By Daniel Feldman, Daily Sports Writer
Published November 4, 2013
Against Concordia last Tuesday, freshman guard Derrick Walton Jr. had to wait four minutes before he entered the game. In the Michigan men’s basketball team’s second exhibition game on Monday, he didn’t have to wait at all.
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This time around, it took a bit for him to get going in Michigan’s final preseason tuneup — a 79-60 win over Wayne State.
Starting for the first time — which won’t count since it was just an exhibition — Walton looked shaky and, well, like a freshman. After scoring 11 points off the bench last week, it took him nearly 13 minutes to score his first point on Monday. After missing his first shot on an air ball, Walton grabbed one rebound before being taken out in place of last game’s starter, sophomore guard Spike Albrecht.
Albrecht shined in his initial minutes of play, entering in after five minutes of action. He looked in control against the Warriors, making a 3-pointer and a driving layup in less than two minutes of play. Despite his strong performance early on, Albrecht played just 13 minutes, compared to Walton’s 27.
One freshman did stand out coming off the bench. With the game still relatively close after almost eight minutes of action, forward Zak Irvin knocked down three consecutive 3-pointers to push Michigan’s lead from four to eight. He would finish with 13 points.
“I wanted to get Derrick and Zak as many minutes as we could out there,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “I think they needed to get out there and make some mistakes and have some success. And they did both of those things today.”
Walton finally got going and found success when he reentered the game. With 5:46 left in the first half, Walton finally looked more relaxed and like the dynamic player we saw against Concordia. Stealing the ball from mid-court, Walton drove toward the basket with sophomore guard Nik Stauskas on his left. With a man in the lane, Walton dished the ball off to Stauskas, who got the layup and drew the foul for what would be a 3-point play.
“He used the same little catch from behind there (as Trey Burke),” Beilein said. “He did that in the last game as well. I really like his potential to play really good on-the-ball defense. They were running some action today that we’ve yet to think about a little bit and he spotted it right away and called it out, which is really rare for a point guard.”
With that basket and the foul shot, Michigan was finally able to push the lead past 10 points for the first time and comfortably keep the double-digit lead for the rest of the contest. It was after that scoring play, too, that Walton was finally able to make his first shot from the field, as he completed a 4-point play after getting knocked down on a three from the corner.
Walton would go onto lead the team with four assists, tied with the Wolverines’ leading scorer, Stauskas, who had 17 points to go with six rebounds. Michigan’s other double-digit scorers were sophomores Glen Robinson III and Caris LeVert, who had 15 and 16 points, respectively.
Despite Michigan’s strong shooting from the field and behind the arc – 15-23 and 7-11 respectively – in the first half, Wayne State’s five 3-pointers – including three by the Warriors’ leading scorer Bryan Coleman – and 13-to-12 advantage on the glass allowed it to stick with the Wolverines for most of the first half. For the game, Wayne State would outrebound Michigan 36-31, including 15-6 on the offensive boards.
“They were just crashing the board or following their own shots,” Beilein said. “Coleman got several of those. So that’s a whole thing we need to keep working on. Jon rebounded really well. But the other guys, we need to get more rebounds out of them. I think they outrebounded us last year and a couple years ago, too.”
While it never appeared Michigan would lose the game, there weren’t any big scoring bursts like the Wolverines’ 46-10 run to end the first half last week that completely put the game out of hand. As a result, just one of the other four freshmen – forward Mark Donnal – saw any action. The quartet played 17 combined minutes last week.