Zak Irvin, Kameron Chatman showcase growth in loss at Maryland

Alejandro Zúñiga

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.

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  • John

    The auto-bench really doesn’t make sense. The second half in not intrinsically “more important” than the first half just because it happens later. If you have an allotment of capable backups it might be the move, but not in our case right now.

    • DoubES

      I think your last point is what bothers me the most about the autobench. If we still have our full roster and an autobench meant DW or CL was benched for MAAR or AD, then the drop off is not as pronounced. Further, you are probably going to give some playing time to those guys any way to give the starters a rest, so if that rest happens at autobench time, so be it.

      But, when the back ups are walkons who, bless their hearts, should not be getting minutes in this type of game, you need to roll the dice on keeping the starters in the game.

      That said, I do think that the 12-0 run was a pretty worst case scenario, so it’s easy to say the autobench strategy is wrong now. If we had hit a couple baskets maybe we wouldn’t be harping on this. Oh well.

    • ChipperFliet

      JB should have listened to Irvin. I don’t believe you can win a game in the closing mins of the 1st half, but I do believe you can lose it then. Dug themselves to big a hole (at least it is for this group, especially on the road).

      I love JB I love how he gets the most from his players and how all his players show great improvement over time. But his in game coaching is questionable at times.

      The Illinois loss I put on him alone. With just under 3 to go, up 8, with possession, taking the ball out of bounds on the sidelines and three times Rahkman can’t inbound the ball! Hello!!
      Call time out. Have someone bigger throw the ball in. Have someone with a little more experience throw it in (NOT SPIKE).
      I’ll never understand why Spike is in-bounding the ball at any point in the game. Especially at the end. Whether up or down at that point, wouldn’t you want to make sure your best ball handler and best free throw shooter get THE ball?

      • He’s said that Spike is the only one they trust to make the right passes from that spot and that he wishes they had someone bigger who could handle the role.

        • ChipperFliet

          Why not try Irvin then?

      • ChipperFliet

        And I have never seen a team struggle with getting a good shot or even getting the ball in, on an inbound play, when the ball is under under their own basket. This even applies to those great teams the last couple years.
        Other teams get wide open threes or back cut ollie-oop dunks off their inbound plays.

        • ChipperFliet

          Dylan, any stats to support my theory above? You seem to come up with a lot of different stats and percentages. And I for one love them! Numbers don’t lie.

  • Wayman Britt

    Really like Chatman’s improvement over the last two games. I look forward to him taking a big step forward next year in playing time, points and rebounds.