Poole and Livers have the game of their dreams

Saturday, January 6, 2018 - 2:58pm

Freshman forward Isaiah Livers and freshman guard Jordan Poole combined for 23 points against Illinois.

Freshman forward Isaiah Livers and freshman guard Jordan Poole combined for 23 points against Illinois. Buy this photo
Evan Aaron/Daily

 

Isaiah Livers said that he and Jordan Poole have dreamed about games like Saturday.

Each of the roommates has had their own breakout games — Poole dropped 19 points on Indiana and Livers had 13 against Iowa — but the pair had yet to go off in the same game.

Against Illinois, in a 79-69 win, that changed. And not only did the freshmen do it in the same game, but in the same portion of the game, to keep Michigan in it.

Livers checked in for the first time at the 8:52 mark in the first half. The Wolverines trailed by eight. Two minutes later, they were still down eight. That’s when Livers and Poole got going.

First, Livers hit a corner three to cut it to five.

Then, when the Fighting Illini tried to trap senior guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Livers snuck toward the basket, where Abdur-Rahkman found him for an open dunk.

Another Livers dunk moments later came from similar action, and the freshman had put together a personal 7-0 run.

It’s a far cry from where Livers was even a few games ago.

“I was thinking way too much a month ago,” Livers said. “Just, ‘should I shoot this, or should I pass it.’ Now I feel like Coach (Beilein) trusts that I have the green light to shoot the ball or go to the basket any time I want to.”

After Livers’ run, Illinois made a basket, and it was time for Poole to get in on the action. He was fouled on a three of his own, and he promptly drilled his three free throws to tie the game.

Moments later, Michigan took the lead on the best example of Livers and Poole’s chemistry.

Fifth-year senior Jaaron Simmons tossed an outlet pass to Poole, who was already in the frontcourt. A defender stood between Poole and the basket, and he took a step toward Poole. What the defender didn’t see was Livers running the floor on the opposite side. Poole didn’t hesitate.

He slowed down at the 3-point line and lobbed the ball toward the hoop. Livers went and got it, threw it down, and sent Crisler Center into hysterics.

“We made eye contact,” Liver said. “That’s my roommate, we made eye contact. I knew at half court, he was gonna slow down and throw it up.”

Added Poole: “I remember last time I threw an alley-oop to him, he wanted me to throw it higher. So at that point, it’s like, ‘I’m gonna throw it up, you’ve got to go get it.’ It was a huge energy-bringer to Crisler that got us going a little bit.”

Poole would add two free throws at the 3:22 mark, giving the duo a combined 14-4 runt that propelled the Wolverines to a 27-25 lead.

It was a crucial run for a Michigan team whose leading scorer — redshirt sophomore guard Charles Matthews — had picked up two quick fouls to start the game.

It could also be crucial for the Wolverines in the future. Poole and Livers seem to be getting more comfortable with every game, and their combined 23 points against Illinois was another data point that hints at their development. They’ve shown that they can pick up the slack when Matthews and junior forward Moritz Wagner have off nights or get in foul trouble. Saturday was just the latest example of that.

The game also served as an example of just how good the pair can be together.

“I mean, I wake up and I see him all the time,” Poole said. “So, when I go out there, and I just see a big human being like that running to the rim, I just throw it up. So I feel like, definitely, spending as much time as we do together is a huge connection on the court.”

After the game, in the media room, Poole finished answering questions before Livers. He walked over to his roommate, took a microphone, and asked Livers what he thought about the alley-oop pass.

Livers smiled and said he thought he might owe the passer some food.

Then, the pair left and took pictures with fans outside the room. It was all smiles for them after the day they had. After all, it’s a game Livers and Poole have been dreaming about.