Sophomore guard Zak Irvin continues to make the argument that as far as scoring goes this season, he's Michigan's man. The 6-6, 215-pound Wolverine led U-M for the third straight game, tallying 22 points in Michigan's 116-52 win over Petarca Padova Wednesday.
This time, Irvin's three-point shot wasn't dropping, as he hit only 2 of 6 after connecting on 9 of 10 in U-M's first two games on the Italy exhibition tour. Irvin wouldn't be denied, though, draining 7 of 10 from inside the arc.
"My teammates told me if my shot wasn't falling, to get to the basket and that's one thing I didn't do a lot last year," said Irvin, who is working to be more than just a set shooter. "It's one of the big things I wanted to work on for this year."
Irvin admitted he and his teammates faced a challenge in today's game, adjusting to a zone defense, though you wouldn't know it by their first-half exploits - 63 points.
Irvin isn't getting ahead of himself, and the difference between exhibition play against overmatched Italian clubs and the rigorous Big Ten foes is significant, but the second-year Wolverine is showing a little of what he's capable of as he looks to improve his scoring average from the 6.7 points per game he produced last season.
Irvin is averaging 22.3 points in U-M's three contests so far, a jump of 15.6 points. It's not reasonable to expect him to average 22 points during the season (though 18-20 is not far off), but he does stand to rank among the program leaders in scoring increase from one year to the next. Glen Rice holds that distinction currently, upping his scoring average by 9.9 points from 1986 to 1987.
Michigan coach John Beilein arranged a trip for his team to visit the United States' armed forces, as the players met with the American military earlier Wednesday.
"These young men have seen some special things on this trip, and they all really enjoyed today," Beilein said. "To be with the troops, feed them and sit with them and then go see some of their weapons and trucks, tanks and Humvees - the team loved that."
"To be honest, it was breathtaking seeing all those men and women fighting for us even though they're overseas," Irvin added. "You have to give them all the credit in the world and be grateful for everything we have."
Beilein was impressed that his team was able to bring its best in the evening for the basketball game even after its long tour with the military.
"We were on our feet a lot today," he said. "It has been about six straight days spent on our feet and they responded, so I'm happy about their whole attitude. They're enjoying it and embracing the culture that we're exposing them to. At the same time, they're coming to play."
While it appeared in practice that freshman Aubrey Dawkins would be one of the top rookies this season, the 6-6, 190-pounder started slow in the overseas trip, contributing seven and six points in the first two games with three total rebounds and a lone assist.
On Wednesday, Dawkins took a more aggressive approach, and it paid off, as he tallied 14 points on 6 of 9 shooting with six rebounds.
"I think I have been getting a little more comfortable every game, and a little more of my natural game came out today," he said. "I played within the offense, so things came to me and I capitalized."
Dawkins noted that his effort on the defensive end sparked his offensive game.
"People have told me in the past that crashing the boards and getting involved in the game helps you stay in the game and not be passive on the court and zone out," he said. "It keeps you focused on doing something to help the team. That's what really got me going."
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