Michigan Basketball advances to Sweet 16 due to stellar bench play

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /

Head coach, Juwan Howard’s bench paced the Michigan Basketball team past a tough opponent in LSU.

Michigan Basketball is headed to the Sweet 16 once again, this time on the heels of a tremendous performance for a couple of key players in the Wolverines’ rotation coming off of the bench.  I’ve been preaching over the past couple of days that Michigan will need stellar bench play if they hope to advance deep into the tournament.

It was the Tigers setting the pace early Monday evening, leaning on their superstar guard Cameron Thomas who’d finish the night with a game-high 30 points.

The Tigers leaned heavily on their backcourt; both starting guards played the entire game.  In addition to Thomas’ awesome night, his running mate Javonte Smart totaled 27 points and nine boards but only converted on two of his ten attempts from three-point range.

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Thomas is a lethal three-level scorer knocked in three of his five attempts beyond the arc, but Michigan made it tough on Thomas, often rotating extra bodies towards the talented guard, forcing him to give up the rock more than he’d like at times.

LSU is a very athletic team that enjoys controlling the pace of the game.  Wolverines head coach Juwan Howard was often spotted on the sideline encouraging his group to keep up the pace and match the Tigers.

The victory over LSU proved Michigan Basketball certainly has the depth to make a run to the Final Four and beyond.

Howard used just eight players, similar to LSU, relying on his starters to ’empty the tank,’ which became the head coach’s pre-game motto.

Senior guard Eli Brooks set the pace early for the Wolverines finishing with 21 points and converting on five of his nine attempts from beyond the arc.  When Michigan Basketball fell behind by ten early, it was Brooks nailing a shot to keep the Wolverines within striking distance.

Early on, it seemed the Wolverines were really missing their injured star forward Isaiah Livers, but as the first half grew old, Michigan started to gain momentum and took a one-point lead into the locker room.

The second-half was similar to the first; each team was punching with a run, and the other counter punched one of their own.  The Wolverines started to pull away thanks to a 14-1 run midway through the second half.

Howard got a gallant effort from Chaundee Brown, who came off the bench to score 21 points along with playing lock-down defense on either Smart or Thomas.  Brown went three of six from three and six of nine from the field.

Hunter Dickinson led Michigan Basketball with 11 boards and added 12 points before getting into foul trouble with about six minutes left.  The often whistled Dickinson needs to stay out of foul trouble moving forward if the Wolverines hope to advance to the Elite Eight and potentially the Final Four.

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The Wolverines are set to play Florida State in the Sweet 16 after the No.4 seeded Seminoles beat Colorado 71-53 Monday.