Michigan basketball has seen its share of emphatic victories the last few seasons.
In 2017, there was the double-digit triumph over Big Ten regular season champion Purdue. In Washington D.C. a few weeks later, the Wolverines skinned the Wisconsin Badgers by 15 to take the Big Ten Tournament title.
Last year, the two smackdowns over Tom Izzo’s most talented Michigan State team come to mind.
John Beilein and company raised the bar on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018 in Finneran Pavilion. They avenged last year’s loss in the National Championship to Villanova with a 73-46 road shellacking.
To choose a handful of top plays does a disservice to the myriad of good ones. Nonetheless, here are three sequences that defined the direction of the contest.
(1) WELCOME TO AMERICA, IGGY
Ignas Brazdeikis is as under-the-radar as you’re going to get out of a former 5-star.
Rivals awarded the Canadian freshman wing a fifth star, but didn't rank him nationally due to his foreign status. 247Sports considered him a top-50 player, and none of the elite programs extended offers.
Just three minutes into Wednesday’s rout, he loudly announced his presence to a national audience with a tip slam to make it 6-2.
This sparked his third double-digit scoring effort of the young season. He poured in 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting and chipped in seven boards.
His early success on offense translated to defensive confidence. He rotated well against Jay Wright’s five-out offense, switching onto forward Eric Paschall at times and forcing tough shots — with the help of 7-foot-1 center Jon Teske. The senior Wildcat mustered just three baskets on 14 attempts.
While his overall performance shines, the initial dunk was his “Welcome to America” moment.
(2) 3-POINTERS, STIFLING DEFENSE FUEL 8-0 RUN
Backup point guard Eli Brooks dreamed of lacing up for Villanova growing up in Spring Grove, Penn. Instead, John Beilein convinced him to spend his career in Ann Arbor.
Two years after signing, he buried a three in freshman forward Saddiq Bey’s face. Beilein toys with the frosh, having Brooks fake a screen with Teske rolling to the basket. Bey is drawn inside for just enough time to give Brooks room.
Where young Wildcat defenders were baffled by Michigan’s ball movement, Luke Yaklich’s defense provided help all night, leading to six blocks. One of them comes with Isaiah Livers forcing Paschall to pivot around the basket, allowing Brooks to swoop in for the swat.
Brooks continues his stingy run on defense, inducing an off-balance three from Phil Booth to get the Wolverines in transition. From there, the numbers break Livers open for a deep bomb to stretch the margin to 20-8.
The cherry on top of the run is Charles Matthews showing off his improved mid-range jumper. Outside, inside and in between, the Maize and Blue found their groove with this sequence.
The energy persisted, eventually leading to a 37-13 cushion. Included in the extended run:
(3) POOLE STEALS, SLAMS DOOR ON ‘NOVA FAST BREAK
Jordan Poole was expected to be an alpha dog scorer this year. With just 13 points in three games (4-of-17 on field goals), he’s found other ways to contribute early.
There’s little chance Villanova climbs out of 27-point hole here, but Poole snatches any remaining opportunity away by stifling a potential fast break. His feed to Livers seals the deal on a beautiful “offense creates defense” play.
From there, the Wolverines cruised.