Chaundee Brown's magnificent March Madness moment has Michigan singing Sweet 16 tune

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

Indianapolis — Senior guard Chaundee Brown wasn’t sure how many text messages he received on Monday night. He just knew he wouldn’t be able to get through them all before he went to bed.

That’s not even counting the wave of notifications waiting for him on his social media accounts, which he signed off before the start of the NCAA Tournament to avoid distractions.

Michigan's Chaundee Brown reacts after beating the LSU Tigers.

But that’s the type of response that happens when you have a March Madness moment like Brown, who scored a season-high 21 points and was the catalyst down the stretch in Michigan’s 86-78 second-round win over LSU at Lucas Oil Stadium.

“I know that I prayed and dreamed about being on this stage right here,” Brown said. “My mom was telling me before the game, ‘You prayed and dreamed to be in this position, so you've got to make it happen now.’”

Before Monday’s contest, Brown had scored a total of three points in Michigan’s two previous games without senior forward Isaiah Livers, who is sidelined indefinitely with a foot injury. That included a scoreless outing in 16 minutes off the bench in Saturday’s first-round win against Texas Southern.

It wasn’t how Brown envisioned his first date in the Big Dance. He left Wake Forest after three losing seasons to play in games like this and to have these opportunities. While pleased with the victory despite his quiet performance, he knew he could make some noise.

Brown shrugged off the outing and told himself he didn’t need to change anything. He just needed to do what he’s done all season long: defend like a madman and hit open shots. More importantly, though, he just needed to relax.

Brown’s mom also texted him before Monday’s game to remind him what he’s capable of while offering a simple message — “This is your time.”

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When Brown entered the game, he immediately scored and knocked down a baseline jumper 20 seconds after checking in. That set the tone on a night Michigan needed Brown’s scoring to keep up with LSU’s potent offensive attack.

“Come in and be aggressive. My coaches told me that and my teammates told me that,” Brown said. “They told me before the game that this is my game, come in and be aggressive and just play basketball. I had a talk with myself before the game — ‘Just be you.’ I told myself that and great things happen."

During a second half full of big runs, Brown helped the Wolverines pull away with a decisive 14-1 spurt. He drove to the basket and attacked a closeout to draw fouls on back-to-back possessions, leading to four free throws. He canned a corner 3-pointer to cap a string of nine unanswered points.

Two more free throws and another catch-and-shoot 3 later, Brown had racked up 12 points over a 4:25 stretch that turned a five-point deficit into an eight-point lead.

“You know what you're going to get with Chaundee every single day,” said senior guard Eli Brooks, who also finished with 21 points. “He brings a lot of energy. It was good to see him make some shots because that smile goes a long way for the team. His energy, his presence, it helps the team. It brings the defense to a higher level.”

Brown finished 6-for-9 from the field, made half of his six 3-point attempts and went 6-for-6 at the free-throw line. In his 27 minutes on the court, the Wolverines outscored the Tigers by 19 points.

With Livers injured, Michigan needs Brown more than ever, from the 3-point shooting and spacing he provides to his on-ball defense and value that goes beyond scoring.

“What he was doing does not show up in a box score,” coach Juwan Howard said. “I know sometimes in basketball, we get caught up into the numbers. But as a coach, you look at film, you also look at live-game action, seeing what a guy is doing to help impact the game of winning.

“Chaundee has been rock steady all season long. …He's been doing a lot of special things to help us win.”

On Monday night, it showed as Brown stepped into the spotlight in a moment he’d been chasing his entire college career and finally found at Michigan.

"Coach Howard said this has been all of our dreams since we were little, so we've got to shine now," Brown said. "We've got to keep it going."

Twitter: @jamesbhawkins