Livers gets his turn in the spotlight in Michigan's win over Florida

James Hawkins
The Detroit News
Michigan forward Isaiah Livers (4) dunks in the second half Saturday against Florida in a second-round NCAA Tournament game.

Des Moines, Iowa — Michigan’s Jordan Poole had his shining moment in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season.

So, it seemed only fitting that roommate and best friend Isaiah Livers experienced his in the same round a year later. 

And that's what happened when Livers threw down a posterizing dunk that put the exclamation point on Michigan’s 64-49 win over Florida at Wells Fargo Arena on Saturday.

“I remember it was the same time last year Jordan hit that big shot,” Livers said of Poole’s winning 3-pointer against Houston. “I remember I probably had (two people) around me asking questions, and Jordan had everybody around him. Most guys would get jealous and I'm like, 'He deserves it.'

“Everybody deserves the fame. Everybody on this team is going to go through it.”

Livers’ highlight came with 4:42 left when redshirt junior wing Charles Matthews blocked a shot and quickly got the ball to junior guard Zavier Simpson. Looking up the court, Simpson threw a one-handed bounce pass in stride to Livers on the left wing.

After taking one dribble, Livers gathered, took flight and threw down a two-handed slam over Florida’s Andrew Nembhard.

“All I remember is Jordan doing this (pointing up) on the opposite side,” Livers said. “I'm like, 'Nah, Jordan. Not this time. I'm going up to dunk this myself.' ”

Livers has had a couple chances to put a defender on a poster this season, but has had issues losing the ball when going up with one hand and finishing at the rim.

With that in mind, Livers had a teaching point from Michigan coach John Beilein pop into his head during the brief time it took for the play to develop.

“Coach B said, ‘Go up there and finish with two, and I guarantee you that it's going to go in,’ ” Livers said. “I went up, and I don't know how I thought about it in that moment, but I went up with two and just put the ball in the basket.”

Yet, Beilein, who isn’t one for flashy plays, was more concerned about his players letting their guard down and celebrating too much after the highlight-reel dunk.

"Two points. Way to go, man,” Beilein said. “Get back on defense guys."

But for the Michigan fans and teammates, it was a play worth taking time to marvel at.

"First of all, I ran the floor and I thought he was going to give it to me,” Poole said. “I said I just hope he's aggressive and he dunks it. Being able to see my brother go over there and make a big-time dunk, I was just in awe.

“We see stuff like that all the time. Being able to show his athleticism, it's just amazing. Of course, we're extremely excited in the game and we love to see stuff like that.”

More importantly, the dunk was a spirit-crushing basket and part of a 13-5 closing run Michigan used to put Florida away. It was also a high point in an impressive stretch for Livers, who finished with 10 points and is averaging 12 points over the past five games.

And hopefully it's the first of several memorable moments — and authoritative dunks — to come.

“I'm going to get the one-hand one of these days,” Livers said. “But I'm going to stick with two hands for now.”

Down-low dominance

For the second straight game, Michigan took advantage of its height advantage, primarily in the paint with junior center Jon Teske.

The Wolverines finished with a 34-16 advantage in points in the paint and outrebounded the Gators by a 42-29 margin, with 11 offensive boards.

Unlike other games earlier this season, Michigan did a better job of exploiting mismatches and getting the ball to Teske in the post when he had a smaller defender switched onto him.

"It was a big emphasis," Teske said. "We practice that a lot. They're looking for me and I've got to do my work as well trying to seal it off. If I don't have anything, the guard is going to beat the mismatch. We practice that all the time and it just came out tonight."

Slam dunks

Florida became the 17th opponent Michigan has held under 40-percent shooting this season.

... Florida entered the contest averaging 17 free-throw attempts per game. The Gators went to the line a season-low two times.

… Michigan recorded back-to-back 30-win seasons for the first in program history. It's also the fifth time the Wolverines have reached 30 wins and third time under Beilein.

… Beilein is 19-7 in NCAA Tournament games at Michigan.

… Michigan improved to 3-0 against Florida in the NCAA Tournament.

Twitter: @jamesbhawkins