The Wolverine

March 2020 Issue

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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MARCH 2020 THE WOLVERINE 85   MICHIGAN BASKETBALL Three Best Players 1. Senior guard Zavier Simp- son — His scoring average of 13.0 points per game in seven of the eight contests (he missed the win at Nebraska Jan. 28 due to sus- pension) during the aforemen- tioned span led the team, and he also averaged 6.8 assists and 4.1 rebounds per outing. The senior scored at least 12 points in five of the seven affairs and even became a reliable threat from beyond the three-point line, connecting on 9 of 22 attempts (40.9 percent). 2. Junior guard Eli Brooks — His offensive efforts deserve plenty of attention (11.8 points per game with two outings of at least 18 points), but it was actually his de- fensive performances that landed him this high on the list. Brooks has served as a lockdown defender for the Wolverines this season, and that was best on display during Michigan's win over MSU Feb. 8, when he held senior Spar- tan point guard Cassius Winston to just 5-of-18 shooting (27.8 percent) while acting as his primary defender. 3. Freshman guard Franz Wagner — His 6-8 stature paid dividends for the Maize and Blue during the eight-game stretch, with his 7.7 rebounds per outing leading the team. Wagner pulled down a career-best 14 boards in the loss to Ohio State Feb. 4, and consistently showed an improved ability to finish at the rim that led to him averaging 10.3 points per game. Key Play Michigan led MSU 44-40 with 12:59 remaining in the Feb. 8 contest at Crisler Center, when Brooks pulled down a rebound off a Spartan miss and immediately looked to run. He dribbled the ball all the way to the Michigan State three-point line before lobbing a pass high into the air and straight toward the basket. An alley-oop pass that looked like it was heading out of bounds was instead snagged with one hand by sprinting senior center Jon Teske, who pro- ceeded to throw down a monstrous one-handed slam that ignited the Crisler crowd. The senior's dunk also provided a spark for his team, which had been outscored by MSU 17-15 through the first seven minutes of the second half. Sitting at 13-9 heading into ac- tion that day, U-M's 77-68 victory over the Spartans snapped a four-game losing streak to its hated rivals and served as yet another quality victory on its NCAA Tournament résumé (to go along with notable wins over Creighton, Gonzaga, Iowa and Rutgers). Best Highlight Redshirt junior center Austin Davis pulled down a rebound off a Northwestern miss with 13:19 remaining in the Feb. 12 contest in Evanston and passed the ball to Simpson right away. The senior point guard immediately jetted up the court with his club already holding a commanding 50-29 lead. With Wildcat sophomore forward Miller Kopp loosely guarding him and not providing much resis- tance, Simpson dribbled the ball all the way to the Northwestern three-point line before darting a one-handed pass to streaking ju- nior forward Isaiah Livers on the right wing. The junior caught the ball in stride just before reaching the paint, and proceeded to throw down a one-handed slam that was so violent, it audibly rattled the rim in a fashion that is seldom heard. Livers never broke stride or hesitated on the play, with 6-2 freshman guard Boo Buie wisely choosing not to challenge the 6-7 forward on the dunk as the nearest Wildcat defender. Surprise Performer Davis is the choice here, thanks to his efficient production. He didn't have any high-scoring offensive showings during the aforementioned stretch (the 11 points he poured in during the loss to Ohio State Feb. 4 were his high), but he scored at least eight points in four of the five games from Feb. 1-16. Davis enjoyed an incredibly efficient five-outing stretch in particular from Jan. 28 through Feb. 12, in which he made 15 of 16 shots. The Onsted, Mich., native has been extra valu- able in the wake of Teske's offensive struggles (he shot just 32.8 percent from Jan. 22 through Feb. 16), averaging 8.2 points in only 12.6 minutes per outing since the calendar turned to February. Bold Prediction Michigan will win two of its final four remaining road games, with the four road trips being at Rutgers Feb. 19, at Purdue Feb. 22, at Ohio State March 1 and at Maryland March 8. U-M has just a 2-5 road record on the year (its two triumphs occurred at Nebraska Jan. 28 and at Northwest- ern Feb. 12), but is once again resembling the team that started the year 7-0, having won five of its last six games as of Feb. 17. The Scarlet Knights, Buckeyes and Terrapins are all basically locks for the NCAA Tournament, while the Boilermakers are heavily viewed as a bubble team at 14-12. It should also be noted that no opposing visitors have won in Piscataway or College Park yet this season. The Maize and Blue will be looking to snap three-game losing streaks in both West Lafayette and Columbus, two venues they haven't won in since 2014. On the flip side, Piscataway and College Park have been kind to the Wolverines as of late, with Michigan having won its last two at the latter and all five of its all-time trips to the former. — Austin Fox Superlatives For The Eight Games From Jan. 22 Through Feb. 16 Despite being suspended for one of the eight games from Jan. 22 until Feb. 16, senior guard Zavier Simpson was the Wolverines' standout during that stretch, aver- aging 13.0 points, 6.8 assists and 4.1 rebounds in the other seven contests. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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