As part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, the Michigan men’s basketball team was scheduled to play NC State at Crisler Center on Wednesday night. Due to COVID-19 concerns within the Wolfpack’s program, though, the game was canceled, and Toledo filled in on two days’ notice. The Rockets may have wished they stayed in Ohio.
Even without the typical, two-day prep before a game, the Wolverines (5-0) easily dispatched Toledo (3-3), 91-71.
“We kinda heard the rumor because (NC State) had a cancellation before, and they had some guys test positive in their party,” senior wing Isaiah Livers said. “… And then that day, we came in and Coach (Juwan) Howard told us as we were about to watch film — we didn’t watch any film on anything. We weren’t prepared two days ago for this game. So we were just focused on ourselves.”
If the story of Michigan’s previous win over UCF was its bench play, the script was flipped against Toledo. Fifth-year center Austin Davis — whose starting spot has been threatened by the emergence of freshman Hunter Dickinson — looked dominant early on. Davis bulldozed his way to scoring the Wolverines’ first ten points against the Rockets’ undersized big man, Jonathan Komagum.
Livers, who was 2-for-9 against the Knights, was also firing on all cylinders and reached double-digit points by halftime.
“Really, I just stuck to my routine and kept faith in the system,” Livers said. “It’s shots that I work on every day, and I take those shots with a lot of confidence.
“If the ball’s not falling, I gotta find something else to do. I gotta play defense, talk and be a leader. But when it’s falling, that’s just a plus.”
In addition to a stellar offensive showing, Michigan held Toledo to just 28% from the field and took a 44-26 lead into the break.
Despite Toledo showing a little more fight at times, the Wolverines continued to pour it on in the second half. Davis exited the game at the 16:46 minute mark with an apparent lower leg injury, spelling even more trouble for the Rockets as Dickinson re-entered the game.
Just like Michigan’s previous opponents, Toledo had no answer for last week’s Big Ten Freshman of the Week. Dickinson finished with 18 points, seven rebounds and four blocks.
“I think what makes him special is he just goes out there and hoops,” sophomore wing Franz Wagner said. “He doesn’t really think too much. When you get him the ball, he knows his moves, he knows what makes him good, and you can see, he played extremely good tonight, again in the low post.”
Through no fault of his own, Davis — who left the arena in a walking boot and will undergo further tests tomorrow — may have started his last game for the Wolverines for the foreseeable future.
While Toledo isn’t NC State, and Michigan has yet to face a team from the Power-5 during non-conference play, the Wolverines have put together five consecutive 80-point performances and outscored their last three opponents by an average of 20.3 points.
The Big Ten Conference may very well be the deepest league in the country, but given recent results, Michigan’s roster looks just as deep.
“I think you can see our progression throughout these games,” Wagner said. “We have a lot of stretches where we can really play good defense I think, that’s an area where we still can improve, but I think offensively, we have so many weapons.”
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