The Michigan Wolverines are on to the Sweet Sixteen after a 86-78 win over No. 8 seed LSU on Monday night in Indianapolis. A key part of that victory was the efforts of senior guard Eli Brooks, who finished the night with 21 points and had several clutch shots in the win.
Brooks took to the podium after the game to run through what happened and how his team responded to adversity throughout the evening.
Transcript provided by the NCAA and ASAP Sports.
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by Eli Brooks. We’ll take questions.
Q. I want to know without Isaiah Livers in the game, playing with you all, you all were down by as many as nine, what was the conversation like that brought you all together? Who was the leader that stepped up, or leaders, who stepped up and led the conversation in the huddle or timeout?
ELI BROOKS: I mean, going into halftime, we talked about just staying the course, contesting every shot. The percentages are going to weigh out. So that was led by like Austin, Franz, myself, and Mike, just trying to stay the course, make sure that everybody knew that we were in this game, and this was our game to win.
Q. What did you make of the Big Ten’s troubles in this tournament coming into this game? What, if anything, did your coach or you and your teammates say about that?
ELI BROOKS: I mean, it’s March Madness for a reason. You’re going to get the best shot of everybody. I don’t think the Big Ten — I still think the Big Ten is a really good conference. We just had some losses.
But coaches never really brought it up. They focused on ourselves and the game that was at hand. That was never really brought up.
It was mentioned by a couple players, but it’s March Madness for a reason, so...
Q. What can you say about Chaundee’s performance tonight, just helping you in the backcourt, obviously huge with the scoring he had?
ELI BROOKS: I mean, you know what you’re going to get with Chaundee every single day. He brings a lot of energy. It was good to see him make some shots because that smile goes a long way for the team. His energy, his presence, it helps the team. It brings the defense to a higher level.
Q. It seems like you’ve been especially aggressive hunting for your shot over the last few games. How much of a focus has that been for you, especially with Isaiah out?
ELI BROOKS: I mean, it’s just been comfortable. My shot is feeling as good as it has all year. Coaches always say next shot mentality, take the shots when you’re open. That’s what I’ve been doing, so...
Q. More broadly on the offensive performance, four starters in double figures. It felt at different times you had a different guy hot somewhere else on the floor. How equipped do you think this team is from an offensive perspective basically to be able to share the load like that, even if maybe a guy is injured or there’s an off night, even with Isaiah out, this team is hard to deal with?
ELI BROOKS: Yeah, I’ve said it in the beginning of the year, this is the deepest team I’ve ever been a part of. We have a lot of shooters and we have a post presence like Hunter and Austin. They draw a lot of attention. You get a lot of open shots.
Q. What was the biggest difference in that run that you had in the second half? What was different in that part of the game than any other part of the game that led that situation to happen?
ELI BROOKS: I think just the intensity that we brought on the defensive end. We limited them to one shot. We made everything hard in those 4 minutes and rebounded the ball, got out, ran in transition.
I think the defense really sparked it, sparked our pace and sparked our offense.
Q. This game was a game of runs it seemed like. How were you able to kind of withstand LSU scoring multiple points in a row and kind of fight your way back into the game?
ELI BROOKS: I mean, I think it’s just a testament to the Big Ten honestly. You play against high-level teams every single night. Having that Big Ten season really prepares you for tournament time.
Q. You mentioned the halftime mentality about continuing to contest shots and things like that. Early in the second half they went on a little run and continued to hit some tough shots. How do you keep that mentality at any point? Do you wonder if they’re ever going to be missing some of these shots?
ELI BROOKS: I mean, it got us to the point we’re at. We’re in a pretty good spot. I think just remembering what got us here. We always say 80% or higher, we have a good chance of winning a lot of games.
Q. It seems like you got some key stops at key moments. What were some of the adjustments you made to slow them down in the second half especially?
ELI BROOKS: I mean, to be honest, it was just about wearing on them, making everything tough. I mean, we switched some matchups, put Hunter on Watford. But it was mostly just staying the course.
Q. Talk about what it means to you to have been a part of four Sweet 16 teams? You and Gonzaga are the only teams that have been able to have four straight Sweet 16s.
ELI BROOKS: It’s crazy to think about. But that’s where you want to be, that’s where you dream of playing. That’s what we expect at Michigan. But you have to earn it. It only gets more fun from here, so...
Q. You’ve had to get some big rebounds at the end, play the points some, hit a lot of big shots particularly in the first half. The game seems like it’s slow for you. What enables you to stay focused like that and have the game at a slow pace?
ELI BROOKS: I think just all the amount of reps we get in practice and being a senior, you see a lot of things through your time in college. Just being able to be on the court and have those experiences when I was younger I think really helped me out a lot.
Q. Last time you were in the tournament you were seen as somebody who contributed more on the defensive side of the ball. This year you’ve been an integral part on the offensive side of the ball. Can you talk about your confidence on the offensive side this year.
ELI BROOKS: Yeah, just the shot is feeling good. Just continuing to stay aggressive. The coaches have always been on me about being aggressive, taking my shots. He’s on everybody because we believe everybody’s really talented on the team. It’s just about confidence and instilling confidence into each other.
We’ve been doing that, and people have been making shots.
Q. What does it mean moving on to the Sweet 16? What was it like playing against LSU? Seemed like they were giving you a big battle tonight.
ELI BROOKS: Yeah, making it to the Sweet 16, like I said, you always dream of getting there as a young kid. LSU is a really good team. They have really good players. They make shots. They’re shot makers. They’re a good team.
Q. You have been in town for a week, week and a half now. How have you passed the time with your teammates and kind of kept in check in the bubble environment? What are you doing to stay fresh? Is it tough to stay locked in in this controlled environment?
ELI BROOKS: To be honest, being in this environment, for myself, I can only speak for myself, but it makes me lock in even more because you realize that you’re not home, you don’t want to go back home, and for good reasons.
But to pass time, people have been playing video games. We’ve been playing a lot of cards together. That’s been fun.
Q. There was talk from experts and media about how you guys could be a No. 1 seed that could be in trouble considering Isaiah is injured. What do you think you maybe showed what you guys are capable of doing without Isaiah today?
ELI BROOKS: I think we showed what we thought in the room that we have. Next man up, that’s our mentality. We knew we had enough in the locker room to get to the Sweet 16. Just keep buying in. People are going to step up, so...