ANN ARBOR—Michigan freshman wing Zak Irvin has been huge at times off the bench for the 21st ranked Wolverines this season.
Shooting just over 40-percent from three-point land through 18 games, Irvin again was a key contributor in Wednesday night’s win over No. 10 Iowa.
Irvin scored 11-points, including three triples, in 16 minutes of action.
“We’re not 6-0 in the league right now, or we wouldn’t have won this stretch, if Zak hadn’t done the Stanford, the Minnesota games, I mean, those are huge wins for us when we didn’t have a lot of this confidence,” Beilein said.
“Now he gets an opportunity today because we were playing seven guys and he really delivered, and his defense is getting better as well.”
Perhaps the biggest play of the night for Irvin against Iowa didn’t come in the form of a swish of the net though.
With the Hawkeyes inching closer and closer, a three-point attempt clanged off the rim and into the right corner just in front of the Michigan bench. Between two Iowa players, Irvin ran down the offensive rebound, eventually giving Michigan another possession.
On the next two sequences following a timeout, Irvin knocked down a three and finished a lay-up in transition to bump the Wolverines lead back up to 67-60.
“He wasn’t getting 50-50 balls earlier in the year,” Beilein said. “He was more apt to, unsure of his role, what can I do to help this team; I got to make shots.
“Between a lot of work by all of our coaching staff and him being a good student of the game and a willing student, he loves that role too. I can be more than just be a shooter.”
No. 21 Michigan (14-4, 6-0) next travels to East Lansing Saturday night to take on No. 3 Michigan State (17-1, 6-0).
The match-up will pin two rivals against one another in the first of two battles this season, while the match-up within the match-up will feature former high school teammates, Irvin and Spartan sophomore Gary Harris, as rivals for the first time.
“I don’t think I’ve ever actually played against him in a real game before,” Irvin said. “This is going to be our first time going against each other.”
While Harris and Irvin have remained in contact, Irvin says they won’t be touching base leading up to this game.