Isaiah Livers was in the middle of answering a question about adding pace to his game when Jordan Poole came over.
The sophomore forward left his answer hanging.
“You shot 10 threes, bro?” he said to Poole. “Calm down, man! That’s a lot of threes!”
Calming down, of course, isn’t Poole’s thing. And on Sunday, it was a good thing he didn’t — six of his 10 shots from beyond the arc went in, providing Michigan with 18 much-needed points in its 74-52 win over Binghamton.
Before the game, Michigan coach John Beilein preached confidence, a trait that’s especially important against a zone defense like the Bearcats’. Against opponents like that, sometimes all there is to do is just keep shooting.
Just 15 seconds into the game, Poole made his first 3-pointer to put the Wolverines on the board. Within the next two minutes, he picked up an assist on a three from freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis and hit a second triple of his own to put Michigan up six.
It was the biggest lead the Wolverines had all half.
Six minutes later, Michigan hadn’t scored since Poole’s last 3-pointer. Appropriately, he ended the drought by swishing his third to put his team back in the lead.
That’s the thing with a zone defense. It forces you to make shots, and the rest of the team wasn’t making shots. But Poole? Poole was making it rain.
“That’s my guy,” Livers said. “He works on it every day and in a 2-3 zone, he’s definitely, he’s gonna bust the zone. He’s a zone-buster. He’s our deadly three-point shooter.”
10 minutes into the first half, Binghamton had tied the game again. Naturally, Poole came to the rescue. He hit his fourth trey.
The Bearcats never led again.
Maybe some of the Wolverines’ sluggishness in the game was due to the fact that they hadn’t played in eight days when, in a stretch from late November to early December, they played three games in eight days. From there on, it was one game a week for the rest of the month. It’s not easy to get in a rhythm when games are that infrequent.
“Playing once a week is like how I used to do in high school,” Poole said. “And it was not it, you know what I’m saying?”
But all of Michigan’s somehow closer than expected, should-be guarantee games had something in common: the Wolverines looked discordant for 20 minutes or so, then found their groove.
And on Sunday, Poole provided the early rhythm. Soon enough, the rest of the team followed suit.
Poole opened Michigan’s second-half scoring with a deep three and the Wolverines rolled from there. Poole took a bit of a backseat to Brazdeikis and Livers, who had 14 and 11 points in the half, respectively. But he was still there to add another three 5:23 into the period, and his confidence rubbed off on everyone as the team cruised to a 22-point win. The score made it look easy.
Poole’s 10 3-point attempts tied his career high, and his six made shots from deep were a personal record. He played every bit the role of zone-buster, providing over half of Michigan’s points beyond the arc.
The other thing about a zone defense? It makes it hard to drive to the basket, as the Wolverines are wont to do. So Poole didn’t even try. Instead, he just kept shooting.
He didn’t attempt a shot in the paint until there were less than three minutes left in the game with a 16-point lead.
He missed it.