If Michigan plays as well on the road next season as it has during its exhibition tour in Italy, it could be another stellar season and raise expectations.
The Wolverines dismantled the Vicenza All-Stars, 93-53, Tuesday in the second game of their four-game schedule at PalaGoldoni.
Zak Irvin had 18 points and six rebounds, freshman Kameron Chatman 17 points and six rebounds and freshman Ricky Doyle 15 points and 14 rebounds in UM’s second straight dominating performance.
Even in the lopsided win, coach John Beilein found some positives and negatives from his a young team that’s working six freshmen into the mix.
“It was just good to see them play together because we did make some steps in the last game and we also discovered some things we have to work on a lot,” Beilein said. “There are so many opportunities for us to get better, including turnovers and missed foul shots. What I’m proud of is that fourth quarter; we held them to eight points.”
Irvin, who had 27 points and made all five of his 3-pointers in the opening win against the Perugia Select Team, went 4-of-5 on 3-pointers. With Irvin likely moving into a starting role and Michigan looking for another scorer to complement Caris LeVert (14 points), Irvin is making a good impression.
“I’m really in a great rhythm right now. The ball has been falling in warm-ups, but I have to give credit to my teammates, who keep finding me when I’m open,” Irvin said. “They’re the ones helping me knock down these shots.”
The standout performance from Doyle was notable, with UM searching for consistency in the post, after the departures of the top three big men from last season. Doyle, at 6-foot-9, could be one of the primary options, along with redshirt freshman Mark Donnal (six points, five rebounds).
“There were two things that Ricky really did well: rebound in traffic and finish in traffic,” Beilein said. “Those are big things for us. He’s only 6-9, but he plays even bigger than that on some occasions and today was one of them.”
Another freshman, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, is has been making a mark by slashing in the lane and getting to the free-throw line after being fouled.
Abdur-Rahkman finished with 13 points, including 7 of 11 free throws. That versatility could be crucial in establishing a variety on offense, as UM looks to replace Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary, who all left for the NBA.
“Muhammad has really gone out there and used his speed, where he has been able to get to the foul line again — that’s two games in a row,” Beilein said. “Right now, I think what we are valuing is his ability to see the floor when he’s going his quickest.”
For Abdur-Rahkman, getting the chance to play in the exhibition games before the season starts provides an additional benefit: getting to bond with his teammates and getting some hands-on work in Beilein’s system.
“It’s been a great experience (so far). Not many people get the chance to play as a freshman before the season starts. It gives you a good chance to get in a rhythm with the team and work on good chemistry,” Abdur-Rahkman said. “I think I’ve played decent; the team is playing better so it doesn’t really matter how I’m playing as long as the team is winning and I can contribute.”
Michigan next plays Wednesday against Petrarca Padova in Vicenza.