Rosemont, Ill. — Michigan’s starting lineup has been able to dodge any crippling, long-term injuries this season.
The Wolverines are hoping freshman forward Isaiah Livers won’t become the first victim.
Livers exited Tuesday’s 61-52 loss at Northwestern two minutes into the game after falling hard under the basket following a fast-break layup and landing awkwardly on his left ankle.
Michigan coach John Beilein didn’t have enough information to give an official prognosis but said the early thought is that Livers suffered an ankle sprain.
“I don't know enough about it,” Beilein said. “What we did at halftime, we said go out — because it would stiffen up on you — we said go out and try and see. If you can go, go. If you got a lot of pain, don't go. He told us he couldn't go, so that's all we know right now.
“The fact that he wanted to go out and try it again means it's not a break or anything like that.”
After Livers’ layup gave Michigan a 4-0 lead with 18:23 left in the first half, he was slow to get up. When he did, he hobbled back down the floor and was unable to put any considerable weight on his left ankle.
He was quickly replaced by fifth-year senior forward Duncan Robinson and was looked at by the training staff on the bench before heading back to the locker room for further evaluation.
Following the halftime break, Livers tested his ankle and attempted to move around and shoot during warm-ups but was unable to return.
"He tried in the second half to go out there and play and he could not play,” Beilein said. “It certainly affected us a little bit, but it's not the reason we lost the game.”
Robinson tied a season-high with 36 minutes in Livers’ absence and finished with three points (1-for-6 shooting), six rebounds and two assists. Redshirt sophomore wing Charles Matthews also slid over and played a stretch at the four when Robinson was on the bench in the second half.
While Beilein awaits word on the severity of Livers' injury, Michigan will take a wait-and-see approach before determining his availability for Sunday’s game at Wisconsin.
“He gives us a lot energy,” said junior center Moritz Wagner, who missed two games earlier this season with an ankle sprain. “He gives us great defensive effort, versatility and is a great shooter. We don't like seeing people go down early, especially on this team. I think Duncan did a great job though. We adjust to adversity and I think that shouldn't be an excuse (for the loss).”
Missing the mark
The Wolverines shot 22.7 percent (5-for-22) on 3-pointers, including a woeful 10 percent (1-for-10) in the second half, against Northwestern.
It was the third straight game Michigan struggled to dial it in from beyond the arc and finished below 30 percent from 3-point range. The Wolverines shot 28 percent (7-for-25) against Northwestern and 25 percent (8-for-32) against Minnesota last week.
“We couldn't get many open looks,” Beilein said. “We haven't shot the ball well in a bit. Maybe we're a little tired. We got Wisconsin coming up on Sunday, but we got to shoot the ball better. We're not made that way, but when we're shooting the ball well we're pretty good. When we shoot it like today, it's not going to do much good.”
Northwestern coach Chris Collins said his team’s top priority on defense was not giving senior guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Wagner and Robinson any open 3-pointers. The trio finished a combined 3-for-10 from deep.
“Not that those other guys can't make shots, but there was a heavy emphasis and trying to know where those guys were at all times,” Collins said. “Moe hurt us in the paint because he's really good, but I thought overall from 3 we did a really good job.”
Michigan had to alter its travel plans to Northwestern for Tuesday’s game. The team was originally slated to fly out Monday night, but snow and wind in Chicago caused delays and forced the team to wait on its charter flight for a couple hours before returning to Ann Arbor.
Instead, Michigan flew out Tuesday afternoon for the 7 p.m. game.
...Tuesday was a homecoming of sorts for Matthews, a Chicago native. Prior to the game, he took photos with former St. Rita teammate Vic Law, a Northwestern forward, and St. Rita coaches Gary DeCesare and Kenton Terrell, who were on hand for the game.
…Robinson became the 68th Wolverine to play in 100 career games at Michigan.