In a back-and-forth slugfest characterized by sloppy basketball, a tense second half and two thrilling overtime periods, the Michigan men’s basketball team clung onto the narrowest of leads to steal away a win from Purdue in double overtime, 84-78.
The clock was ticking down, second by second, signaling the end of a top-10 slugfest between No. 5 Michigan and No. 10 Oregon on Saturday.
Senior guard Zavier Simpson stood with the ball in both hands, glaring down his lane to the basket. With little off-ball movement and no open shooters, Simpson took off down the lane and put up what he hoped to be the game-winning shot. It clanged off the backboard and the heroics of the day fell into the lap of sophomore forward Brandon Johns Jr.
CHAMPAIGN — Senior guard Zavier Simpson sat at the top of the key with the ball — and nearly the entire offense — resting in his hands.
The No. 5 Michigan men’s basketball team was trailing, as it had been all game, and the Wolverines were praying for a bucket against Illinois midway through the second half. But still, Simpson sat there. Holding the ball for what felt like an hour, he finally made his decision. He drove to the basket and missed a layup attempt, attempting to score over the 7-foot center Kofi Cockburn.
Last Friday, the Michigan men’s basketball team scored 103 points against Iowa. One-hundred-and-three.
Under former coach John Beilein, the Wolverines had only scored above 100 points six times — and never against a Big Ten opponent. Michigan seemingly only managed to crack triple digits against low-level non-conference foes, and based on Beilein’s more elaborate, drawn out offensive plays, it seemed to be almost on accident.
All game, the No. 4 Michigan men’s basketball team had one roadblock to an otherwise easy win: Iowa big man Luka Garza.
On his way to an astounding 44 points, Garza was a force to be reckoned with in the low post, dominating in his back-to-the-basket play. The Wolverines (8-1 overall, 1-0 Big Ten) saw early that Iowa’s (6-3, 0-1) offense started and stopped with Garza, but they were helpless to stop it.
“We want it all. We want all the smoke.” Heading into Tuesday’s matchup against Louisville, sophomore guard David DeJulius and the Michigan men’s basketball team were flying high, having dismantled two top-10 teams en route to a championship at the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament. The No. 1 Cardinals’ response? Ask and you shall receive. Using a suffocating defensive effort, Louisville (8-0) completely neutralized the No. 4 Wolverines (7-1) and capped off a 58-43 home win.
Rarely does one aspect of a team’s game, or one individual, typically lead a team to prolonged success. In the current NBA, that list begins and ends with LeBron James. Instead, teams look to find a particular element across its identity: balance.
While families come together from far and wide to devour turkey, watch football and reluctantly talk politics, the Michigan men’s basketball team will be facing its fiercest competition to date at the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament. Hosted every year in the Bahamas, the tournament hosts a variety of college basketball’s historic programs in an early-season slugfest prime for early resume building and testing teams' weaknesses. This year, the Bahamas will welcome the Wolverines (4-0) along with No. 6 North Carolina (4-0), No. 8 Gonzaga (6-0), No. 10 Oregon (5-0), No. 13 Seton Hall (4-1), Iowa State (3-1), Alabama (2-2) and Southern Miss (2-3). On Wednesday, Michigan kicks off the tournament against the Cyclones in one of its true tests of the season.
Hopefully, by the end of this, you’ll have both of these questions answered. Even in the supposed “throwaway” segments of the schedule, great games and lessons be found.
Last year, the Houston Baptist men’s basketball team walked into Winston-Salem, N.C. and left with a shocking victory over Wake Forest.