COLLEGE PARK, Md.— Zak Irvin wanted back in the game.
It was the final minutes of the first half during Michigan’s 66-56 loss to Maryland on Saturday afternoon, and the sophomore forward had been benched due to foul trouble. As he watched helplessly, the Terrapins went on a 12-0 run and claimed a lead they’d never relinquish.
“I was trying to talk him into letting me back in, but he wanted to save me for the second half,” Irvin said of John Beilein.
The coach’s decision to bench both Irvin and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman remains a point of contention, and the two-foul autobench practice has arguably played a factor in the Wolverines’ most disappointing results — notably Saturday and in East Lansing against Michigan State.
But in a season that will fall short of the team’s preseason goals of winning the Big Ten and reaching a Final Four, the performances of Irvin and Kameron Chatman against Maryland were encouraging signs moving forward.
After returning from that foul trouble, Irvin contributed one of his best all-around games of the season, finishing with 15 points — tied for the team lead — and adding three assists and a steal.
The forward didn’t pick up a foul in 19 second-half minutes.
“I just think the game’s starting to slow down for me,” he said.
Irvin’s contributions began quickly after halftime, when the sophomore got a steal and hit a three-pointer within the first 40 seconds. He later had an assist to Ricky Doyle and then drove into the paint himself and drew a foul — and he was later bumped on a three-point attempt. Irvin’s long two-point jumper with 7:15 left cut the deficit to four.
“I loved what Zak did today off the dribble,” Beilein said. “He’s starting to see people better.”
But Melo Trimble kept the Wolverines at bay, and the 12-0 run suffered by Michigan in the final minutes of the first half doomed it in the 10-point loss.
“We couldn’t answer that,” Beilein said. “You’re going to have those runs sometimes, especially when you’re playing against good teams. That was a big difference in the game.”
Foul trouble for Aubrey Dawkins also meant Chatman got 20 minutes for just the third time this calendar year, and the freshman took advantage. He scored seven points on an efficient 3-for-5 shooting, again looking comfortable offensively and limiting mistakes.
Chatman’s afternoon began with a Euro-step drive to the basket for a transition layup, and he was fouled attacking from the wing moments later. Midway through the second half, Irvin fed the lefty inside for a layup, and the freshman then made a smooth baseline jumper on a feed from Abdur-Rahkman.
The result was a second-straight solid showing from Chatman, who has been trying to find any semblance of consistency all season.
And while Irvin and Chatman’s afternoons weren’t enough to topple the Terrapins, they were a reminder of the improvements both players have made this year — and a hint of what Michigan will have next winter.