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UM Irvin's rise as 2-way player pleases Beilein

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — The evolution of Zak Irvin had Michigan basketball coach John Beilein raving Monday.

And not just about the 22 points Irvin scored in a huge 61-56 victory over then-No. 18 Purdue two days earlier.

It's that Irvin did all that on offense, despite playing grueling, tiring defense on Purdue's Caleb Swanigan all game.
"Forget about the baskets," Beilein said. "That never would've happened (in previous seasons).

"It's a big step.

"I can't say enough about Zak Irvin's performance."

Swanigan, a freshman big man (6-foot-9), had 14 points in the game, but missed two critical shots in the final minutes as Michigan held Purdue without a point over the final three-plus minutes.

Irvin was in the thick of that.

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Beilein describes a two-way player as having to do push-ups on defense and then sprints on offense.

Beilein said when he does push-ups and then tries to get on the treadmill, his heart is already racing.

That's big-time development for Irvin, who came to Michigan as just a scorer — as so many big-time recruits do, given the high-school game is mostly about what a player can do with the scoreboard.

Beilein said Irvin's development is impressive, given he missed so much time following offseason back surgery.

"I was just now complimenting him on how he's grown," Beilein said. "Next year, with a full summer, he might have to do different types of weight-lifting and different types of leg-building and glute-building.

"He can really be a special player next year, the way he's playing. The grit, right now."

Tunnel vision

Beilein didn't want to get into his team's NCAA Tournament resume.

But he knows Tuesday's game against Ohio State is a big win, as it would give Michigan a 10th Big Ten win, including five away from home.

It would also give the Wolverines (19-7, 9-4) a bit of a cushion entering a tough stretch, which includes games against No. 5 Maryland and No. 6 Iowa, and scorching Wisconsin, as well as a home game against winnable Northwestern.

"I don't know where other people are," Beilein said. "I know you usually have to have four-to-five really good wins, you have to be able to win on the road, strong strength of schedule."

Beilein stuck to his line after Saturday's win over Purdue.

Michigan, with signature wins over Texas, Maryland and Purdue, still has work to do.

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But the signs are looking up. In ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi's latest projections Monday, Michigan was up to a No. 8 seed, from a ninth seed, and would open against Connecticut.

Slam dunks

Beilein has advanced on to the third round in the Infiniti Coaches' Charity Challenge, earning enough fan votes to stay among the leaders for a $100,000 prize for the winning coach's charity. Beilein is playing for the ChadTough Foundation, and is in second place, just behind Ohio State's Thad Matta. This round of voting continues through Feb. 28. Fans can vote at ESPN.com.

Beilein, his staff, players and fans wore ChadTough T-shirts to honor Chad Carr during Saturday's victory over Purdue.

... Beilein likes how the new charge rules have evolved, saying before, "You had to be there the day before in order to get a charge." He's still getting used to the shorter shot clock, though. Michigan has suffered many shot-clock violations this season.

... Tuesday marks the first time UM and OSU have met when both are unranked in more than seven years.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/tonypaul1984

Michigan at Ohio State

Tip-off: 7 Tuesday, Value City Arena, Columbus, Ohio

TV/radio: ESPN/WWJ

Records: Michigan 19-7 (9-4 Big Ten); Ohio State 16-10, (8-5)

Outlook: Both teams are fighting for their NCAA Tournament lives, though Michigan has the better resume, so far, by far. Ohio State's one quality win came way back in December, when it beat then-No. 4 Kentucky, now ranked No. 14. ... Marc Loving (12.5 ppg), Keita Bates-Diop (12.1 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.2 bpg) and Jae'Sean Tate (11.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg) lead the Buckeyes on offense.

Purdue guard Kendall Stephens (21) defends a shot attempt from Michigan guard Zak Irvin (21) in the second half.