With its Big Ten schedule set to resume next weekend, it appears the Michigan men’s basketball may be without its leading scorer for a significant stretch.
After suffering a groin injury in the 11th-ranked Wolverines’ 42-point win over Presbyterian, junior forward Isaiah Livers is out indefinitely, according to a Michigan spokesperson.
For the Wolverines, losing Livers is as significant of an injury as any. He’s been at the forefront of their offense for much of the young season, averaging a team-best 13.6 points on a career-high 50-percent clip from beyond the arc. His ability to create offense on the wing and in transition has pulled Michigan out of costly scoring droughts at times. His catch-and-shoot prowess stretches defenses while on the perimeter, opening the lane for pick-and-roll opportunities.
“We’re going to miss him,” said first-year coach Juwan Howard. “We don’t know how long, but just his presence out there on the floor, his skillset. Yes, he’s been shooting the ball very well from the outside. A junior, a guy who’s played in a lot of big games, been a starter for us and having a really good season.”
Against Oregon, Livers sparked a comeback by scoring the Wolverines’ first 11 second-half points. It’s stretches like those that Michigan will need against teams among the likes of Michigan State and Purdue over the next month. Now, the Wolverines will need to look elsewhere for such production.
Just when Michigan’s starting five was beginning to gel together with the return of freshman wing Franz Wagner, Livers’ injury will force Howard to reconfigure his rotation once again.
While the newest starter may vary from game to game, Howard has a host of options. Sophomore forward Brandon Johns Jr. has shown flashes of high-level play this year, while Michigan’s three-guard lineup of senior Zavier Simpson, junior Eli Brooks and sophomore David DeJulius has also proved successful. Sophomore wing Adrien Nunez, who started the Wolverines’ first four games before Wagner’s return, figures to be in the mix as well, though he’s shot the ball poorly for much of the season.
“We trust the guys that are playing behind Isaiah and the work they’re all getting in practice, the game reps they’re going to receive,” Howard said. “They’re going to give us that production we need from that ‘4’ spot.”
With the ill-timed injury coming just days ahead of a tough stretch of conference games, including a Jan. 5 trip to Michigan State, Livers’ absence will force Michigan out of its comfort zone. Now, it becomes a matter of how quickly the Wolverines can adjust.