The Wolverine

February 2021

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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FEBRUARY 2021 THE WOLVERINE 43 Three Best Players 1. Freshman center Hunter Dick- inson — He led Michigan in scoring during the aforementioned stretch, av- eraging 15.0 points and 6.0 rebounds throughout the seven games. The 7-1 freshman was his usual efficient self, shooting at least 66.7 percent from the field in four of U-M's seven outings, highlighted by a 90.9 percent showing (10 of 11) in Michigan's 84-73 win at Maryland Dec. 31. Dickinson's best scoring outburst, however, came in the 82-57 beatdown of No. 16 Minnesota Jan. 6, when he poured in a career-high 28 points on 12-of-15 shooting. 2. Senior forward Isaiah Livers — He nearly grabbed the top spot on this list, averaging 13.8 points and 6.4 rebounds while serving as the cata- lyst for U-M's offense in consecutive blowout wins over Maryland Jan. 19 and Purdue Jan. 22. Livers tallied 20 points versus the Terrapins and tied his season high with 22 points against the Boilermakers, while also pulling down 15 boards between the two games. The Kalamazoo, Mich., native was also hot from three-point range throughout the seven- game span, connecting on 17 of 36 attempts from deep (47.2 percent). 3. Sophomore guard Franz Wagner — His 7.0 rebounds per outing led the Maize and Blue from Dec. 31 through Jan. 22, while his 13.0 points per game checked in third on the club. Offensive consistency was the name of the game for Wagner, with the 6-9 guard tallying at least eight points in all seven affairs and scoring 14 or more in four tilts. Wagner proved to be a consistent menace for opponents on the defensive side as well, recording 12 blocks and 15 steals in the seven games. Best Highlight Michigan held a commanding 60-26 lead over No. 9 Wis- consin with 13 minutes to play in its Jan. 12 destruction of the Badgers, and Livers was looking to continue the beat- down. He began backing down Wisconsin fifth-year senior forward Aleem Ford in the post, but wasn't able to make any headway against the 6-8 Lawrenceville, Ga., native. After three dribbles near the baseline with his back to the basket, Livers immediately turned to his left and attempted a contested step-back jumper with Ford's hand in his face. The ball rimmed out and looked like it was going to be an easy rebound for Wisconsin, with three Badgers patiently waiting for it underneath the basket. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, senior guard Chaundee Brown came flying in. The ball had barely even rimmed out before Brown grabbed it and threw down arguably Michigan's biggest two-handed jam of the season, with the Wisconsin players below looking on in bewilderment. The energetic Brown then gave two monstrous stomps on the Crisler Center hardwood when he landed, galloping to the other side of the court with a gigantic smile on his face. The play epitomized Michigan's night as a whole, the game basically serving as one long highlight reel for the Wolverines in their 77-54 annihi- lation of Wisconsin. Key Play Michigan's 77-54 blowout of No. 9 Wisconsin Jan. 12 was still anyone's game with 3:44 to go in the first half, with U-M leading 31-23. Badgers fifth-year senior guard D'Mitrik Trice brought the ball up the court look- ing to trim into the Maize and Blue's edge before halftime, making a sim- ple pass to freshman guard Jonathan Davis once he reached halfcourt. Easy passes aren't so simple for opponents when Wagner is around the ball, however, and the 6-9 guard used his long arms to reach in front of Davis and steal the ball. The turn- over led to an easy breakaway two- handed dunk on the other end, with ESPN's TV cameras nearly missing it due to how quickly Wagner made it all happen. The dunk stretched U-M's lead to 33-23 and signified the start of the blowout. Wagner's bucket sparked a 38-6 run that eventually culminated with Michigan leading 69-29 with 10:42 left in the game. It also served as a statement to the college basketball world as U-M proved it is one of the best teams in the country, thanks in large part to its stifling, disruptive defense. As of Jan. 26, the Wolverines' 37.3 opponent field goal percentage was the best mark in the nation among power conference teams. Bold Prediction Michigan will win the Big Ten regular-season title outright. This may not seem all that bold to some people, but it's impor- tant to remember how difficult it is to navigate through a brutal league slate, along with the fact that Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Ohio State all still loom on the Wolverines' schedule. Michigan's two-week pause could throw a wrench into the regular-season title race though. There seems to be a low likelihood all four of U-M's postponed games (at Penn State Jan. 27, Indiana Jan. 30, at Northwestern Feb. 3 and Michi- gan State Feb. 6) will be made up, simply due to logistics and a lack of time. Nevertheless, the Wolverines were atop the Big Ten stand- ings with an 8-1 conference record as of Jan. 26, and Iowa was the only other Big Ten club that had fewer than three league losses (6-2). U-M has claimed its eight Big Ten victo- ries by an average of 16.7 points this season and has shown no signs of slowing down. — Austin Fox Superlatives For Michigan's Seven Games From Dec. 31-Jan. 22 Freshman center Hunter Dickinson notched a career-high 28 points on 12-of-15 shooting in the 82-57 victory over No. 16 Minnesota Jan. 6. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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