Ann Arbor — It was a memorable first career start for Spike Albrecht.
Albrecht, a sophomore point guard, wasn’t scheduled to start, but because of an illness to freshman Derrick Walton Jr., he got the call.
And he answered that call with his best all-around game of the season, helping topple No. 10 Iowa, 75-67, Wednesday night at Crisler Center.
“How do you think he handled it? He handled it pretty good — seven assists, zero turnovers,” coach John Beilein said.
Beilein said that Walton had a high temperature and flu-like symptoms, so there was uncertainty about how much he could play and contribute.
“He got to see the doctor and kept him away from everybody all day, so he didn’t even go to practice or see the game plan,” Beilein said. “The fever broke and he felt good today, enough to at least give us a minute or two. Spike was fine and I’m really pleased with the way he played.”
Albrecht’s seven assists were a career high and he added four steals in 35 minutes. The most critical takeaway came in the final minutes, when he broke up a fast break and found Zak Irvin for a crucial 3-pointer that boosted Michigan’s lead to 67-60 with 3:43 left.
“They had a two-on-one going and I was thinking I’m too little and I knew we were (in trouble) either way so I went for the steal,” Albrecht said. “Luckily I was able to jump it and Zak knocked down a huge shot for us.”
Of the seven assists, Beilein was most pleased with a lob pass against Iowa’s zone that provided another key basket, pushing a three-point lead to five, on a pass to Glenn Robinson III.
“The biggest assist of the game was over the top when their zone had us confused,” Beilein said. “Over the top to Robinson — it was one of bigger plays of the year.”
Albrecht, known for his performance in the national title game last season, has been a steady reserve this year, averaging 2.6 points and 2.4 assists. But he took things in stride when he found out that he was starting in place of Walton.
“I didn’t know I was starting until today at walk-through. But I still didn’t think I would play that much,” he said. “Derrick went out in the first half and I could just tell. I think he was telling the coaches (to take him out).”
Irvin bounces back
Freshman Zak Irvin had cooled off after a string of double-figure games, including a season-high 24 points against Coppin State. He had 14 against Houston Baptist and 15 at Minnesota, but hadn’t scored more than five in the last four games — including two scoreless outings.
Irvin responded Wednesday with 11 points — and three 3-pointers — in another statement game.
“We’re not 6-0 in the league (and in this stretch) if Zak hadn’t done the Stanford and Minnesota games,” Beilein said. “Those were huge wins for us. We didn’t have a lot of this confidence. He gets the opportunity today because we were playing seven guys and he really delivered. His defense is getting better, too.”
Irvin hit the 3-pointer off Albrecht’s assist, but also added two rebounds on hustle plays.
“He had a huge one in the corner. He wasn’t getting 50-50 balls earlier in the year,” Beilein said. “He was unsure of his role and just wanting to make shots. He loves that role, too — want to be more than just a shooter.”
Revenge in mind
Beilein and Michigan can look ahead to Saturday’s rivalry game at No. 3 Michigan State (18-1, 7-0). The Wolverines were embarrassed at Breslin Center last season, but hope to turn the tables.
“They really did a great job of getting into our bodies and pounding the backboard on us and Trey (Burke) got in foul trouble and they’re a terrific team,” Beilein said. “Hopefully, we’ll perform better because last year wasn’t pretty.”