard Spike Albrecht, as the team has done frequently this season, and for Saturday’s away game against Purdue, Albrecht may be inserted into the starting lineup after a limited week of practice for Walton, according to head coach John Beilein.
“He didn’t get a lot reps in practice the last couple of days because we want him to rest the foot,” Beilein said of Walton on Friday, according to Brendan F. Quinn of MLive.com. “So we’re prepared to go either way, whether Spike (Albrecht) starts tomorrow or Derrick. It will depend a little bit on warmups or my feel. Either way, we want Derrick to be at his best when he’s on the court.”
Walton sustained the injury in late November during the Legends Classic at the Barclays Center. In those seven games since returning from Brooklyn, Walton is averaging 7.9 points and 3.9 assists per game, shooting 34 percent from the field and 25 percent from three. Despite the slide in production, he’s been racking up the mileage, logging 33.0 minutes per game.
“I personally think that (the injury) has set him back,” Beilein added. “I thought he was playing pretty well and then (the injury) took his timing and things like that. So that’s been a big thing. We’ve been trying to get him healthy to get his confidence back. I don’t care if you’re out there and there’s some pain in that foot, but you can play on it, you’re not thinking normal. So we’re trying to get him through that.”
Albrecht is averaging 4.5 points, 2.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game in expanded minutes through 13 games this season.