No. 2 Michigan was without a key player in Thursday night’s 68-55 win over Penn State. Sophomore forward Isaiah Livers had to miss the game with back spasms that have been affecting him throughout the week according to head coach John Beilein.
“He practiced the last two days (Tuesday and Wednesday.) He asked out of an extra session on Tuesday ’cause his back was a little sore. He practiced fine yesterday, but he woke up really sore today.” Beilein told reporters after Thursday’s game. “It’s back spasms, we’ll get an MRI tomorrow and see where he is, but it was a game-time (decision) it really tightened up as the day went on… Yesterday, it wasn’t even a concern to me as of the press conference.”
Livers absence was a notable one during a first half where Michigan struggled against Penn State’s aggressive defense. The Wolverines went into the locker room at halftime up only 25-20 against a Penn State team it had beaten five times in a row entering the game. Livers teammates wish him a fast recovery so he can return to help the undefeated Wolverines in Big Ten play.
“First of all, we miss Isaiah, that is coming from me and the team but he is an amazing defensive force, he is a glue guy.” said sophomore guard Jordan Poole, who is also Livers roommate and closest friend on the team. “He is able to play all five positions on defense. Being able to have him on the floor would’ve gotten us in a lot of transition baskets, then on the offensive side being able to switch the floor by hitting 3’s.”
One player tasked with picking up some of Livers responsibilities in the Kalamazoo native’s absence was freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis. Brazdeikis played 38:19 out of 40 minutes against Penn State. He performed well with his first career double-double, scoring 16 points and collecting 11 rebounds.
“Isaiah is a big part of our team. It was tough not having him come off the bench and give us that spark.” Brazdeikis said. “We all had to be ready to rebound. Rebounding was a big emphasis for us coming into this game, not having his scoring ability we all just picked it up and did a good job of not letting it affect us.”
As Beilein mentioned, Livers is set to undergo an MRI Friday. However, his status for Sunday’s game against No. 21 Indiana (4:30p, CBS) remains up in the air and may come down to being another game time decision for Beilein and the Michigan medical staff.
“It is that sudden change where we have no choice but to embrace it,” Beilein said Thursday. “As a result, we had a plan with him that it was loose because again we didn’t know how they (Penn State) were gonna play us. We’re just gonna have to be really good at being very flexible and that is a great example of that flexibility.”
Stay tuned for updates on this story from Wolverine Lounge as they become available.