The Wolverine

February 2018

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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42 THE WOLVERINE FEBRUARY 2018 T here were times after freshman forward Isaiah Livers first arrived on campus that some might have wondered why U-M spent a scholar- ship on him, Michigan head coach John Beilein said early in Big Ten play. Nobody's wondering anymore. Livers earned his way into the start- ing lineup after three straight double- digit scoring games, including a big one in a loss to No. 5 Purdue in which he went 4 of 4 from the floor, 2 of 2 from long range and scored 10 points after putting up 12 points against Il- linois and 13 at Iowa in January. Livers was also 7 of 8 from three- point land in those three games, mak- ing up for fifth-year senior Duncan Robinson's struggles from long range at the position (2 of 10 in the same three-game stretch). Beilein said he wanted to see Liv- ers earn his trust before playing him more, and the frosh still has a long way to go. He had 17 turnovers to 14 assists as of Jan. 22, for example, and was still working on rebounding out of his area on defense. He also had yet to score in double figures since entering the starting lineup Jan. 13 at Michigan State, and played only 10 minutes in a Jan. 21 win over Rutgers due to early foul trouble. Still, Livers looked the part of a ris- ing star against the Boilermakers, and Purdue head coach Matt Painter was impressed. "His two best games he played were the last two games, so yeah [we expected to see a lot of him]," Painter said after his team's one-point win. "We said we wanted to stay with him. "When he made a three in front of their bench, we didn't stay with him, let him shoot that. It was a breakdown on our part. "We made him drive there and make a play [late]. … You don't want him to just catch and shoot. But I thought since how well he played at Iowa and Illinois … I didn't think we'd see less of Duncan Robinson, but [Beilein] liked that matchup I think. He liked him guarding Vince [Edwards] and switching out on some screens." He's capable of doing that, and he's starting to distinguish himself on the defensive end, as well. There are still lapses, but he's ath- letic and becoming more assertive. The knock on him in high school was he was often too passive, but he's taken coaching — including learning simple things like how to pivot, he noted — and becoming a weapon. "He's a really good player. We re- cruited him, too," Painter said. — Chris Balas SEVERAL WOLVERINES LIGHTING IT UP FROM THREE Michigan's offense isn't humming like it usually does under head coach John Beilein, but the Wolverines are still excelling in some areas. U-M is shooting only 36.8 percent from long range, average for a Beilein team, but four Michigan players were shooting better than 40 percent from three-point land as of Jan. 22. The best of the best might also be the biggest surprise. Sophomore point guard Zavier Simpson shot only 26.3 percent from behind the arc last year and missed badly on a number of them. He was shooting 44.4 percent from three-point range this season (16 of 36) through 22 games after working on his shot all year. "Isn't that something?" Beilein said earlier in the year when told Simpson was his leading three-point shooter. "And he deserves it. He's another one of those guys you worry about him [burning out] because he spends so much time getting extra shots up." He's not alone. Fifth-year senior Duncan Robinson has always been that guy, and was showing signs of   MICHIGAN BASKETBALL Freshman Isaiah Livers Has Earned A Starting Role In his first nine Big Ten contests, Livers averaged 19.6 minutes, 6.7 points and 2.3 rebounds per game, while shooting 58.1 percent from the field and 47.6 percent from three-point range. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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