Team 101

Notebook: Irvin’s passing, Wagner’s shot

Zak Irvin and Moe Wagner are both using technology to regain their shooting stroke.

After dealing with the flu, Zak Irvin has struggled the past two games. In addition to his shooting woes, he’s totaled five assists against six turnovers. For the season, his assist and turnover rates are the highest of his career (slightly higher than last season), but he’s forced too much lately.

John Beilein said the issue may sound like a contradiction: “His assist numbers are down because he’s looking to assist too much. As a result, everyone plays him to pass. Especially in the ball screen, he has to be more aggressive. That’s the way he was last year.”

Beilein likes how Irvin, at 6’6”, can see over the defense coming off ball screens. He wants Irvin to have a scorer’s mentality and set up a teammate if a second defender shows, not drive with the intent to pass.

That typically hasn’t been a problem for Irvin. Earlier in the season, he said, “My mindset coming off ball screens is to score.”

His three-point shot has been inconsistent this year, but he’s proven effective in the mid-range and at the rim as well.

Beilein said Irvin’s recent performances on the shooting gun during practice have been “tremendous.”

“He’s got to get through this (rough spell) and get some confidence back,” Beilein said. “If you go and make 500 shots on the gun, you can get your confidence back.”

As Beilein touched on last week, Irvin has earned the right to play through his mini slump.

“That young man has done so much over his four years. We’ve ridden that horse a long time. We’re not getting off that horse. He’s still going to have great opportunities.”

Moe’s arc

Moritz Wagner is shooting 41 percent (26 of 63) from three this season. But he’s just 1 of 7 over his last three games. There is at least one airball during that stretch and several more that weren’t all that close.

If you’ve thought his shot trajectory has been particularly high lately, it’s not your imagination. John Beilein noticed it too, and had Wagner practice using technology that measures arc.

The optimal shooting arc is between 43 and 47 degrees. Wagner’s was at 53 degrees at the start of yesterday’s practice. By the time he was done, he got the arc down and found much greater consistency. It’s a technique Beilein often uses with a player who is struggling with his shot (if a player is shooting well, Beilein leaves him alone).

“He’s got to get the seams (of the basketball),” Beilein said. “He didn’t have good rotation. (He was) trying to shoot too quick. If he’s got to shoot that quick, he probably shouldn’t shoot it.”

Wagner was appreciative of the guidance. “He’s a fantastic coach in terms of shooting. That’s his baby I would say.”

As Wagner proved he could hit the open shot, opponents haven’t left him as much as they did earlier in the season. Tomorrow’s opponent, Michigan State, didn’t give Wagner many looks in Michigan’s pick-and-pop action (he was 1 of 2 from deep). But there have been several good opportunities where Wagner has simply shot the ball too high. If he can carry his recent work into the game, expect a lower launch angle and a higher rate of success.

Michigan hoping to contain Bridges

In the first meeting against the Wolverines, Michigan State freshman Miles Bridges posted 15 points, 13 rebounds, and a combined five steals and blocks in a 70-62 win. According to Beilein, containing Bridges is the key to slowing down the Spartans.

“Miles Bridges can go both ways, he can finish with both hands, and now he’s an elite three-point shooter,” Beilein explained. “It’s a really tough guard. We’re going to have to give a lot of help with him.”

While Beilein admitted that helping against Bridges can be trouble with Matt McQuaid, Alvin Ellis, and Eron Harris as capable shooters on the wings, the Wolverines might have to live with that decision after watching the athletic freshman slash to the basket with ease down the stretch during the game in East Lansing.

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