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March 21, 2014

No fear from Derrick Walton Jr.

Michigan's freshman point guard notched six points, five assists, three rebounds and two steals in a 57-40 win over Wofford, playing outstanding defense throughout, but only one statistic mattered to Derrick Walton Jr. … his two turnovers.

"I had one too many," Walton Jr. said, and he wasn't joking.

The Wolverines turned the ball over 11 times, eight in the first half, and several were careless and unforced. Walton was referring to a first half alley-oop to Glenn Robinson III that even the high flyer couldn't corral.

"He's hard on himself," assistant coach LaVall Jordan said with a laugh. "It was actually the right play, it was just a bad delivery. He was open, Glenn - at least I hope it was, because nobody else could go up there and get that ball.

"But it was the right look, just a poor delivery. I've been challenging him in transition to look for that. It's something we got with Trey Burke a lot last year, got a couple this year in transition with Glenn. He's such a threat at the rim, he can jump over the top of people, so you've got to look for him."

Walton did - he just missed. The rest of the game he picked his spots, and good things usually happened when he penetrated.

"Sometimes you think, 'oh here's my chance to get it right - this is what coach had been talking about," Jordan said. "Then boom, he fired it.

"But I thought he was great, managed the game well offensively, attacked when he needed to based on what they were giving us. Defensively was where he was terrific."

Wofford only made one of 19 triples, but the looks weren't great. That was due in part to Walton's relentless chasing, running under screens and making it uncomfortable for Karl Cochran, in particular. The Terriers guard went only 1-for-10 from three-point range, 8-for-21 overall with Walton chasing him.

"He's really good coming off down screens, fade screens, and he had a really quick release," Walton said. "My main thing is to lock and chase, be there on the catch and contest the best I can, try to run him off the line."

Walton also made a big shot when Wofford made a run to cut it under 10, Jordan noted, and he never panicked on the big stage.

"It's a quality Trey had, Spike Albrecht has and Derrick has, and it's something we look for [in recruiting]," Jordan said. "You've got to have poise to be able to win at this level. There's so much coming at you, you've got things you need to be able to execute and an opponent that's trying to disrupt you. There's timing you need to get right, but you've got to have great poise when it doesn't go well, great poise when it doesn't go right to do it again."

His no fear approach is one reason why Michigan will have a chance to continue to advance.

"I kind of knew what I had to do coming in to this game," Walton said. "I tried to focus on that and tried to help the team get this win. A few turnovers changed the score, but I'm proud of my guys."


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