College Park, Md. — Freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis heard the crowd and soaked it in.
When he stepped to the free-throw line with 13:16 left in the first half, the Maryland fans started to chant “You are ugly!” during his attempts.
Brazdeikis responded by calmly sinking both shots, backpedaling down the court, pointing to his ears and letting the crowd know he couldn’t hear them anymore.
By the end of Michigan’s 69-62 win Sunday at the Xfinity Center, it was Brazdeikis who got the last word as he poured in a game-high 21 points to help keep the Wolverines’ Big Ten regular-season title hopes alive.
“Even before the game started they were on me,” said Brazdeikis, who doesn't shy away from the villain role. “I embrace that kind of intensity and I love crowds like that. It motivates me and makes me more hungry. I embrace every second of it and as much as they think they're getting in my head, that's actually fuel for me. I feed off that all day long.”
Brazdeikis proved it. When he snapped Michigan’s 0-for-8 start from 3-point range with a deep ball from the corner, he trotted back down the court and did his usual money gesture with both hands to the crowd.
And when Brazdeikis continually muscled his way into the lane, forced the play inside and earned trip after trip to the free-throw line when Michigan's shots weren't falling, the boos continued to rain down on him.
“That's one of my favorite parts of the game by far. The crowd and everything, it's fun,” Brazdeikis said. “I want it all.”
But after all the flexes, gestures and waves he countered with, Brazdeikis saved his best response for last.
After he hit a 3-pointer from the wing during a key 12-2 second-half run that put Michigan up 51-45 with 5:20 to go, Brazdeikis took a page out of mentor and former Wolverine Nik Stauskas’ book by blowing a kiss to the crowd.
“I've seen him do that against Michigan State,” Brazdeikis said, “so I was like, 'You know, these guys are on me, so I might just blow them a little kiss.'”
The kiss sealed an impressive performance from Brazdeikis, who punished Maryland’s cross-matching strategy and the Terrapins’ best forward defenders with his aggressiveness.
He shot 6-for-12 from the floor, went 7-for-8 from the line and, most notably, drew nine fouls while committing none in 38 minutes.
"It was interesting,” Brazdeikis said. “I had a lot of different matchups on me this game. I'm always ready to be aggressive and our offense puts me in a lot of different positions to attack, to make plays. And today they couldn't stay in front of me.”
And by the end of it, the Terrapins and their fans had nothing left to say.
"Silencing them and then hearing that,” Brazdeikis said of the 'Go Blue' chants in the closing seconds, “there's not a better feeling in the world.”