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Zak Irvin gets cold at worst time for Michigan

James Hawkins
The Detroit News
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Michigan assistant coach Saddi Washington talks with guard Zak Irvin in the second half.

Ann Arbor – Senior forward Zak Irvin wanted the ball in the most critical moments.

But after getting off to a hot start in Wednesday’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge game against Virginia Tech, Irvin couldn’t deliver when Michigan needed him the most.

Irvin finished with 23 points on 10-for-20 shooting but went cold over the final seven minutes, missing his last four shot attempts in a devastating 73-70 loss Wednesday at Crisler Center.

After Irvin made a layup to give Michigan a 62-52 lead with 7:23 left, he misfired on 3-pointer on Michigan’s next possession and couldn’t connect on a jumper at the 4:30 mark after a Virginia Tech three-point play cut it to 65-61.

His most crucial misses came in the final minute with the game hanging in the balance.

After Virginia Tech rallied with an 8-0 run to take a 71-67 lead with 1:02 left, Irvin airballed a 3-pointer that was saved by Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and led to a Duncan Robinson 3-pointer to make it a one-point game.

Then after Virginia Tech’s Seth Allen was called for an offensive foul, Irvin had a one final shot at redemption after Michigan possessed the ball trailing by one, 71-70, with 29 seconds left.

With no timeouts, the Wolverines couldn’t draw up a play and isolated Irvin. He dribbled around the perimeter before settling for a contested step-back jumper that missed short and was batted out of bounds by Michigan.

Michigan unravels late in loss to Virginia Tech

"I really just wanted to drive to the basket, try to get to the free-throw line or look for Duncan in the corner, but wasn't able to get there,” Irvin said. “So at that point, I really tried to make something work.”

Irvin said he made up his mind while he was dribbling that he was going to take the mid-range shot from the elbow instead of attacking the rim.

“My teammates believe in me. I like to take the big shot,” Irvin said. “I've made it throughout the past and I want the ball in my hands at the end of the game.

“I was able to make that shot two or three times. I felt confident in that. It was there all night. Everyone knows in a late shot clock or at the end of the game you're going to go to what you know and that's my bread and butter, so that's what I was going with.”

Bench play

Despite five players receiving minutes off the bench, only Robinson provided some offensive production with 15 points on 6-for-11 shooting, including 3-for-8 from 3-point range. He also drew a couple key charges in the second half.

"He was a huge spark plug for us,” Irvin said. “He brought a lot of energy coming off the bench. He was able to make big shots for us and also defensively with guys being able to take charges. That's huge for our defense. We just got to keep that going forward."

Redshirt junior Mark Donnal (0-for-1) and freshman wing Ibi Watson (0-for-1) each attempted a shot, while freshman guard Xavier Simpson battled foul trouble and freshman center Jon Teske played in a couple short stints.

Yet Michigan coach John Beilein said he wasn’t concerned with only one bench player scoring in addition to the starting five.

“It worries me that we're not getting more minutes out of that. They're in the 1-and-1 right away, Xavier has got two fouls right away,” Beilein said. “This is a process that we all go through to get better.

“So I did like what Jon gave us off the bench. It was limited minutes and they were going small and that's a tough guard for Jon right now when they go small.”

Missing Wilson

For redshirt sophomore D.J. Wilson, battling foul trouble is starting to become a trend.

After leading the team in fouls entering Wednesday’s game, Wilson fouled out for the first time this season with 3:03 left in the game.

Wilson’s absence was sorely missed on defense down the stretch as Virginia Tech used a small lineup and scored on seven of their last 10 possessions. He was benched after picking up his fourth with 7:44 remaining and didn’t return until the 3:48 mark.

Wilson finished with two points on 1-for-4 shooting, three rebounds and a block in 11 minutes.

"They were finding mismatches. They played small ball for those last six, eight minutes and it was tough with our five man guarding their four man,” Irvin said. “Once D.J. fouled out, it was really tough for us.”

jhawkins@detroitnews.com

Twitter @jamesbhawkins

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