The Wolverine

January 2020

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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44 THE WOLVERINE JANUARY 2020   MICHIGAN BASKETBALL Three Best Players 1. Senior center Jon Teske He was a force on both the offen- sive and defensive ends from Nov. 12-Dec. 14, pouring in 16 or more points in six of the 10 contests and pulling down at least seven boards seven times. Despite standing 7-1 and 265 pounds, Teske also showed incredible endurance throughout the aforementioned span, play- ing at least 29 minutes in six of the games, highlighted by a season- high 33 minutes in the 73-64 win over North Carolina Nov. 28 in the Bahamas. The senior big man also served as an incredible rim protec- tor, blocking three or more shots on four separate occasions, including a trio of four-block outings. 2. Junior forward Isaiah Livers He was a consistent scoring threat for the Maize and Blue from Nov. 12-Dec. 14, racking up six games of 13 or more points, including a ca- reer-high 24 in the Nov. 22 win over Houston Baptist. Perhaps what made Livers such a potent offensive weapon, though, was his ability to score from deep, with the junior attempting at least three three-pointers in all 10 outings and connecting on a minimum of 50 percent seven times (as of Dec. 16, his overall 50 percent connection rate from deep is tied for the team lead). The 6-7, 230-pound junior was also a consistent menace on the glass, recording at least four rebounds in seven of the 10 clashes. 3. Senior guard Zavier Simpson The most impressive statistic surrounding his game this season has been his assist numbers, with his 8.8 per game standing as the third most in the country behind Sacred Heart guard Cameron Parker's 9.3 and Samford guard Josh Sharkey's 9.1 (as of Dec. 16). Simpson handed out at least seven assists in eight of the 10 contests, while also racking up a minimum of 13 in three different outings. The Lima, Ohio, native also tallied at least 13 points in four games, and the only reason he's not higher on this list is due to his turnover numbers (committed at least four in five of the 10 tilts). Key Play Michigan trailed No. 10 Oregon 71-70 in overtime Dec. 14 at Crisler Center, and had a chance to hold the ball for the final possession of the contest. Freshman guard Franz Wagner in- bounded to Simpson with just 10.8 seconds remaining, with the Wolverines looking for the game-winning score. The senior had Oregon senior guard Payton Pritchard draped all over him, but finally shook him on a Livers screen at the top of the key with 4.2 seconds to go. With sophomore guard Will Richardson now on him, Simpson drove to the right side of the hoop and let off a floater with his right hand that hit high off the glass and down onto the rim, but rico- cheted off with 1.5 seconds remaining. Sophomore forward Brandon Johns was waiting for it be- low the basket and attempted a potential game-winning tip-in, but that was also put up too hard and fell off the rim as the final buzzer sounded. The loss was the first at home for head coach Juwan Howard, and marked the Wolver- ines' third in four games (road set- backs to Louisville and Illinois were the other two). Best Highlight With Michigan leading North Car- olina 41-36 Nov. 28 in the Bahamas, Wagner pulled down a rebound off a Tar Heel miss with 16:27 left in the game and immediately passed it to Simpson. The UNC defense noncha- lantly jogged to the other end of the court, and the senior guard took advantage of their laziness by rock- eting a one-handed pass to junior guard Eli Brooks as he was crossing North Carolina's three-point line. With no defenders between Brooks and the UNC basket, the Spring Grove, Pa., native took ad- vantage by sprinting to the hoop and easily throwing down a monstrous two-handed dunk in transition to ignite the crowd. The score extended Michigan's lead to 43-36, and was the first basket of a 19-0 Wolverine run that blew the game open en route to a 73-64 victory. Surprise Performer Sophomore forward Brandon Johns gets the nod here thanks to the spark he provided off the bench and for his consistent rebounding efforts. Johns often displayed grit and tenacity by diving on the floor for loose balls, outhustling op- ponents and coming out on top in 50/50 plays. His playing time increased as a result, averaging 16 minutes per game in Michigan's four December contests, after only tallying 13.4 minutes in the club's first seven. The sophomore's rebounding numbers also skyrocketed in December, averag- ing 6.5 rebounds per affair after totaling just 3.4 in November. Johns' best statistical night of the year came in the 103-91 win over Iowa Dec. 6, when he accumulated a career-best 12 points and logged eight rebounds. Bold Prediction Michigan will fall at Michigan State Jan. 5, but will bounce back with key victories over Purdue and at Minnesota. This may not seem all that bold, but takes on a bit more signifi- cance when considering Big Ten teams hold a 13-0 home re- cord so far this season (as of Dec. 16). Facing Purdue in Ann Arbor Jan. 9 won't be easy for the Maize and Blue, with the Boilermakers already owning one of the most impressive single-game showings in all of college basketball this season — a 69-40 destruction of then-No. 5 Virginia Dec. 4. U-M's Jan. 12 trip to Minneapolis won't be a cakewalk either, with the Gophers holding a 5-1 record in Williams Arena this season and having taken down No. 3 Ohio State 84-71 there Dec. 15. — Austin Fox Superlatives For The 10 Games From Nov. 12-Dec. 14 During the Wolverines' 8-3 start, senior center Jon Teske was shooting 54.2 percent from the floor and averaging nearly a double-double (13.4 points and 8.5 rebounds per game). PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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