Spring Grove grad Eli Brooks has standout performance to help Michigan make Sweet 16
Eli Brooks enjoyed one of the top performances of his college career on Monday night, just when his Michigan Wolverines needed it most.
The Spring Grove High School graduate poured in 21 points, to go with seven assists and four rebounds, to power the Wolverines to an 86-78 victory over LSU in an NCAA Tournament second-round contest. The win advances the top-seeded Wolverines to the Sweet 16. They will face No. 4 seed Florida State at 5 p.m. Sunday.
The 6-foot, 1-inch senior guard finished 7 for 11 from the field, including 5 for 9 from 3-point range. He also committed just one turnover is 32 minutes of action.
His 21 points was a dozen points higher than his season average.
It was an impressive performance for a player who, just two weeks ago, suffered a left ankle injury that appeared to endanger his ability to compete in the postseason.
"He's a basketball guy, has a high IQ, very underrated in a lot of ways offensively and defensively," Michigan head coach Juwan Howard said of Brooks after the game. "At times he's looked at as being undersized, but that's why he has that chip. He can be a combo guard, at times he's our primary ball-handler, sometimes he's off the ball. Watch our games, you understand why we appreciate Eli and what he brings to the table night in and night out. He's our glue guy."
Chaundee Brown also had 21 points for Michigan (22-4) in a a roller-coaster victory over talent-rich LSU.
Last Big Ten team left standing: In a game full of big runs, the Wolverines used the biggest run — 14-1 over a decisive stretch midway through the second half — to pull away and preserve a glimmer of hope for the Big Ten, a conference that has mostly tanked during the tournament in Indianapolis.
Michigan is the only team left for the Big Ten after it placed a nation-leading nine in the bracket.
“I mean, it’s March Madness for a reason,” Brooks said. “You’re going to get the best shot from everyone. I still think the Big Ten is a really good conference. We just had some losses.”
Michigan moved on to its fourth straight Sweet 16. The Wolverines will be the last hope for a conference that has already seen another No,. 1 seed (Illinois), a No. 2 seed (Ohio State) and a No. 4 seed (Purdue) hit the highway.
Balanced attack: Hunter Dickenson, a 7-1 freshman, added 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Wolverines, and 6-9 projected first-round NBA pick Franz Wagner chipped in 15 points and seven rebounds.
"My shot is feeling as good as it has all year," Brooks said. "I've said it since the beginning of the year, this is the deepest team I've ever been a part of. We have a lot of shooters and we have a post presence in Hunter and Austin (Davis). They draw a lot of attention, so you get a lot of open shots."
Strong Michigan defense: LSU’s Cameron Thomas finished with 30 points but it took 23 shots, and he went 3 for 10 in the second half. The Tigers (19-10) finished shooting 39% from the floor.
"I think the defense really sparked our pace and sparked our offense," Brooks said. "To be honest, it was just about wearing on them, making everything tough. It was mostly just staying the course."
Reach Steve Heiser at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Associated Press and the Detroit News (through the TNS news service) contributed to this report.