The Wolverine

December 2018

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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DECEMBER 2018 THE WOLVERINE 45   MICHIGAN BASKETBALL "He's shooting the ball better," Beilein said. "He's a very bright young man in school. "He sees these things around him and educates the other guys. That's the biggest thing. He probably has more of the sense of a veteran than a lot of sophomores we'll have." Livers has accepted coming off the bench. "It's new for me from starting last year," Livers said. "But I agree with everything Coach B says, and if it makes sense having some leadership come off the bench I'm cool." Beilein knows Livers will success- fully step into his new situation, even if it means he isn't starting. "Isaiah is a team guy," Beilein said. "And he'll fill that role well." — Andrew Hussey Three Best Players 1. Freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis The freshman has lived up to the hype so far in Ann Arbor, leading the club in scoring (15.5 points per game) while ty- ing for second in assists (2.0 a contest) and checking in third for rebounding (5.5 per game). His best performance came in the vic- tory over Holy Cross Nov. 10, when he scored 19 points and pulled down seven boards, while making all eight of his free throw attempts. Brazdeikis single-handedly carried the Wolverine offense to open the second half against the Crusaders — U-M trailed, 24-18, at the break, before the freshman posted 15 of the team's first 18 points out of the locker room, en route to a 56-37 win. 2. Redshirt junior guard Charles Mat- thews He has averaged 15.0 points and 4.5 rebounds per game in the early going, while leading the team with 32.5 min- utes per contest. The redshirt junior was outstanding in the triumph over Holy Cross, playing 38 of 40 minutes, while tallying 20 points and connecting on four of his five free throw attempts. Matthews hasn't found his stroke from downtown yet (just 2 of 10 on three pointers so far), but has consistently shown an ability to get to and finish at the basket. 3. Sophomore forward Isaiah Livers Despite starting the second half of last year, Livers has come off the bench in U-M's first two tilts and has served in that role nicely. He has tallied 7.5 points and a team-leading 9.0 rebounds per game, after posting just 3.4 points and 2.3 rebounds a contest last year. The sophomore has also been more consistent off the bench, just barely missing double-doubles in the first two games (eight points and eight rebounds against Norfolk State, and seven points and 10 boards versus Holy Cross). Key Play Michigan trailed Holy Cross 30-28 with just more than 17 minutes remaining in the Nov. 10 contest at Crisler Center and desperately needed someone to spark their offense. That's when Brazdeikis decided to take things into his own hands — he grabbed a rebound off a Crusader miss and took the ball all the way up the court himself, easily blowing past his defender to finish at the rim with a right-handed layup. The bucket knotted the score at 30-30, and the Maize and Blue grabbed their first lead since the 14:33 mark of the first half when Brazdeikis connected on two free throws on Michigan's next possession. Once U-M went up 32-30, it finished the game on a 24-7 run to pick up an easy 56-37 victory. Best Highlight Michigan held a comfortable 44-25 lead over Norfolk State midway through the second half of the season opener Nov. 6 and was well on its way to victory. With 11:56 to play and U-M in its half- court offense, Livers caught a short pass from sophomore guard Jordan Poole behind the three-point line and imme- diately sprinted into the lane. Surrounded by four Norfolk State play- ers once he found himself in the circle, Livers fired a no-look pass to a waiting Brazdeikis, who only had to take one step toward the basket before throwing down an uncontested two-handed slam. The play was one of many in the season opener that displayed the freshman's immense potential. Surprise Performer Sophomore guard Eli Brooks gets the nod here. While he averaged just 5.0 points, 3.0 boards and 2.0 assists in Michigan's first two games — the fact that he's playing 21.5 minutes per outing shows how much faith head coach John Beilein has in him. Brooks has also knocked down two threes through the first two affairs, after only making 10 in 31 games all of last season. The sophomore has entrenched himself as the first guard off the bench, and appears to be well ahead of fresh- man David DeJulius (who is averaging just 2.5 minutes per tilt) on the depth chart. Bold Prediction Michigan will take down No. 7 North Carolina at Crisler Center Nov. 28. No, the Wolverines haven't exactly looked sharp through the season's first two outings, but are always a tough out in Ann Arbor (20-1 in their last 21 home games). Plus, the Tar Heels got a bit of a scare in their season opener at Wofford, leading by only three with just more than nine minutes left, before pulling out an 11-point victory. Regardless, the late November showdown will be a good test for the Wolverines to see where they stand on the na- tional stage. — Austin Fox Superlatives For Games One And Two Freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis made eight of his 19 shots in U-M's first two games for a .421 field goal percentage. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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