Michigan's Ignas Brazdeikis finds his 'groove,' scores 20 vs. Indiana

James Hawkins
The Detroit News
Michigan's Ignas Brazdeikis reacts after hitting a 3-point shot during the second half.

Bloomington, Ind. — Michigan coach John Beilein is never worried about freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis’ confidence, not even during a rough stretch.

On Friday night, Brazdeikis proved why.

Brazdeikis broke out from his shooting slump in a major way, scoring a team-high 20 points on 8-for-12 shooting to help power No. 5 Michigan to a 69-46 win over Indiana at Assembly Hall.

“What he's got to do right now is just let the game come to him, not get frustrated,” Beilein said. “They're going to take away certain things from us and when they take away certain things from us  sometimes he won't get the shots, but he's got to do other things and sometimes like tonight he will.

“He came out really confident because he scored a lot of points against Minnesota, but he didn't shoot it (well). Today to hit those three 3s was big for us and rebound. He played a complete game."

Entering Friday’s contest, Brazdeikis was averaging 11.7 points over the past six games but was only shooting 33.3 percent from the field (22-for-66) and 15 percent on 3-pointers (3-for-20).

That was lowlighted by the last two games, when he posted his first scoreless performance of the season at Wisconsin and had 18 points against Minnesota on 4-for-18 shooting, with half those points coming on free throws.

Against the Gophers, Brazdeikis missed his first eight shots before getting a layup to go late in the first half. But against the Hoosiers, he knocked down his first four shots, including a 3-pointer to open the game.

“It's been a while since I hit that first shot, so once I hit that I right away got into a groove and I was ready to go,” said Brazdeikis, who added he prefers the Adidas brand basketball Indiana uses.

“At the end of the day it's about growing every single day, but the basketball felt really good for me (tonight). I trusted myself fully, my teammates have full trust in me to take shots, make plays and coaches have trust in me and that means everything."

Brazdeikis almost single-handedly matched the Hoosiers' first-half production, racking up 12 points to Indiana’s 18.

Yet, his biggest baskets came in the second half when the Hoosiers were starting to chip away at the lead and on the verge of turning Assembly Hall into a hornet’s nest.

When Indiana pulled within 11, the packed house started to buzz until Brazdeikis buried a 3-pointer from the wing and busted out a money sign hand gesture  rubbing his thumb over the tip of the index and middle fingers  to silence the crowd.

Then when the Hoosiers cut the deficit to nine for the first and only time in the second half, it was Brazdeikis again who delivered another cold-blooded 3-pointer to suck the life out of the building.

"I love that. One of my favorite parts is shutting the crowd down and I love going on the road,” he said. “I got to make sure everyone knows I hit that shot and (the money gesture) is a tactic I use."

And just like another player who used to wear the No. 13 jersey last season  former big man Moritz Wagner Brazdeikis seemed to eat up the boos that rained down on him and turned it into fuel.

“I love hate. I love the hate I get,” Brazdeikis said. “It motivates me more, so thank you to everyone who's hating on us as team. We love that stuff.”

Delay of game

Shortly after Michigan won the tip-off, play was stopped for several minutes due to a clock malfunction.

According to Beilein, the shot clock above Indiana’s basket wasn’t working properly throughout the first half, which led to the P.A. announcer having to let the Hoosiers know when there was 15 seconds left, 10 seconds left and counted down the final five seconds numerous times.

“It was very beneficial to us in the first half and not beneficial for Indiana that when we're going down the other end we can see the one that's working and when we're on defense we can see the one that's working,” Beilein said. “They couldn't see it either time and that's unfortunate, but gradually it worked itself out.”

Slam dunks

Freshman forward Brandon Johns Jr. saw several meaningful minutes in the first half by rotating in and out with sophomore forward Isaiah Livers.

According to Beilein, the move was based on the matchup and not solely on his breakout performance in the first meeting against the Hoosiers on Jan. 6, when he posted season highs with eight points and eight rebounds in 13 minutes.

“We thought based on the size and the scouting report that he would be a better one for us than Austin (Davis),” Beilein said. “We're trying — they’re back and forth in practice — to get more out of that position, and the only you can do is give him a little bit more experience.”

Johns finished with a rebound and played solid defense on Indiana’s Juwan Morgan in seven minutes of action.

... Indiana's 46 points were its fewest since it scored the same amount in a Feb. 25, 2010 loss to Wisconsin.

... The 23-point win was Michigan's largest margin of victory at Assembly Hall.

… Freshman guard Adrien Nunez recorded his first points of the season on a deep 3-pointer with 1:10 left that provided the final scoring margin.

… Michigan’s coaching staff all wore Jordan XI Retro shoes as part of Coaches vs. Cancer Week.


Twitter: @jamesbhawkins