'Locked in' Michigan wallops Presbyterian, loses Isaiah Livers to muscle strain

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — After working its way through the meat of the nonconference schedule, Michigan was ready for dessert.

On Saturday, a cupcake named Presbyterian was served.

No. 14 Michigan scored the first seven points of the game, took a 23-point lead into halftime and dominated from start to finish in an 86-44 victory at Crisler Center.

BOX SCORE: Michigan 86, Presbyterian 44

It didn’t come without a cost though. Junior forward Isaiah Livers came up limping and grabbing his hip/groin area after landing awkwardly on a dunk attempt early in the first half.

After sinking two free throws, Livers exited at the 16:54 mark and was checked out by athletic trainer Alex Wong before hobbling back to the locker room for further evaluation.

Livers returned to the bench between the first and second media timeouts around the 12:30 mark, but he appeared to still be in discomfort and needed help getting out of his seat during timeouts.

Michigan forward Isaiah Livers (2) reacts to a lower-body injury after attempting a dunk in the first half against Presbyterian on Saturday.

Livers never returned to the game and, per a Michigan spokesperson, was diagnosed with a "muscle strain."

Coach Juwan Howard didn't have any additional details on Livers' injury following the game.

"I wish I was a doctor so I could tell you exactly which muscle it was, but I have no idea," Howard said. "I'm just praying that it's not a serious injury and tomorrow he will feel better. We have a great medical team that's going to take good care of him and give us the proper advice that's needed to help us find answers."

The Wolverines were already without sophomore forward Brandon Johns Jr., who was dealing with an illness and was unavailable. 

Despite being down two players, Michigan (9-3) made quick work of Presbyterian as Howard used a variety of lineups and several reserves saw extended action.

The Wolverines took a 15-4 lead on a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Adrien Nunez with 12:25 left in the first half. That double-digit margin steadily climbed as a 3-pointer by junior guard Eli Brooks (16 points) capped a 9-0 run and pushed it to 31-9 at the 5:46 mark.

Presbyterian, which committed several shot-clock violations and even had a technical foul called during the middle of a play, didn’t crack double figures in scoring until there was 4:48 left in the half.

Michigan took its largest lead of the half, 38-13, following a pair of free throws from freshman guard Cole Bajema at the 1:14 mark.

Even after taking a 23-point advantage into the break, the Wolverines never let up. They opened the second half with a 15-4 run to widen the gap to 53-19 with 16:00 left to play. Brooks spearheaded the stretch with 10 points, including eight straight at one point on two 3-pointers and a jumper.

"I had goosebumps, all types of nervous energy before the game because you never know exactly how your team is going to approach each and every opponent," Howard said. "Our guys were locked in from start to finish. I love the way we came out defensively being aggressive, doing it without fouling, and not letting the scoreboard (become a distraction) when we got up.

"We continued to keep playing the game and finished strong."

A 3-pointer from sophomore guard David DeJulius, his fourth of the game, gave Michigan a 40-point cushion, 73-33, with 8:03 to play.

Another 3-pointer from Bajema, the final of Michigan's 11 made deep balls, gave the Wolverines their largest lead, 84-39, with 2:02 remaining and put a bow on the victory.

Senior center Jon Teske had 15 points and seven rebounds and senior guard Zavier Simpson finished an assist and a point away from a double-double for Michigan, which snapped a two-game losing streak. 

In total, 14 Wolverines took the floor and 11 of them scored. DeJulius had 12 points, Bajema scored a career-high nine points, redshirt junior center Austin Davis had seven points and eight rebounds, and sophomore center Colin Castleton had six points and seven rebounds to highlight a 41-point bench effort.

"It's very beneficial for them (reserves). I'm happy for all those guys to get in," Teske said. "The starters did their job to get that lead up and they did a great job coming in prepared. We'll need them down the road. For games like this, it just boosts their confidence."

Owen McCormack had 10 points for Presbyterian (2-10), which shot 3-for-20 from 3-point range and committed 13 turnovers. The Blue Hose's 15 first-half points, 44 total points and 28.3 percent (17-for-60) shooting were the lowest marks by an opponent this season.

Michigan will close out the year and its nonconference slate against UMass Lowell on Dec. 29. More importantly, the eight-day gap between games will give Livers time to rest and recover over the holiday break.

"Yeah, he was fine," Teske said when asked if Livers was in good spirits after the game. 

"I don't really know what's wrong with him either, but these next four or five days off that we have will really help him."


Twitter: @jamesbhawkins