The Wolverine

August 2021

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 34 of 75

AUGUST 2021 THE WOLVERINE 35 "It was a very challenging year, but at the end of the day we all need to walk out … with our head up, with nothing but humility, gratitude and dignity. "We should be very proud of each and every one of them on how they have sacrificed, worked extremely hard throughout the year back in June and made all this work. There are a lot of folks that deserve a lot of credit that are outside of this team that have really breathed a lot of life into the group." Those included trainers, doctors and advisors, all major parts of a 23-5 team, one that might have gone even further had it not lost Livers — its top three-point shooter who averaged 13.1 points and 6.0 rebounds per game — during the Big Ten Tournament. The Wolverines fell to Ohio State in the conference semifinals, but junior Brandon Johns replaced Livers admi- rably in the NCAA Tournament, where he averaged 10 points per game, while Smith, Brown, Brooks and sophomore Franz Wagner joined star freshman Hunter Dickinson with big games on the way to the Elite Eight. "There's a lot to be proud of, and I am, and I know I can speak for the staff … I'm extremely proud of our staff on how we stay connected," Howard said. "I'm also proud of the group [of kids]. I felt we were one of the most connected teams throughout the season during a challenging time, and I'm sure a lot of coaches in college basketball can say the same thing, too. "You can learn a lot from this year, and I'm sure there are a lot of things we're going to take away and grow from." Dickinson led the team with a 14.1 scoring average and 7.4 rebounds per game for the season. Wagner (12.5 points per game) was an elite defender in addition to being a much-improved scorer, Brooks added 9.5 points and shot 90.9 percent from the free throw line, and Smith was one of the better set-up men in the league with a con- ference-best 149 assists. He also aver- aged 9.0 points, while Brown boasted a clip of 8.0 and fifth-year senior Aus- tin Davis logged 5.4 off the bench. Freshmen Terrance Williams and Zeb Jackson also had their moments in a total team effort. "Obviously, we had higher goals than the Elite Eight, but if you really look back on it, people were expecting us to be a middle-of-the-pack team and we end up being the best team in the Big Ten and one of final eight schools in the country," Dickinson noted. "That's something to be proud of. I think we really set a really good foundation for the rest of Michigan basketball under Coach Howard. "As a competitor, losing how we did was not fun. I probably think about it every day since it happened. It defi- nitely still kind of bites on me, how we lost and how we can try to avenge it." Brown has no doubt they will. He's moved on, but he's excited to see what the next U-M team can ac- complish under Howard, the man he credits for giving his career a shot in the arm after three tough years of losing at Wake Forest. "If you come in slacking in practice and suck that day, he'll tell you that you suck," he said of his coach. "He just wants you to be the best. "He's a winner. That's why I came to Michigan my last year, to win — and that's what we did." Making them No. 1 among all of Michigan's men's teams for 2020-21. ❏ Star freshman center Hunter Dickinson "Obviously, we had higher goals than the Elite Eight, but if you really look back on it, people were expecting us to be a middle-of-the-pack team and we end up being the best team in the Big Ten and one of final eight schools in the country. That's something to be proud of." While Juwan Howard's group was the top of the class, sev- eral other Michigan men's teams played well, too. We look at the four runners-up here: Gymnastics — Head coach Kurt Golder's squad finished 20-3 and won its first Big Ten title since 2014, heading into nationals ranked No. 2 in the country. At the conference meet, senior Cameron Bock tied for the all-around title and claimed gold on pommel horse and still rings, while sophomore and Big Ten Gymnast of the Year Paul Juda placed second on par- allel bars and high bar, and took third in the all-around. Golder captured his sixth Big Ten Coach of the Year honor in his 25-year career, and then led the Wolverines to a third-place NCAA finish. U-M racked up 13 All-America citations, its most since 2013, including runner-up showings on pommel horse from Juda and parallel bars from rookie Evgeny Siminiuc. Wrestling — Head coach Sean Bormet's team claimed fifth place nationally with four All-Americans in March, its third straight top-five NCAA finish. Michigan compiled a 5-1 record in Big Ten-only action that was affected by COVID, led by heavyweight Mason Parris. He fell one win short of an indi- vidual national title, dropping an 8-4 decision to Minnesota's Gable Steveson in the heavyweight championship match. Myles Amine finished third at 197 to become the seventh four-time All-American in program history, while sixth-year senior Logan Massa finished fifth at 174 pounds and redshirt freshman Cameron Amine seventh at 165. Tennis — The Wolverines finished their season as the Big Ten East Division co-champion with a 15-5 overall record and 14-2 league mark, notching eight- and six-game winning streaks during the season. They dropped a heartbreaking 4-3 decision to No. 15 Arizona in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The doubles tandem of first-team All-Big Ten pick Andrew Fenty (who also played No. 1 singles) and second-team all- conference selection Mattias Siimar finished 15-3 and were ranked as high as No. 2 in the nation at one point. Ice Hockey — Mel Pearson's squad overcame COVID- related stoppages to post a 15-10-1 record and make the NCAA Tournament. U-M went 4-2-1 down the stretch to earn its berth and were playing well, poised to make some noise, before the virus finally got them. They had to forfeit their NCAA opener with Minnesota-Duluth due to positive COVID tests only hours before it was set to begin. Sophomore Thomas Bordeleau led the offensive charge with 30 points (eight goals), while freshman defenseman Owen Power had a huge first year before he was selected first overall to lead the way for three Wolverines being cho- sen among the first five picks of the NHL Draft. — Chris Balas Rounding Out The Top Five

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