Wolverines’ Jon Teske seizes unlikely moment in spotlight

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

New York — Michigan sophomore center Jon Teske thought he might have a bigger role against Purdue.

What he didn’t expect was to have his last name chanted by thousands of fans throughout Madison Square Garden during Sunday’s 75-66 win in the Big Ten tournament championship game.

But that was the reality as junior center Moritz Wagner battled foul trouble and led to extended playing time for Teske, who picked up the slack guarding Purdue behemoth Isaac Haas and provided a huge boost off the bench with 14 points on 6-for-9 shooting in 21 minutes.

“I really can’t explain it,” Teske said. “It’s a great feeling, but that’s not what’s going through my head at the moment. I was trying to play my game.

“Coach (John Beilein) always says there’s outliers in our locker room, so you know never know who it might be. One day it might be JP (Jordan Poole). Another day it might be Eli (Brooks) or Ibi (Watson). I guess today was my day.”

Teske delivered time and again on the world’s grandest stage en route to just his third double-digit scoring performance of the season and first since Dec. 16. He entered the game averaging just 3.3 points per contest.

He wasted no time making an impact as he scored on an offensive putback and dunk on back-to-back possessions soon after checking for the first time before adding a pair of mid-range jumpers late in the first half.

But Teske’s highlight came in the second half when he took a feed from sophomore guard Zavier Simpson and brought down the house with a two-handed dunk over Haas while being fouled with 6:02 left in the game.

The moment forced a Purdue timeout, led to the Michigan faithful shouting "Tes-ke" in unison, and provided the exclamation point as the Wolverines went up 18 and closed in back-to-back tournament titles.

“He was OK,” Wagner said with a grin. “I’m very happy for him. I deal with this every day. Sometimes he looks sleepy and people think, ‘Who’s this guy?’ He’s an incredible shot-maker and people just don’t know that because he hasn’t got the chance to show that yet.

“But he’s very consistent at that and the way he dunked that, I’ve never seen that before to be honest with you.”

And while Teske’s performance might’ve surprised some, it didn’t faze any of his Michigan teammates.

“We see it all the time in practice,” senior guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman said. “It’s about time it comes out in a game and we’re just glad. He works so hard and he waits his time behind Moe. He seized the moment.”

Limiting the deep ball

One of Michigan’s points of emphasis was to get up into Purdue out on the perimeter and not give up 3-pointers.

In the two regular-season losses, the Boilermakers knocked down 12 and 11 shots from beyond the arc, which rank as the two highest totals the Wolverines allowed all season.

Michigan tightened up in the area and Purdue didn’t make its first 3-pointer until 4:11 was left in the first half. The Boilermakers finished 4-for-17 from 3-point range, which tied a season low, and star guard Carsen Edwards (2-for-7) was the lone player to make more than one.

“We knew Purdue has a lot of great talent and good guard play,” Simpson said. “Muhammad and I just wanted to come out and set the tone. We wanted to play great defense from the start so our energy could be contagious.

“As you’ve seen, others followed. We were just glad to be able to just take away the big 3, play good defense on Haas and secure the win.”

Slam dunks

Freshman forward Isaiah Livers stepped on a defender’s foot early in the second half and aggravated the left ankle injury he suffered at Northwestern on Feb. 6.

Livers winced in pain and couldn’t put much weight on his left leg as he had to be helped off the court. After going back to the locker room briefly, he returned to the bench and tried jogging and running during timeouts. However, he never returned to the game.

“I was cutting to the ball and I saw a video of Vince (Edwards) and he was coming with me and I must’ve overstride and stepped on his foot and pushed off,” said Livers, who had his ankle heavily taped after the game. “It hurts worse than what it did at Northwestern, but I have a whole week so I’ll be good.”

… Following the win over Purdue, Michigan is the only team in the Big Ten to beat the other 13 conference opponents.

… Michigan is the first team to win the Big Ten tournament as a No. 5 and No. 8 seed.