Strong offensive showings lead Wolverines to dominant wins against Wildcats, Hoosiers

Junior Eli Brooks was the hot hand on offense for the Wolverines and finished with 18 points (including 4-8 shooting from deep) Photo//Nam Y. Huh/AP

Michigan 79, Northwestern 54

The Wolverines started the game slowly on the road in Evanston, Illinois Wednesday night. They missed their first ten shots from the field before closing out the half on a 32-10 run and sinking 13 of their next 20 attempts to build up a 15-point lead at halftime. Out of the break, Michigan increased their lead to 20 and maintained control the rest of the way for a 79-54 blowout victory. The road win was just their second in seven games this year. 

After Michigan started the game missing several easy looks at the rim, junior Eli Brooks drained two threes to settle down the offense. The Wolverines then found a nice balance in the post with senior Austin Davis, who totaled seven points off the bench in the first half off a couple of sweet reverses with his left hand. Junior Isaiah Livers closed out the final minutes of the half with six points to help Michigan build a commanding 38-23 lead. 

The Wildcats showed some signs of life in the second half by cutting the deficit 61-48 with under six minutes to play, but Livers erased any doubt with one of the many vicious slams he had on the night. On a beautiful defense to offense sequence, freshman Franz Wagner and senior Jon Teske each blocked Miller Kopp’s attempt at the rim, while sophomore David DeJulius secured the rebound and delivered a nice feed to Livers in the middle of the floor for a nasty flush. 

Michigan was led by a strong performance from both Brooks (18 points on 4-8 shooting from deep) and Livers (17 points, five rebounds), who was an uncharacteristic 0-5 from deep, but had success driving to the rim and went a perfect 7-7 from the free-throw line. Davis and DeJulius were both solid off the bench with nine and seven points, respectively. Despite the poor start, the Wolverines finished shooting 47% from the field and 35% from three. 

It was a quiet night for both senior leaders as Zavier Simpson had four points and Teske finished with six. Simpson sat out a majority of the first half with two fouls and was not asked to do a whole lot in the second half due to the massive lead. Teske had trouble all night converting from in close (3-14 on FG’s) despite the mismatch in the post against the smaller and inexperienced Wildcats. While it was not their most memorable performance, both Simpson and Teske reached 104 wins with the victory over Northwestern, which ties them with four former Wolverines, including National Champion Glen Rice, for the most career wins in Michigan Basketball history.

The Wildcats were led by Jaden Jones’ 12 points and Kopp’s 10. It has been tough sledding this season for the youngest team in the Big Ten. Tuesday’s defeat was the eighth in a row for Northwestern and the Wildcats still have only posted one conference win on the year, which came against second-to-last place Nebraska.

Michigan 89, Indiana 65

Junior Eli Brooks was the hot hand on offense for the Wolverines and finished with 18 points (including 4-8 shooting from deep)
Photo//Nam Y. Huh/AP

The Wolverines turned in their best offensive performance of the season, headlined by Zavier Simpson’s seventh game of the year with 10+ assists. After a high-scoring first half, the Michigan defense was able to stiffen up and the Wolverines kept rolling on offense en route to a 89-65 blowout victory. 

The beginning of Sunday afternoon gave a similar feeling to the Wolverines’ 103-91 home win against Iowa back in December. Both defenses were having trouble stopping the others’ offense and the game headed into halftime with the score 41-34 in favor of Michigan. While the Wolverine offense was operating on full cylinders, the Hoosiers were shooting 50% entering the break. 

In the second half, the Wolverines defense settled down and the offense kept rolling. Michigan was able to build their lead to 62-42 less than eight minutes into the second half and the Hoosiers would not come within 17 points for the rest of the contest. It was smooth sailing for most of the second half, excluding another Isaiah Livers injury scare. Livers came up wincing in pain after rolling his right ankle midway through the second half. After going to the locker room as a precaution, Livers returned to play a couple more possessions before checking out amidst the big lead. 

Michigan was able to do whatever they wanted on offense and it started with the lane penetration by Simpson. The Hoosiers tried to pressure Simpson by hedging the ball screens, but it was no trouble for the senior captain, who finished the game with 11 assists and only one turnover. Whether it was finding open teammates on the perimeter or taking it to the rim himself, Simpson sliced through the defense at will and left Indiana and head coach Archie Miller guessing the whole contest.

Michigan had five players finish in double figures and were led in scoring by freshman Franz Wagner’s 16 points. Wagner also pulled down eight boards to turn in a fine performance in front of his brother and former Michigan standout Mo Wagner, who came back to Ann Arbor for reunion weekend. Sophomore Brandon Johns Jr. turned in another strong performance with 14 points and five rebounds off the bench. Johns Jr. was aggressive inside, drawing four fouls and was money with the corner three (3-3). 

Livers and Simpson each totaled 12 points each, while Austin Davis continued his steady play with nine points and five rebounds off the bench. It was one of the best shooting performances of the season for Michigan (57% on field goals and 53% from deep), who also dominated the Big Ten’s third best rebounding team on the glass 37-21. Entering the contest with the most free throw attempts in the Big Ten (22% of their offense), Michigan’s defense did a good job of limiting the Hooiser’s trips to the line (12 attempts in the game, 11 in the second half). 

Al Durham and De’Ron Davis combined to score 35 of Indiana’s points. Durham finished with 17, while Davis had 18 on a perfect 9-9 from the field. Indiana finished shooting 46% on field goals, but only 3-12 on three-point attempts. The Hoosiers were limited to a post-dominant halfcourt offense for most of the contest as Michigan took care of the basketball to lessen transition opportunities and played strong defense without fouling. 

Both victories move Michigan to (16-9, Big Ten 7-7). They are now tied for 8th place with Ohio State in the Big Ten standings. Maryland and Penn State continue to distance themselves at the top of the Big Ten, but third and 13th place are only separated by two games. With six games left, the Wolverines have a good opportunity to improve their conference seeding come March.  

Michigan will begin a two game road trip starting on Wednesday night against Rutgers (18-9, Big Ten 9-6) at 7:00 p.m. on the Big Ten Network. On Saturday afternoon, Michigan will travel to West Lafayette, Indiana to take on Purdue (14-12, Big Ten 7-8) at 2:00 p.m. on ESPN.