The Wolverine

April 2019

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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APRIL 2019 THE WOLVERINE 31   MICHIGAN BASKETBALL Three Best Players 1. Freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis He was consistently outstanding in Michigan's eight-game stretch from Feb. 21 through March 17, scoring 15 or more points in six of the eight affairs. In fact, the three-tilt stretch against Nebraska, Maryland and Michigan State to close out the regular season saw the rookie post 20, 21 and 20 points, respectively. Brazdeikis also connected on 19 of 36 three-point at- tempts (52.7 percent) during the eight-contest span, and averaged 16.7 points and 5.5 boards per game. 2. Junior guard Zavier Simpson The point guard was the heartbeat of the team once again, posting a stat line of 9.6 points, 8.6 assists and 4.3 rebounds per contest. Simpson registered 19 points Feb. 24 against MSU (second only to the 24 he had against Northwestern Jan. 13), and tied a Big Ten Tournament record with 11 as- sists in a 74-53 blowout of Iowa in the quarterfinals. His 9.6 scoring average is modest, but he consistently found his teammates by tallying 10 or more assists in five of the eight showdowns. 3. Junior center Jon Teske Teske was his usual solid self from Feb. 21 through March 17, averaging 11.8 points and 8.6 boards per game. He posted a career-high 22 points in the 82-53 destruction of Nebraska on Senior Night, while tying his season high of five blocks in a 69-60 triumph at Minnesota Feb. 21. He also pulled down 10 or more boards in five of the eight outings, and had five double-doubles during the span. Teske came up big from behind the arc as well in the Feb. 21 win in Minneapolis, nailing two late threes to ice the game. Key Play With the game tied at 60 and 31 seconds remaining in the Big Ten Tournament title game against Michigan State March 17, MSU junior point guard Cassius Winston drove from the top of the key on Jon Teske. The junior center — who stands a foot taller than the 6-1 Winston — attempted to block the shot under the rim, but the ball got by him, bounced off the backboard, down onto the rim and through the net. The play gave the Spartans their first lead since they held a 17-15 advantage with seven minutes left in the first half and helped guide them to a 65-60 victory. U-M's inability to get the defensive stop (and to answer on its ensuing offensive possession) cost the club what would have been a record third-straight Big Ten Tournament title. Best Highlight With Michigan leading Nebraska 51-32 and 14:16 remain- ing in the Senior Night showdown at Crisler Center Feb. 28, Cornhuskers freshman guard Amir Harris drove to the hoop and attempted to lay the ball in high off the glass, but missed badly. Simpson grabbed an easy rebound, took one dribble and flung the ball up the court to a waiting sophomore guard Jordan Poole, who had beaten everybody else up the floor. He caught it at Nebraska's three-point line and found himself in a race to the basket with Cornhusker sophomore guard Thorir Thorbjarnarson. Poole went up to dunk with his right hand just as the 6-6 Thorbjarnarson bodied him up and attempted to block the shot, only to see the U-M sophomore throw it down anyway. The referees blew the whistle to signal a foul just as Poole fell to the ground and the Crisler Center crowd erupted in awe. He then proceeded to make the free throw en route to an 82-53 Michigan victory. Surprise Performer Freshman center Colin Castleton gets the nod here, thanks to his career night against Nebraska Feb. 28. The Florida na- tive set a new personal best in points scored with 11, shat- tering his previous high of three. Castleton also shot an efficient 5 of 7 from the field, and pulled down three boards (tied the second most of his ca- reer). Perhaps most impressively, though, was the fact that the freshman tallied the 11 points in just nine minutes of action that night. Bold Prediction Michigan will make a second consecutive run to the Final Four. A few key contributors who helped lead U-M to the national title game last year still reside in Ann Arbor and understand what it takes to handle the immense pressure of March basketball. On top of that, the Wolverines showed they may be peak- ing once again when they blew out Iowa and Minnesota in the Big Ten Tournament, and played exceptionally well for a large portion of the MSU game before falling. The West region of the NCAA Tournament where U-M was placed appears to be very navigable as well. Gonzaga is the No. 1 seed (considered by most to be the weakest No. 1), Texas Tech is the No. 3 seed and Florida State is No. 4. — Austin Fox Superlatives For Games From Feb. 21-March 17 Junior center Jon Teske tallied a career-high 22 points in U-M's 82-53 win over Nebraska on Senior Night. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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