Somehow, Isaiah Livers caught the pass, legs in the air, teetering on the edge of the court. His pink shoes barely landed in bounds as he lobbed the ball to Jordan Poole.
The possession started with junior center Jon Teske rebounding his missed layup, then getting down on the floor, fighting for a loose ball and shoveling it to junior guard Zavier Simpson. It ended with Poole catching the ball at halfcourt and finding Teske, wide open on the perimeter for three — his second triple in the first five minutes.
It was that kind of night for the No. 9 Michigan men’s basketball team (25-4 overall, 14-4 Big Ten), which got off to a quick start and never relented, winning 82-53 over Nebraska (15-14, 5-13) in the final home game of the season.
“We jumped on them right away,” Teske said. “I wasn’t expecting to win by 30 (but) we played well, got on them early, which helps. Offensively, defensively, we really got on them tonight.”
Shots were falling no matter who was on the court. With redshirt junior wing Charles Matthews out with an ankle injury, others — including sophomore forward Isaiah Livers, freshman guard David DeJulius and freshman forward Colin Castleton — were forced to contribute, and that they did.
Matthews’ absence proved to be no problem. Livers, who got the start in his place, started off the game by rattling in a contested trey. He finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds for his first career double-double.
“Charles, he does a lot of great things,” Livers said. “I tried to replace him as best as I could, trying to grab 50-50 balls, just knock open shots and go dunk on other people’s heads. … But without Charles, nothing’s really gonna change. The ball’s still gonna move, shots are still gonna go in. We’re still gonna be Michigan.”
Seconds after subbing in, meanwhile, Castleton — whose last points were in December — slipped in a layup. When he scored his final points on a jumper with 1:24 left in the second half, cementing his 11-point breakout game, he exited to a standing ovation.
After Nebraska cut the lead to 17 by forcing a three-and-a-half minute field goal drought, Teske responded by sinking another 3-pointer. Two possessions later, Simpson grabbed a rebound and tossed a half-court pass to Poole. Poole threw down a thunderous one-handed dunk, skidding across the floor before calmly sinking the and-one.
But Teske was the real star of the show. He was a matchup nightmare for Nebraska, driving to the basket at will and drawing fouls when he couldn’t hit a shot for a career-high 22 points. After he completed the double-double with his 10th rebound, Teske hit a layup on the ensuing possession for the cherry on top, then subbed out for the final time, giving the freshmen and walk-ons a go at it.
“Jon did not take a three in practice the last two days,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “ … All of a sudden he just grabs it and shoots it in and does it again, so I think that set the stage. It seems this is part of the mental edge, it seems on Senior Nights, this happens all the time. There’s just this, all of a sudden, we’re playing, and maybe we’re playing more relaxed as well.”
After the game was over and Senior Night festivities done, the Wolverines stood in the Maize Rage section, singing the fight song in front of their home crowd for the final time this season.
They were nothing but smiles.