The Michigan Wolverines moved to 16-9 and 7-7 in conference play on the season with a blowout victory over the Indiana Hoosiers at Crisler Center on Sunday afternoon by a score of 89-65. The victory is the fifth in the last six games for Michigan since a mid-season lull they went through without Isaiah Livers on the floor.
We will start with Livers today because, well, he was injured again. He did something to his right ankle on a play somewhat early in the second half and limped off the court and to the end of the bench. After going back to the locker room and being evaluated, he returned to the game briefly before the Wolverines subbed him back out with a big lead. He was still limping, but it does not appear to be something with long-term effects. We will just have to wait and see there.
On the court, Michigan was led by one of its most balanced offensive efforts of the season. Five Wolverines finished in double figures with Franz Wagner leading the way with 16 points and 8 rebounds with his brother, Moe Wagner of the Washington Wizards, in the building with the NBA All-Star break currently underway. Brandon Johns had 14 points, while Eli Brooks and Livers chipped in with 13 and 12 points, respectively. Zavier Simpson finished with a double-double with 12 points and 11 assists.
Fan-favorite Austin Davis continued his emergence with 9 points and 5 rebounds.
Michigan shot 55 percent in the first half to set a ton for the game, as they repeatedly obliterated Indiana’s pick and roll defense. Despite the lackluster effort defensively, the Hoosiers were able to hang tough while making some low-percentage shots in the first half to have things within striking distance. The Wolverines held a 41-34 lead after the first 20 minutes of play.
The second half was when things started to trend heavily in favor of the Wolverines. Michigan cruised and led by as much as 23 in the final 20 minutes en route to a big victory to move to .500 in conference play and pick up win No. 16 on the year.
- It seems redundant to even post it at this point, but we will repeat ourselves anyways. This is a completely different basketball team with a healthy Livers and one that seems so much more at ease out on the floor. Basketball was made to look hard during the stretch of games where he was not out there, but Livers has made them comfortable and firing on all cylinders again. There’s just a different flow and feel to the offense with him, which is to be expected when you have a potential 50-40-90 guy in the mix every game. This is a top-half of the conference team despite what the standings say with him out there. The six minutes or so that he was hurt again was going to make this a very different story, but he actually checked back into the game with a slight limp. That seemed unnecessary up 21 points, but oh well.
- Sunday was another example of how Simpson works best as a facilitator that can provide some offense when he absolutely has to. Outside of a few errant passes early in the game, he was on point with his passes throughout the afternoon as he abused the Hoosiers’ ball screen defense. He only had seven shot attempts in the game. We have talked before on how Michigan is fine with a heavy offensive load for Simpson and he has been ready to shoulder that load. But he does not have to and should not have to. His best basketball this season has come over the last few weeks since the suspension.
- Davis is not pretty firmly Michigan’s best center right now and the gap might actually be widening a bit there. Davis is not just playing out of his head right now. He has legitimately gotten better and uses his big body to establish position down low and power people out of the way with his rear-end. I have no idea what is going on with Jon Teske, and I’m not sure that they should make lineup changes, but Davis’ minutes probably need to be evened out at least a little bit more. But with the way Davis has been playing with the second unit, it is hard to change that right now.
- Brandon Johns has very quietly continued to play well and was another player that had an outstanding game on Sunday. He had 14 points and was three-for-three from the field, all from beyond the arc. He was 5-for-8 from the free throw line.
- Wagner played one of the best games of his Michigan career despite fouling out. He has played well without shots falling at times, but this was a good performance for him and as we mentioned before, his big brother was in the building.
- Adrien Nunez, Colin Castleton and Cole Bajema came off the bench when the game was out of hand and Juwan Howard emptied the benches. Bajema hit an impressive three, but those other two seem to be non-factors at the moment.
Next up for Michigan is a trip to Rutgers on Wednesday and a road tilt at Purdue on Saturday.