August 17, 2014 at 8:05 pm

Michigan basketball team starts tour of Italy on winning note

Austin Hatch played in UM's exhibition victory over Perugia Select Team. (Clarence Tabb Jr / The Detroit News)

After losing three starters and two more key players from last season’s team, Michigan took the court for the first time with a much younger Wolverines squad than the one that reached the Elite Eight last term.

UM played its first of four exhibition games in Italy, trouncing the Perugia Select Team on Sunday, 99-60, in Rome.

All 12 healthy players were in the game for Michigan, including freshman Austin Hatch, who survived two plane crashes that killed his parents and siblings.

Sophomore Zak Irvin led the Wolverines with 27 points — including all five of his 3-point attempts — and added 11 rebounds and four assists. Junior Caris LeVert, recovering from foot surgery, added 11 points, seven rebounds, six assists and five steals.

“I really shot the ball well today; however, I have to give my teammates credit because they were looking for me and getting me the ball,” Irvin said. “The big thing for me was getting to the hole and I was able to do that. I was able to score inside and outside. It was a great start for us, a great game and hopefully we can keep this going.”

Besides the performances by Irvin and LeVert, the star of the day was Hatch, who was scoreless in three minutes, but drew applause from the crowd.

“It was a special moment,” coach John Beilein said. “It’s something he has worked very hard for. It was a great moment for our team; however, it was truly special for Austin and his grandfather, Jim, who was here in the stands.”

For Hatch, who moved from his hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana to California to finish high school after the second crash, the highlight was singing the fight song, “The Victors,” after the victory.

“It was unreal. To lead the team in the fight song after the game is a big tradition. I learned that early on in the recruiting process and watched UM sing it a lot on my visits,” Hatch said. “I always thought to myself, ‘I hope someday I am in position to be able to do that.’

“Just like everything else that happened today, it was just unreal to be able to do that.”

The game was played under FIBA rules, which includes four 10-minute quarters and a 24-second shot clock.

Michigan jumped to an early 13-3 lead in the first quarter behind Irvin and freshman Kameron Chatman, who had nine of his 12 points in the first half.

UM’s starters included LeVert, Irvin, Chatman, Derrick Walton Jr. (10 points, five rebounds and three assists) and freshman Mark Donnal, who had six points and five rebounds.

The game wasn’t close after a 39-13 first-quarter lead and pushed to 64-28 at halftime.

The Wolverines next play on Tuesday against the Vicenza All-Stars.

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

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