Spike steps up in Walton’s absence

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By Simon Kaufman, Daily Sports Writer
Published January 22, 2014

Sophomore guard Spike Albrecht found himself in a new position Wednesday: a starter. Albrecht played well in the Michigan men’s basketball team’s win over No. 10 Iowa and got the start because usual starter, freshman guard Derrick Walton had the flu.

It was Albrecht’s first career start for the Wolverines (6-0 Big Ten, 14-4 overall), and he helped lead them to a 75-67 win. The 5-foot-11 guard usually comes off the bench and shares minutes with Walton. Save for Walton’s three minutes and a short stint midway through the second half when Michigan coach John Beilein had sophomore guard Caris LeVert takeover, Albrecht logged the bulk of the minutes at point.

“They told me at the walk around today that I was starting,” Albrecht said. “I thought (Walton) was going to play more than that. He went in and I could just tell he was grabbing his stomach, and I kinda figured I was gonna be the guy the rest of the way.”

Albrecht made the most of the opportunity, but said he didn’t treat the game any differently being in the starting five.

His biggest contribution against the 10th-ranked Hawkeyes (4-2, 15-4) was what he did sharing the ball. Albrecht helped Michigan control the pace of the game against a Hawkeye team that came into the game averaging 86.8 points per game — the best in the Big Ten — and limiting opponents to 66.6 points.

Iowa coach Fran McCaffery was impressed, and complimented Albrecht’s smart play, calling him “a guy that understands how to win.”

Albrecht finished with seven assists, highlighted by a pass over the top of a confused Iowa defense to sophomore forward Glenn Robinson III who finished with an easy put in. The basket stretched the Wolverines’ lead to five with just more than two minutes left in the game.

The Crown Point, Ind. native shot 2-for-4 from the field and knocked down two free throws late in the game to help No. 21 Michigan ice the game. His 3-pointer late in the first half put the Wolverines up three and set them up for an 11-6 run to close the half.

Albrecht also chipped in with four of Michigan’s nine steals on defense, which led to nine points in transition, including freshman guard Zak Irvin’s corner 3-pointer late in the game to stop an Iowa surge.

“Spike is a composed player,” said fifth-year senior Jordan Morgan. “He stepped up. He played big — I mean seven assists, no turn overs, that’s huge. He’s a solid player. He’s a fighter, scrappy guy and we knew he’d step in and have big minutes for us.”

Beilein was visibly pleased with Albrecht’s play after the game and called his late-game assist to Robinson “one of the bigger plays this year.”

Assuming Walton is healthy, Albrecht will likely be back on the bench at the beginning of Saturday night’s game against Michigan State. But Albrecht is certainly giving Beilein a reason to find him more minutes.