No. 5 Michigan Sweeps Weekly Big Ten Player Honors, Headed to Northwestern

By Jay Sarkar ,

Basketball

Jordan Poole was honored as Big Ten Player of the Week on Monday. Photo by Anthony Tscherne

November was a good month for the 8-0, 5th ranked Michigan Wolverines. So far, December has picked up right where last month left off. Shortly after moving up to number 5 in the new AP Top 25 poll, Michigan guard Jordan Poole was named Big Ten Player of the Week, and Michigan forward Ignas Brazdeikis was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week.

“It was a great week, between the support, two sellouts, really loud crowds” spoke Beilein, reflecting on last week. “We played two great basketball programs. Purdue has won more Big Ten Basketball Championships than any Big Ten team. I don’t know if you young people are aware of that. North Carolina and Michigan are tied for the most NCAA (tournament) wins in the last six years. Many of you may not know that. To have those two teams in here and we get two great victories in front of great crowds. That’s good.”

Poole is the first Wolverine to be named Player of the Week since Derrick Walton took the honor during the final week of the 2016-17 regular season. Poole averaged 19.5 points and hit ten total three-pointers against North Carolina and Purdue (he tied his career-high with five in each game, he made five triples last year against Indiana.) After a slow start to the season from beyond the arc, Poole rebounded with a big week on the biggest stage. He told reporters after Purdue his confidence never faded: “Nothing, just keep shooting” said Poole when asked if his mentality changed now that his three-pointers are falling after a 1-10 start to the year. Poole has shot 17 of 30 from beyond the arc in his last five games dating back to George Washington, and 76.9 percent over his previous two games (10 for 13.) His season average from downtown has improved to 48.6%.

“There are some that will go in and some that will not… Me and Coach Dre (Assistant DeAndre Haynes) always find ways for me to get my shots and they are gonna fall eventually, it was earlier in the season I did not know where my shots were gonna come from, just staying confident and being able to knock down shots is a good result.” He told reporters after Michigan’s win over Purdue.

Brazdeikis has put the nation on notice, and as time goes by, I am sure more people will pronounce his name correctly (Williams Tweet) North Carolina was Brazdeikis’ third 20 point performance in a row as he set a new career-high with 24 points (also a game-high.) He missed a large chunk of the first half but checked back in and helped spark Michigan to a 17-2 run that turned the tide in the Wolverines favor.

“I’m just always ready. I made that foul, and it was kind of a mistake” Brazdeikis said after the win over North Carolina. “I was like as soon as I get back in, I need to make some plays, be aggressive, and get back into the groove of the game. My confidence never wavers no matter what.”In six games this season, Brazdeikis has shot at least 53% from the floor, including four straight. He only scored 12 points vs. Purdue but made some impact plays in the first half on the offensive end.

Brazdeikis is the first Michigan freshman to receive Freshman of the Week honors since Aubrey Dawkins did in March 2015. He’s also had the most significant impact as a freshman for Michigan since Trey Burke arrived in 2011-12 and helped the Wolverines to a Big Ten title. I asked John Beilein about the significance of his players winning both awards. It seemed I was the first to inform him of the news as you can see in the exchange in the video below.

Go North West(ern) Young Wolverines

Looking towards Northwestern, here are a few intriguing facts regarding Tuesday’s Big Ten tilt in Evanston:

  • Michigan has not won at Northwestern since January 2013, the Wolverines are 0-3 since, losing in 2015, 2017, and 2018 (played at Allstate Arena)
  • Former Michigan assistant Billy Donlon is in his second season with the Wildcats. Donlon played an essential role in helping Michigan turn around its 2016-17 season to win the Big Ten
  • Tournament and reach the Sweet 16. Luke Yaklich replaced him before the 2017-18 season.
  • The Wildcats have abandoned the 2-3 Zone defense that gave Michigan fits over the past two years and instead shifted to an aggressive man-to-man defense
  • The Wildcats are 6-2 including a win over Georgia Tech in the Big Ten ACC Challenge. NW’s losses include Fresno State and falling 68-66 to Indiana at Assembly Hall on Saturday
  • Northwestern has dealt Michigan its last regular season loss two years in a row:
    • March 1, 2017 (Michigan went on to win seven straight before falling to Oregon in the Sweet 16)
    • February 6, 2018 (Michigan won 14 straight, and has won 22 of its last 23 since that game, only losing to Villanova in the National Championship.)

What the Wolverines had to say:

“It’s been a month now since we’ve played a true road game. It’s been a month now since we went into that hornet’s nest at Villanova and really played well, but we’ve got to go do it again. I don’t know if you ever get used to that, if you ever go in there and say ‘that’s normal’. We have lost three in a row (at Northwestern) and every one of them has been heartbreaking.”  – John Beilein

“Coach B talked about just staying humble because we are gonna have a big target on our back just because we went to the national championship and did what we did last year. We kind of take it as kind of like we deserve it, ‘why not us?’ We work really hard in practice every day, off the court, the classroom, so why can’t we be in the Top 5? Everybody is gonna be coming for us, we just gotta be ready.” – sophomore forward Isaiah Livers

“It’s exciting for me because this is gonna be my first Big Ten road game and you know I am excited to see what it’s gonna be like. I heard there’s gonna be a lot of Michigan fans there too. I am excited to play in an environment like that and I think we will be ready with our defense and our intensity.” – Ignas Brazdeikis

Alumni Watch

After impressing in the G-League, former Wolverine Moe Wagner logged ten minutes late in the Lakers 120-96 win over the Phoenix Suns Sunday in Los Angeles. The first-round pick made the most of them, scoring 10 points and collecting three rebounds in ten minutes. You can watch those highlights and hear John Beilein’s reaction to his former player’s performance in the videos below.

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