What started as an average loose ball became anything but.
Jon Teske might’ve just missed a point-blank layup attempt, but he wasn’t going to give up on the play. As the rebound evaded the grasp of the Hoosiers, the senior center dove on it and had the wherewithal to find Franz Wagner alone under the basket for two.
Teske’s effort, apart from sending the Crisler Center crowd into an uproar, capped off an offensive onslaught that saw his team take a 12-point lead on Indiana late in the first half.
From there, the Michigan men’s basketball team (16-9 overall, 7-7 Big Ten) held serve to beat the Hoosiers (16-9, 6-8), 89-65, Sunday afternoon.
It didn’t take long for each offense to get going. Collective scoring from the Wolverines and a quick pair of triples from Indiana’s Al Durham led to a 12-11 scoreline by the under-16 timeout, with Indiana holding the slim advantage.
The floodgates were open and Michigan wasn’t too keen on closing them. Behind a barrage of 3-pointers, senior guard Zavier Simpson dropping dimes — he had six assists in the opening 20 minutes — and senior center Austin Davis cleaning up the offensive boards, Michigan took control.
Despite being traditionally thought of as Teske’s backup, the big man’s recent performances have blurred those lines, with both players receiving similar minutes in the first half.
“Austin is wired the right way,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “He’s a total team guy. He’s never tried to go for his numbers or do things that he’s not good at. He comes in with the right attitude in practice and working hard. He’s buying into the teaching and development, and he’s going out there and having a great carryover game after game.”
Even more offensive production from the Wolverines gave Michigan a 41-34 cushion going into the break, with junior forward Isaiah Livers leading the way with nine points.
And that cushion only grew in the second half. Wagner chipped in five quick points out of the break, delighting his brother, former Michigan standout and current Washington Wizard Moritz Wagner, sitting courtside.
Simpson continued to spread the wealth offensively, ultimately finishing with 11 assists.
“(Zavier) did a really good job controlling the tempo of the game,” Howard said. “He was hunting for singles. He wasn’t trying to make the home-run play — finding guys that were open and being patient with the basketball.”
What was a refreshingly comfortable half for Michigan could only be tarnished by the sight of Livers hobbling to the bench after falling out of bounds. Sunday marked Livers’ third game back from a re-aggravated groin injury suffered against Illinois on Jan. 25.
After missing just six minutes of game time, though, Livers checked back in at the 7:54 mark — not that the Wolverines particularly needed him at that point, up by 19 — and played through a limp. Howard described his status as day-to-day afterwards, and Livers is currently in a boot with what appears to be an ankle injury.
In the end, Michigan handled its business with relative ease. Six Wolverines scored in double digits, with Wagner leading the way with 16. The balance and confidence on display more resembled the Michigan squad that knocked off No. 2 Gonzaga in November than the one that lost five of six Big Ten games to begin January.
“I feel like we’re back in the beginning of the year a little bit,” sophomore forward Brandon Johns Jr. said. “We’re all just so connected, trusting each other and knocking down shots.”
In similar fashion to recent versions of the Wolverines, Michigan seems to be gaining momentum when it matters most — heading into March.