The Michigan Wolverines rarely make it easy on themselves to start games, but the finishes have been more notable lately. And boy, did they ever finish on Wednesday night. Michigan (15-9, 6-7 B1G) trucked Northwestern (6-17, 1-12 B1G) by a score of 79-54 in Evanston for the team’s second-straight victory.
Eli Brooks led Michigan with 18 points (6-of-13 shooting), followed by Isaiah Livers with 17 points of his own, including a handful of monstrous dunks that you will be seeing on his highlight reel moving forward. Northwestern was led by 12 points from center Jared Jones.
The Wolverines started this game by missing their first 11 shots from the field and then would go on a 25-5 run. It took almost half of the first 20 minutes of play to get going, but they would never look back in an effort against the Big Ten’s worst team by what appears to be a pretty decent margin. It has not looked this easy for them since December.
At one point in this game, Northwestern would grind away a bit at the deficit and got things down to 13 points at 61-48 Michigan with just over six minutes to play. The Wolverines held them off and were able to secure the comfortable win and emptied the bench a bit down the stretch with Cole Bajema and Colin Castleton getting some run at the end of the game.
- KenPom had this as a five-point win for Michigan on the road and the Wolverines obliterated that mark. Once the shots started falling, they ran Northwestern right out of their own building, but it never even felt like their own building because Michigan was in its home whites and “Go Blue” chants could be heard throughout the night. This is one they had to have obviously and they put together their best road-effort of the season. There might be something to this team getting hot down the stretch.
- You see just how important Livers is to this team when he’s healthy on nights like this. For whatever reason, there were pockets of fans calling this team overrated and underachievers when they struggled without him on the floor for 9.5 games in a 10 game stretch. Those people looked silly at the time and they look even sillier now. There’s reason to believe that Michigan is one of the 15-20 best teams in the country when he is out there and it’s going to be a blast to see how they perform with him moving forward assuming he stays healthy.
- Brooks went through his little mid-season lull, but his offensive resurgence in the last few weeks has been notable for a team that needed something, anything from the perimeter. He was 4-for-8 from three in this game and is playing as good on defense as he ever has in his career.
- If anyone had said before the season that Michigan would be in position to not only win games, but blow teams off the court with Zavier Simpson and Jon Teske essentially being non-factors, most would have said they were crazy. It does not seem like the recipe for success moving forward, but Michigan’s first half surge came with Simpson on the bench and Teske continues to struggle around the rim. This may have been his most brutal outing of the season, going only 3-of-14 from the floor with a lot of easy buckets inside the paint just not falling. In the vacuum of a game or two, it is one thing, but he has not looked right for awhile now. It makes our next bullet point something to keep an eye on.
- Austin Davis is Michigan’s best center at the moment and with each passing game, that gap seems to widen just a little bit. That’s not to say that Davis should replace him in the starting lineup, though. Teske still gives you a guy that can stretch the floor a bit (when the shots fall of course), but Davis’ polish around the rim and development this season has been nothing short of impressive. Teske played 25 minutes and Davis played 12. I’m not sure you want to give Davis a much bigger workload, but it seems they could give him a few more minutes in there while Teske works through whatever he is.
- People thought it was a joke and something to laugh at when Simpson told us at Big Ten Media Day that Franz Wagner “actually plays defense” compared to his older brother, but he brings it on that end every night. The offense is still very much a work in progress and a step forward there might just be contingent on a full summer in the weight room with Jon Sanderson, but he’s a future pro and you can see it in his game despite how raw he still is as a true freshman.
- David DeJulius very quietly had an impressive night off the bench with seven points, seven assists and six rebounds in 21 minutes. Brandon Johns was 2-for-2 from the floor and made some nice plays in his 12 minutes of work. We actually saw Adrien Nunez, Castleton and Bajema get some run in this game with the latter of the three hitting a triple late in the contest.
Next up for Michigan is a home date with a struggling Indiana on Sunday afternoon at Crisler Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET on CBS.