The Michigan Wolverines faced a massive test on Tuesday night without Zavier Simpson (suspension) and Isaiah Livers (injury), but were able to scrap together and find a way to get the job done in a tough situation.
The Wolverines moved to 12-8 and 3-6 in Big Ten play on Tuesday night in a 79-68 win over the Nebraska Cornhuskers (7-14, 2-8 B1G). It also marks the first true road win of the season for Michigan.
Michigan went with a starting lineup of David DeJulius, Eli Brooks, Franz Wagner, Brandon Johns and Jon Teske in this contest with DeJulius running the point in place of Simpson.
Brooks and Wagner led the way with 20 points and 18 points, respectively, while Johns had one of the best nights of his career with 16 points and seven rebounds.
The Wolverines struggled a bit early on offensively and had some defensive lapses throughout (compounded by uncharacteristic good shooting again by a statistically lesser opponent), but were able to go into the locker room up 40-35.
The second half saw Michigan start to pull away with Johns coming on late and the talent gap between the Wolverines and Huskers being on display. Nebraska would take a 52-50 lead at one point before Michigan rattled off a 21-6 run to take a 71-56 lead with five-ish minutes to play.
- Considering all of the emotions of the last few days, a four-game losing streak and being down two starters, our first kudos of the night goes to head coach Juwan Howard. His program is drinking adversity out of the firehose right now and his staff did a tremendous job of getting his team ready to go on the road and win a team without a senior captain and point guard and essentially another captain in Livers. Nebraska is a putrid basketball team, but this had all the ingredients for a bottoming out. The season is by no means turned around, but they had to have this one and they got it.
- Johns’ energy in this game was tremendous and if he’s again going to get some extended run in place of Livers, Michigan could really use more of this. It helped to have an athletic advantage over just about every other Nebraska player, but it was fun to watch him go about his business in this one.
- Wagner is at his best when he is going to the basket and that was on display in this game, as well. He is still struggling to shoot from outside, but little by little we are starting to see more of the guy that we think he’ll be moving forward. He has the classic Wagner trash-talking gene, too.
- DeJulius got the start at the point, but it was actually Brooks who was handling the ball down the stretch. Either of those guys could start at point guard next year, but Brooks was the better of the two in this game. He had a tremendous game and seems to have turned it around from his recent slump.
- Teske was not as much of a factor as I thought he would be in this game. He finished with only 9 points on 4-for-7 shooting despite not having a Nebraska player taller than 6-foot-9 to go up against. It seemed as if he would be able to step forward and potentially be the focal point of the offense this year given Howard’s experience with bigs, but it just hasn’t consistently happened.
- Too many easy buckets let up tonight by the Wolverines. The shooting percentages and final score will tell a bit of a different story, but this one was probably closer than it should have been. it helps when Nebraska hits shots it never does from the perimeter.
- The lineups were predictably strange tonight with both Simpson and Livers out, but it was especially interesting to see not only Colin Castleton come in as the first big off the bench, but CJ Baird enter the game with freshman Cole Bajema not playing at all.
Next up for Michigan is a trip to Madison Square Garden on Saturday for a “home game” against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at 4:30 p.m. ET.