The Wolverine

April 2019

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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30 THE WOLVERINE APRIL 2019   MICHIGAN BASKETBALL Iowa he was disappointed at being left off the All-Defensive Team. "I can't control what other people think about me," he said. "I think I'm a pretty good defender. I locked up a lot of those coaches' players, with all due respect." — Chris Balas FRESHMAN IGNAS BRAZDEIKIS HAS BEEN HEATING UP While Michigan freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis hasn't played in an NCAA Tournament, he's more than ready to step up for the Wolverines. In four out of Michigan's last five games leading up to the Big Dance, he was U-M's leading scorer. Against Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament final, Brazdeikis played 38 minutes and scored a team- high 19 points. In U-M's three Big Ten Tournament games, he shot 43.6 percent from three- point range, which raised his season average to 42.0 percent, behind only sophomore forward Isiah Livers (45.0). Beyond his offensive prowess, Braz- deikis brings an intensity and edge to Michigan that the Wolverines will need to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. "Me and [sophomore] Jordan [Poole] bring a lot of swagger to the team," Brazdeikis said. "With our celebrations and the confidence that we have on the court, I feel as though it brings the whole confidence of the team up. "Our bench is super happy every time we get a bucket. We look over and everyone is cheering. It's a lot of fun." Brazdeikis plays with bluster and has stepped up his play on the defen- sive end as well. Against Minnesota in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tourna- ment, he helped to shut down Jordan Murphy, who only had 10 points after going for 27 the game before against Purdue. "He's learned that, yes, I can front a big guy," Michigan head coach John Beilein said. "He's learned that it's tough guarding a big guy, but it's tough for that guy to guard me, too." Michigan held Murphy — a first- team All-Big Ten pick according to the league's media — to 5-of-10 shooting from the field. "He's one of the best players in the league for sure," Brazdeikis told re- porters after the Minnesota game. "I like to match up with him, and I get excited for those kind of matchups." Brazdeikis has also embraced the role of villain this season for the Wol- verines. When Michigan played at Maryland March 3, he heard chants of, 'You are ugly,' when he stepped to the free throw line. It didn't seem to faze him as he scored a game-high 21 points, helping Michigan win. "Even before the game started they were on me," Brazdeikis said. "I em- brace that kind of intensity, and I love crowds like that. It motivates me and makes me more hungry. "I embrace every second of it, and as much as they think they're getting in my head, that's actually fuel for me. I feed off that all day long." Against the Terrapins, he was Michi- gan's primary scoring option with red- shirt junior wing Charles Matthews out due to an ankle injury. "It was interesting, I had a lot of dif- ferent matchups on me this game," Brazdeikis said after the victory. "I'm always ready to be aggressive, and our offense puts me in a lot of different po- sitions to attack, to make plays. "And today they couldn't stay in front of me." — Andrew Hussey MISCELLANEOUS NOTES • Michigan's 65-60 loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament champion- ship game March 17 marked the first time that either club had beaten the other three times in one season. It also signaled the Wolverines' first setback in the annual event since they fell to Purdue 76-59 in the semifinals on March 12, 2016. • As of March 18, sophomore forward Isaiah Livers' three-point shooting per- centage of 45.0 was the best in the Big Ten, while freshman forward Ignas Braz- deikis' 42.0 was seventh. • As of March 18, the top 29 rebounders in the Big Ten all stood 6-5 or taller — with the exception of junior guard Zavier Simpson (6-0), whose 4.9 boards per game checked in 27th in the conference. • Michigan's 69-62 win at No. 17 Maryland March 3 was the Terrapins' first (and only) home conference loss of the year. • The Wolverines' No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament ties the highest seed they've ever received under head coach John Beilein (since 2007-08), with 2014 being the lone other time they received a No. 2 seed. — Austin Fox Brazdeikis was the Wolverines' leading scorer in four of their five contests leading up to the NCAA Tournament, and he has emerged as the team's second-best three-point shooter at 42.0 percent. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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