No. 11 Michigan thought it might continue easing its way into the meat of the Big Ten schedule with a Sunday nonconference home game against UMass Lowell.
Then came the news Friday that the Wolverines’ leading scorer, junior forward Isaiah Livers, is sidelined indefinitely due to a left groin injury.
Now Michigan (9-3) will be searching for ways to make up Livers’ points when the River Hawks visit.
The Sunday game will be just Michigan’s second outing since Dec. 14. The Wolverines cruised past overmatched Presbyterian 86-44 on Dec. 21, but Livers got hurt when he attempted to dunk little more than three minutes into the game.
Michigan coach Juwan Howard said, “I knew it wasn’t good, but we’re just going to keep him positive and healthy. He’s going to be disciplined with his rehab treatment, and I know he’s going to be diligent with that.”
Livers is producing 13.6 points per game and has sunk a team-high 50 percent of his 3-point attempts.
Michigan lost three of its previous four games before the blowout against the Blue Hose. Howard felt a sense of relief after seeing his team get back on track.
“I had goosebumps, all types of nervous energy before the game because you never know exactly how your team is going to approach each and every opponent,” Howard said. “Our guys were locked in from start to finish. I love the way we came out defensively being aggressive, doing it without fouling, and not letting the scoreboard (affect us) when we got up. We continued to keep playing the game and finished strong.”
Guard Eli Brooks had 16 points and center Jon Teske added 15, but no Michigan player saw more than 27 minutes of action. Howard had the luxury of using nine players off his bench.
“It’s very beneficial for (the reserves). I’m happy for all those guys to get in,” Teske said, according to the Detroit News. “The starters did their job to get that lead up, and they did a great job coming in prepared. We’ll need them down the road. For games like this, it just boosts their confidence.”
Howard might use the final nonconference game to experiment with Teske in the middle and his backup, Colin Castleton, playing power forward. Brandon Johns Jr. also could see an increase in minutes in Livers’ absence.
The Wolverines definitely will be the fresher team entering the Sunday contest. UMass Lowell (6-8) lost 93-81 at Loyola (Md.) on Friday night before heading to Ann Arbor, Mich.
Senior guard Christian Lutete led the River Hawks with 24 points, the fourth time in the past five games that he has led the team. He is UMass Lowell’s top scorer at 19.5 points per game, a figure boosted by a 51-point outburst in a Nov. 8 win at Long Island University.
Lutete also paces the team with an average of 8.1 rebounds per game. Junior guard Obadiah Noel is averaging 15.8 points per game after putting up 18 against the Greyhounds.
In the River Hawks’ previous game, they lost 74-62 to Boston University on Dec. 21. UMass Lowell shot just 31.3 percent from the field in that contest before improving greatly to 51.8 percent on Friday.
“I felt right from the start we couldn’t make shots, and we’re a team that makes shots,” coach Pat Duquette said following the Dec. 21 game. “I’d like to think we’re a team that can win games without shooting the ball well, but we weren’t good enough to do that.
“The shots just never fell. I didn’t think we got as many easy looks and baskets as we usually do. I thought we were trying to do too much on our own.”
UMass Lowell has only faced one ranked team. It lost to then-No. 18 Ohio State 76-56 on Nov. 10. The Buckeyes have since risen to No. 2 in the polls.
–Field Level Media