The Wolverine

January 2021

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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JANUARY 2021 THE WOLVERINE 53   MICHIGAN BASKETBALL Three Best Players 1. Freshman center Hunter Dickinson: His Michigan career got off to a sizzling hot start, with the 7-1 big man av- eraging 15.3 points and a team-best 8.4 rebounds through the aforementioned seven-game span. Dickinson also shot 69.4 percent from the field, which stood as the best mark in the Big Ten as of Dec. 28. He served as a consistent force in Michigan's frontcourt on both ends of the floor, tallying 1.7 blocks per game and registering at least 11 points in all seven contests. In the process, he was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week three times (Dec. 7, Dec. 14 and Dec. 28). 2. Senior forward Isaiah Livers: His 15.4 points per game led the Wolverines from Nov. 25 through Dec. 25, while his 5.6 rebounds checked in third. Livers also was also his usual deadly self from behind the three-point line, connecting on 42.1 percent of his triples and draining at least three three- pointers in four of the Maize and Blue's seven tilts. The Kalamazoo, Mich., native also acted as a consistent scoring threat to kick off the 2020-21 campaign, pouring in 16 or more points in five of the team's first seven games. 3. Sophomore guard Franz Wagner: He posted 11.0 points per game during the seven-game span and scored at least 14 on three separate occasions, highlighted by a 20-point outburst in the Wolverines' 80-69 win at Nebraska Dec. 25. Wagner's 7.3 rebounds were also the second best mark on the team, while his 2.7 assists checked in third. The sophomore was efficient from both the field (51.8 percent accuracy) and the free throw line (82.4 percent). Key Play With just 18.3 seconds remaining and Michigan leading Penn State 60-58 in the Dec. 13 contest at Crisler Center, Nittany Lions junior guard Sam Sessoms dribbled up court with Wolverines senior guard Eli Brooks draped all over him. Sessoms decided to hold the ball for eight seconds before attacking with 10 ticks remaining in the game. Brooks did an excellent job defending Sessoms, who drove through the lane and straight to the basket in an attempt to tie the game. The Spring Grove, Pa., native's sticky defense forced Ses- soms to awkwardly contort his body in the air once he reached the circle. His back was literally facing the basket as he let the ball go. The basketball hit the backboard but missed the rim en- tirely, falling harmlessly into the arms of Livers with 6.1 seconds remaining. The senior was immediately fouled by Penn State and proceeded to make both free throws to seal the 62-58 victory. Brooks' outstanding defense on Penn State's potential game-tying possession kept Michigan's record unblemished (7-0 as of Dec. 28), with the Wolverines showing mental toughness down the stretch to grind out a gritty victory over a feisty Nittany Lion squad. Best Highlight Michigan led UCF 74-46 with 4:06 remaining in the Dec. 6 matchup at Crisler Center when fifth-year senior point guard Mike Smith faced pressure from the Knights on U-M's side of the court. Smith rocketed a pass to freshman forward Terrance Wil- liams at midcourt, who immediately hit senior guard Chaun- dee Brown in stride as the Orlando, Fla., native sprinted past the UCF three-point line and into the lane. Brown then fired a no-look pass to Dickinson, who was waiting patiently un- der the basket in an area the Knights' defenders had vacated as a result of their full-court press. Dickinson didn't even need to dribble before throwing down a monstrous two-handed slam, epitomizing the 80-58 beatdown the Wolverines put on head coach Johnny Dawkins' club that night. The game was already well in hand for Michigan prior to the play, but the 7-1 freshman's bucket served as an excla- mation point on an evening that was filled with dunks and highlight-reel plays for the Maize and Blue. Bold Prediction Michigan will be one of the league's top contenders for the Big Ten crown come March. Prognosticators pegged the Wolverines as a middle-of-the-pack conference club heading into the year, with Lindy's (for example) projecting U-M to finish eighth in the league in their annual preview magazine. In a season filled with parity (U-M, Northwestern and Wisconsin were the only squads without a Big Ten loss as of Dec. 28), Michigan has shown it is capable of contending for a championship. The 80-58 destruction of UCF Dec. 6 was the first indication of U-M's potency, and a 2-0 start to league play further solidified that notion. Michigan's consistency has also been a telling sign the Wolverines are a well-coached and cohesive club, with only one of their seven victories having been decided by fewer than 10 points (the 62-58 triumph over Penn State Dec. 13). — Austin Fox Superlatives For U-M's Seven Games From Nov. 25-Dec. 25 Senior forward Isaiah Livers averaged a team-high 15.4 points and shot 42.1 percent from three-point range during the Wolverines' 7-0 start. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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