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Chaundee Brown could sense it — he was on his A-game.

The third-ranked Michigan men’s basketball team was going through pre-game warmups prior to its clash with No. 4 Ohio State when senior guard Brown told teammate Isaiah Livers that “he liked,” no, rather “loved (the) rims” inside in the Schottenstein Center. 

How the rims differed from those inside the Crisler Center or any other Big Ten arena is unclear, and more importantly, irrelevant, because for whatever reason, Brown’s performance against the Buckeyes reflected his confidence. 

As the Wolverines’ sixth man, Brown entered the game at the 14:19 mark of the first half. Both teams had gotten off to torrid starts offensively and Brown — just as he had forecasted — immediately followed suit. He knocked down three 3-pointers within the span of five minutes to keep Michigan on pace with Ohio State. 

Brown usually provides a competitive spark off the bench, which is one of the reasons Michigan coach Juwan Howard inserted him in that role. But on Sunday, Brown took his enterprising nature to new heights.

“Chaundee has a wide range of emotions, but when it comes to game time he’s 100% locked in,” senior guard Eli Brooks said. “He’s the goofiest one outside (of) competition. Once it’s time to throw the ball up, he’s ready to play. He’s really intense when it comes to competition.”

Brown added: “I agree with Eli. Off the court, (I) just never stop playing. But maturing on and growing up, I know when to really lock in. I really locked in, came in and gave great minutes.”

Brown scored 15 points — up from his average of 8.1 entering the game — and the Wolverines needed every one of them. Midway through the second half, while three of Michigan’s starters sat on the bench, the Buckeyes took a four-point lead as forward Kyle Young scored an and-one underneath the basket. On the next two possessions though, Brown halted Ohio State’s momentum with two mid-range jumpers — a lost art that Brown excels at. 

In addition to his timely buckets, Brown was flying around the court, affecting every facet of the game. 

Down the stretch he was particularly active on the offensive glass. With just over six minutes remaining and the two teams even at 69, Brown reeled in back-to-back offensive rebounds off missed 3-pointers from his Michigan teammates. The sequence culminated in the 6-foot-5 Brown finishing a put-back layup amongst giants. 

The Wolverines led the rest of the game.  

“Chaundee showed the extra effort, continually going after the ball and wanted that ball more than his opponent,” Howard said. “You could just hear the energy from the bench and how everyone was clapping and cheering him on and it inspired us. He just showed that this game means it. That ball means more to him than his opponent.”

Brown finished with just three rebounds, but the two he secured on that one possession were arguably the most important of the game. That seems to represent a recurring phenomenon for Brown — his influence and energy aren’t always reflected in the statsheet.

“It was gonna come down to which team is gonna win extra possessions, whether it comes from turnovers or from second chance points,” Howard said. “… When it’s a tipped ball, I’ll look over there, I just see him ready to get it. But when he comes in, he makes a huge impact even if it doesn’t show up in the box score (with) scoring points, but today it did. 

“He’s just a guy you really want to have on your team.”

It’s not often that a transfer with NBA aspirations is willing to take a back seat, let alone a role off the bench. But Brown accepted it from Day 1, even before the team’s success could validate that it was the right move. 

“Everyone’s happy for each other’s success,” Brown said. “I know a lot of teams, it’s just a lot of jealousy, a lot of hating, guys not liking another person because they’re playing more minutes than them or taking their spot. Here, it’s just different. We all like each other. We all get along, we all hang out, talk to each other, things like that. It’s just like a whole family. I’m really glad to be a part of a team like this, especially my senior year, so this is really special.”

Michigan is flourishing in part due to Brown’s sacrifices and his ability to make plays when it matters most. He’s done that all season. 

Rims have nothing to do with it.

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