Michigan junior Zak Irvin discusses his new role as defensive stopper and more.

Michigan junior Zak Irvin discusses his new role as defensive stopper and more.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Defense used to be a bonus when it came to describing Zak Irvin’s basketball skill-set.

If he had had defense in his arsenal, Irvin just didn’t bring it out too much. In fact, he instead focused his game on the offensive end.

“Really, as a freshman I had one mindset and that was to come in and be a sparkplug off the bench for us freshman year,” said Irvin , who now in the middle of his junior season. “So I wasn’t really worried about my defense. But as I’ve gotten older I know how much of an impact (playing defense) can make.”

Well, that was the case in Michigan’s 81-68 win at Nebraska on Saturday, when Irvin had the task of guarding Cornhuskers star guard, Shavon Shields, holding him to 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting in his new defensive stopper role.

“We have a lot of people on this team who have the ability to score the basketball,” Irvin said. “So I was just trying to do a good job on Shields, and I was able to do that.”

Adding: “Really just see how the flow of the game is going,” Irvin said of his role this season. “Just teams I have been playing lately it’s whoever I’ve been matched up on, some off the best players in the conference. I just take prided in trying to do my best against them.”

And Irvin will have his next chance to show off his defensive skills tonight, when U-M (15-5, 5-2 Big Ten) plays host to Nebraska (6-14, 0-7) at 7 p.m.

“We can’t take any team lightly,” Irvin said of Rutgers. “I think everyone on the team knows that. Even though Rutgers hasn’t won a game in the Big Ten, they are still able to compete in some games in the Big Ten. We just got to come out and play our game.”    

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