The Michigan Wolverines were on the ropes throughout most of the night in the 81-71 overtime win over Oakland on Sunday, but it was easy to tell that everyone dressed in white in the building was frustrated they found themselves in a game that close.
Chief among them were head coach Juwan Howard and senior forward Isaiah Livers, who were caught on video during the first half in a bit of a heated exchange. Livers would later toss a Gatorade cooler when he was pulled out of the game.
Isaiah Livers and Juwan Howard going at it in the last timeout pic.twitter.com/iVrEgMq0tL— Blue By 90 (@bluebyninety) November 29, 2020
Struggling against an 0-3 team that is throwing a tougher-than-expected zone defense against you might have that type of effect. However, Livers tossed water on the notion that there is any ill-will between he and his coach.
“He was holding me accountable in the midst of the game,” Livers said told the media following the win. “Emotional, take it the other way, actually, I wouldn’t even say I took it the other way. He was just challenging me. Weirdly enough, that’s how we communicate. We argue in practice, we go at it during games, we go at it during scrimmages. It doesn’t matter. He just wants me to be a great player, and I respect him for that.
“He told me to play harder, get on the ground, grab your 50/50 balls. Rebound. Little things like that. Like I said, middle of the game, challenge, that’s how we go at it. I got you, coach. ‘Yeah, what’s up? Yeah, alright. I got you. Trust me.’ Stuff like that. And I know he trusts me a long way, wants me to be a great basketball player, that’s it.”
Howard was a little less willing to divulge what went on during the exchange, but said that he felt challenging Livers was what he needed to put things together and get the team back on track.
“First, that’s between Isaiah and I,” Howard said. “And secondly, you look at his boxscore, 8 for 12, 5 for 7 from 3, for 22 points, four blocks, plus-minus was 7. I think it was a nice little spark he needed to respond with the performance he did tonight. It’s great that I get an opportunity to empower young men to help be the best version of themselves. Isaiah rose to the occasion.”
The optics of what occurred probably did not look great on television, but there is nothing serious to takeaway from Livers and Howard going at each other outside of pulling back the curtain on what has become a culture of accountability in Ann Arbor.
“I wanna inspire my guys, my younger guys especially,” Livers said. “I want to continue this Michigan culture. I want them to see it’s okay to be down. It doesn’t matter if the team hasn’t won a game, who they played or what, it’s all about getting a win. At that time, we were down, we weren’t playing well. You’re not gonna be in the game if you’re missing 16 shot attempts. I’m gonna snap right back cause I wanna lead this team to a victory.”
Michigan will attempt to snap right back and stay undefeated on Wednesday when Ball State comes to Crisler Center for a 7 p.m. ET tipoff.