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Zavier Simpson unveils running hook pass in Michigan's lopsided NCAA Tournament win

James Hawkins
The Detroit News
Guard Zavier Simpson trotted out a running hook pass, which is similar to his running hook shot, in the second half of Michigan's 74-55 victory over Montana Thursday.

Des Moines, Iowa — Michigan junior guard Zavier Simpson has flummoxed foes with his running hook shot.

He added to that bewilderment by pulling out a new trick: the running hook pass.

Early in the second half of Thursday’s 74-55 win over No. 15 seed Montana, Simpson busted out the delivery on a pick-and-roll play that was ran to perfection with junior center Jon Teske.

"The hook shot and hook pass is basically the same,” Simpson said. “I developed the hook shot and then I did the hook pass on accident I said, 'That would be a good play.' I watched a lot of film on myself so when I did it, I said I really can install that into games like this, scenarios like this."

Michigan coach John Beilein said he has talked with Simpson about using the hook pass against defenders who drop in pick-and-roll situations, noting it’s similar to a jump shot pass where everybody looks up.

With Montana running a small-ball lineup that had no traditional center and no player over 6-foot-7, it proved to be the right time for Simpson to drop the high-arching dime.

"I told Jon I'm just going to throw it over the top. I'm not going to keep trying to bounce it or go low,” Simpson said. “They're small so I'm going to throw it over the top and that was his job to go get it, which he's pretty good at.”

Teske said Simpson and he are constantly talking about what they’re seeing on the floor and giving feedback to one another in certain situations.

But when it comes to the hook pass, Teske said it simply comes down to having a feeling for what Simpson is going to do.

"You can tell a little bit. We kind of make eye contact a little bit or I can kind of tell if he's going to shoot a floater or if he's going to throw it off to the side,” Teske said. “We just have that connection. We've been playing together for three years now. As a point guard and center, you need that connection and I think we have great chemistry.”

Freshman center Colin Castleton knows as well as anyone how hard it is to stop Simpson’s hook as both a shot attempt and pass.

And while Castleton has gotten used to defending it, even he still has limited success against it.

“It's one thing to watch film, but then actually guarding it you don't know when it's coming,” Castleton said. “You don't know when he's going to scoop it under or hook shot over you.

"You can't really tell. If the big man has to go with the point guard and if he throws it up, hopefully somebody behind is helping you with the big guy. It's something really tough to guard."

Slam dunks

With 10 assists against Montana, Simpson set a program record with eight 10-assist games in a season. He also passed Trey Burke on the all-time list and is tied for No. 7 with Eric Turner with 421 assists.

"That's a huge testament to what he does," redshirt junior wing Charles Matthews said. "I feel like so many times he kind of gets I don't want to say undervalued if he's not having an offensive game. But he means so much to us and none of these big nights that we have would be good without him. So we really appreciate him as well."

… With 4:39 left in the game, Brazdeikis flexed his muscles after muscling his way to the rim for a layup.

When Montana's Ahmaad Rorie came right back down and scored a layup on Brazdeikis, several players on the Montana bench stood up and started flexing.

"All I've got to say is you've got to look at the scoreboard,” Brazdeikis said. “You can’t be flexing if you're not winning. That's it.”

… Teske wore a padded sleeve on his right arm in the second half after crashing to the court hard early in the game. Teske said he hit his elbow and it was sore, but he doesn't expect it to be an issue moving forward.


Twitter: @jamesbhawkins

West Region


Tip-off: 5:15 p.m. Saturday, Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines, Iowa

TV/radio: CBS/950

Records: Michigan 29-6; Florida 20-15

Next up: Winner faces No. 6 Buffalo, No. 11 Arizona State, No. 3 Texas Tech or No. 14 Northern Kentucky in the Sweet 16