Eli Brooks' masked-crusader look can't save Michigan from defensive meltdown

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

Columbus, Ohio — Junior guard Eli Brooks was sporting a new look on Sunday.

After breaking his nose in the win at Purdue Feb. 22, Brooks was wearing a black protective mask as he made his return to the lineup.

However, Brooks’ Batman look wasn’t enough to save No. 19 Michigan as it dropped its second straight game and fell, 77-63, to No. 23 Ohio State at Value City Arena.

"It's not too bad,” Brooks said of the mask. “They did a really good job of molding it to my face. It doesn't block out a lot of vision.”

Michigan guard Eli Brooks drives in front of Ohio State guard CJ Walker on Sunday.

Brooks suffered the nose injury early in the second half when he collided head-to-head with Purdue’s Nojel Eastern. Brooks never returned to the game and he ended up missing Thursday’s loss against Wisconsin.

According to Brooks, the broken nose led to a sinus infection and that was the reason why he didn’t suit up against the Badgers.

“I had really bad sinus pressure,” Brooks said. “I had a headache and I didn't think I could give 100 percent, so I didn't go out there.

“I was just trying to get the headache out. Once I broke it, there wasn't that much pain. It was more of what do I have to do now? But when they reset it, it was definitely a lot of pain, but ever since then it's just been a headache.”

Brooks said he was put on an antibiotic that he was required to take in the morning and at night with food to flush out the sinus infection.

During the week, Brooks went through a walkthrough but didn’t participate in the contact portion of practices before the Wisconsin game. He went through full-contact drills during the two-day prep leading up to Sunday’s Ohio State tilt.

Brooks said there was also no checklist or steps he was required to take before he could return to action.

"It was more just my comfortability and my pain level, so it was up to me the whole time,” he said.

Brooks said he broke his nose during his junior year of high school. But since it happened in the summer, he opted to stop playing instead of wearing a mask.

After his one-game absence, Brooks was put right back in his usual role and finished with seven points on 3-for-8 shooting and seven rebounds in 28 minutes.

"It was big,” coach Juwan Howard said of having Brooks back. “Kid with a broken nose coming out there, sacrificing, making himself available and throwing his body on the line goes to show you how he's all for the team. He's been like that all season long. Unfortunately for him, I would just like to see him healthy.”

Downtown funk

Junior forward Isaiah Livers, the team’s top outside shooter, has struggled with his 3-point shot since returning from his right ankle injury.

Over the past three games against Purdue, Wisconsin and Ohio State, Livers is shooting 26.7 percent (4-for-15) from beyond the arc. He finished 2-for-8 from deep against the Buckeyes.

Despite the recent rough patch, Howard said his message to Livers won’t change.

"Shoot it again if you're open. Keep shooting it,” Howard said. “I don't want any of our guys to put their head down. In a long season like this, you're going to have some opportunities where you get some open looks that are not going to go in.

“Last thing I want is for a guy to put his head down and feel that he's letting his team down because every guy in that locker room wants to see the ball go in the basket. Unfortunately in the game basketball, it just doesn't happen that way. Give Ohio State credit. They played well defensively.”

While Livers said he doesn’t think he’s going to be 100 percent the rest of the season, Howard said he was unsure if Livers was still dealing with any lingering effects from his ankle injury.

“If you're out there playing, that means you're healthy,” Howard said.

Slam dunks

Senior guard Zavier Simpson played in his 144th career game and tied the program’s all-time mark set by former teammate Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (2014-18).

"It's special,” Simpson said. “I'm blessed to have an opportunity to pass Muhammad and am grateful for it all. Hopefully I can embrace it a lot more because looking back a decade from now, hopefully, I’ll be able to smile and say I enjoyed it.”

… Senior center Jon Teske and Simpson will end their careers with a win at every Big Ten venue except for Value City Arena. The Ohio natives are 0-2 in their home state.

… Michigan fell to 1-7 this season when allowing an opponent to shoot at least 47 percent from the field. Ohio State shot 47.4 percent (27-for-57) on Sunday.


Twitter: @jamesbhawkins