Another Saturday in December, another blowout in the Crisler Center. A week after the Michigan basketball team breezed past Houston Baptist, 82-57, the Wolverines demolished Delaware State, 80-33. An 82-58 loss to SMU earlier in the week took the wind out of its sails, but Michigan had a lot to like about its game Saturday. Here are Five Key Plays:
1) Duncan starts it off
Things looked different for the Wolverines from before the opening tip Saturday. That’s because, after nine games of starting sophomore forward Aubrey Dawkins, Michigan coach John Beilein decided to start redshirt sophomore forward Duncan Robinson instead.
Despite coming off the bench in every game this season, Robinson was second on the team in points per game behind senior guard Caris LeVert. That scoring ability was on display early against the Hornets, as Robinson got the scoring started in a game-opening 27-8 run that buried Delaware State.
“We feel right now our flow defensively and offensively is better as a starter for Duncan,” Beilein said. “Get him in there and let him go and get more scorers out there. He and Aubrey do a lot of things very similar, there’s just a different flow right now with him. I think it makes other guys better.”
By the game’s end, Robinson had tallied 11 points, three assists and four rebounds, a quality first start in a Michigan uniform.
2) Dakich ditches redshirt, drives to hoop
Michigan fans may have been surprised at how quickly junior guard Andrew Dakich entered the first game since burning his redshirt Friday, but they were even more surprised at how quickly he made his impact known.
Before the broadcasters could even finish explaining Dakich’s background, the junior drove to the hoop for an easy layup.
Dakich only ended up with four points, two rebounds and three assists in 20 minutes, but it was a huge step forward after largely struggling in 13 games last season.
“Last year, I literally peed down my leg every single game,” Dakich said. “Last year, I was pretty scared of my own shadow, to be honest.
“I had a blast out there today. I didn’t really have a blast last year.”
Dakich likely won’t have a huge impact on the Wolverines in games this season once junior guard Derrick Walton returns from ankle injury, but for Dakich to look and feel comfortable in games is a tremendous addition to Michigan’s depth.
3) Kam Chatman has a day
Sophomore forward Kam Chatman didn’t match his career high in points scored, but he may have had the best sequence of his career midway through the first half as he checked into the game as Michigan’s first wing off the bench.
In less than two miutes of game time, Chatman notched five points, two assists and a rebound, and was more involved offensively than he had been all season. He also ended the game with a season-high 10 points on six shots to go with three rebounds and three assists.
“I felt pretty good,” Chatman said. “My teammates were looking for me, and knocking down shots is always great, but just starting on the defensive end and rebounding is what I tried to focus on, and the offense just came to me.
“Coach really emphasized to me to just be prepared to play no matter when I get in.”
Chatman, who is averaging just over nine minutes per game, saw game action earlier than usual Saturday, and made the most of it.
“He made shots, but I don’t want that to be the main indicator whether Kam plays or not,” Beilein said after the win. “I want to indicator to be can he guard his man, can he rebound, can he get on the floor for a ball? That’s just gravy when he gives us that (scoring threat), it’s great, but he’s not in the lineup for that role right now. His primary role is to guard the heck out of somebody and rebound.”
4) Zak Irvin elevates
Through nine games, something had been off about Zak Irvin. The junior forward had been productive and valuable toward the team’s success, but had yet to show the offensive explosiveness that many had come to expect after his strong finish to last season.
That changed on Saturday, when Irvin drove to the rim and finished with a massive slam. Then, on the very next possession, he did it again.
Irvin (18.4 percent from behind the arc) is still looking for his 3-point shooting touch, but his line Saturday — 12 points, eight rebounds, two assists and two steals — suggests that the poor percentage isn’t a big problem for Michigan yet. Irvin is shooting 58% on twos this year, up from 45% last season, and his assist rate is also more than double his passing output last season.
5) Doyle rules the rim
Speaking of back-to-back dunks. Post play has been abysmal for most of Michigan’s season, as the four candidates to play down low (sophomore Ricky Doyle, junior Mark Donnal, redshirt freshman D.J. Wilson and freshman Moe Wagner) are combining to average just 14.9 points and 7.7 rebounds as an entire unit, and all four players struggled on Tuesday at SMU.
But against the Hornets, Ricky Doyle made his presence as well-known as at any point in the season. Powered by the consecutive dunks and the following drawn foul, Doyle ended the game with 10 points, the most by anyone down low.
As a team, the Wolverines ended up with 36 points in the paint, more than double their 16 against SMU on Tuesday.