Even before last week’s tournament, the Michigan men’s basketball team knew it couldn’t rely solely on its star players to win games when competition was getting bigger and better.

The Wolverines needed their young big men to not only step up defensively against more veteran-laden teams, but also score.

The man to step up last week was freshman forward Ricky Doyle, who continued his strong play against Syracuse on Tuesday by contributing 12 points and six rebounds.

Perhaps lost in the shuffle of five double-digit scorers against Syracuse was another freshman forward, Kameron Chatman.

Posting a near double-double with 10 points and a team-leading nine rebounds, Chatman kept Michigan within striking distance in the first half as he helped break down the Orange’s 2-3 zone defense.

“That would have been an eight-point, 10-point game at half if it weren’t for Kam,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “He got rebounds, he saw out of the post, made a couple 15-footers. … He’s getting more comfortable now with who he is and how he fits in what we’re doing.”

After seeing his minutes decrease against Villanova and Oregon — playing 19 and 15, respectively — the lone freshman starter could have grown discouraged as Doyle’s minutes increased and Beilein relied on a two-point guard system. Instead, Chatman took advantage of sophomore guard Derrick Walton Jr.’s absence against Nicholls State, taking a then-career-high eight shots and adding a career-high 11 points and eight boards.

Though the Colonels weren’t the level of competition of the Wildcats and Ducks, Chatman’s play was important leading into one of Michigan’s marquee non-conference games, especially in the first half.

After shooting 36 percent from the field and making just three 3-pointers in the first 20 minutes of action, Michigan sought to get Chatman more looks from the elbow and used him to help facilitate kick-outs to 3-point shooters.

“We wanted to drive more, and that opened up the game,” Doyle said. “Kam getting those shots from the free-throw line, just getting in the middle of the zone, really opened it up to get those 3-point shots we wanted and dump-offs.”

As critical as it was for Chatman to find open looks from the middle of the paint, his ability to play beyond the arc and connect from deep was just as crucial for the Wolverines.

With the Orange chipping away a 10-point Michigan lead late in the game, Chatman made a triple from the left side of the court to break up a 6-0 spurt from Syracuse. After missing his previous two attempts from beyond the arc, the corner three showed off the confidence he has been conjuring in practice.

“It’s huge,” Doyle said. “Kam has been working hard. He’s always in the gym, shooting his jump shots. We all believe in him. We always know what he can do, and today he showed it.”

Added junior guard Spike Albrecht: “Having a game like that as a freshman, you know it’s a confidence booster, and it’s what (the freshmen) need. We need them to play well if we want to be successful.”

While Chatman’s performance against the Orange was encouraging, Beilein said his growth is still a work in progress.

“He’s still learning where, you know, he’s going to learn for four years,” Beilein said. “He’s still learning all the time where he fits in what we’re trying to do. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s, ‘well, OK, let’s watch the video and get better.’ ”

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