Strong effort from Spring Grove High grad Eli Brooks helps Michigan to March Madness win

STAFF AND WIRE REPORT
Michigan guard Eli Brooks shoots over Colorado State forward Dischon Thomas (11) during the second half of a college basketball game in the first round of the NCAA tournament in Indianapolis, Thursday, March 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

A strong all-around performance from Eli Brooks helped the Michigan Wolverines get off to a triumphant March Madness start on Thursday afternoon.

Brooks, a Spring Grove High School graduate, collected 16 points, seven rebounds, six assists and two steals in Michigan’s 75-53 upset victory over Colorado State in an NCAA first-round game in Indianapolis.

It was the continuation of standout final season for Brooks at Michigan. The 6-foot, 1-inch guard is averaging a career-high 12.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.2 steals per game.

The 11th-seeded Wolverines rallied from a 15-point deficit to improve to 18-14 on the season. Sixth-seeded Colorado State finished at 25-6.

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Freshman Frankie Collins also provided Michigan with a spark. Collins, pressed into the starting lineup because starting point guard DeVante’ Jones was out with a concussion, had season highs of 14 points, six rebounds and 31 minutes. He came in averaging less than 10 minutes per game.

“I’ve always been impressed with his skill set and I think his style fits our style of play,” Michigan head coach Juwan Howard said.

Big man Hunter Dickinson led Michigan with 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting. Caleb Houstan added 13 for the Wolverines, who will face third-seeded Tennessee in the second round of the South Region on Saturday.

The Wolverines, highly touted at the beginning of the season, squeaked into the tournament thanks largely to their stout schedule. Howard was suspended for five games down the stretch for hitting a Wisconsin assistant in the postgame handshake line, and Michigan hasn’t won two straight games in more than a month.

Dischon Thomas scored 15 points on 5-of-7 3-point shooting for Colorado State (25-6), and Mountain West Conference player of the year David Roddy had 13 points and six rebounds.

But the Rams could not take advantage of the highest seed in school history, the momentum from nine wins in their previous 11 game or the big, early lead.

“Disappointed, obviously,” Rams coach Niko Medved said. “I thought the game was in the balance. We had our chances. Michigan was the better team today, clearly in the second half.”

Michigan turned the ball over nine times in the first 12 1/2 minutes to fall behind 28-13, but things turned around when Howard reinserted Collins. He finished six of seven from the field and had just one turnover.

Collins scored seven straight points to cut the deficit to eight and helped Michigan close within 36-29 at halftime.

“They just told me to be Frankie and I felt great going into the game,” Collins said. “It’s just basketball. I’ve been practicing and playing basketball my whole life, so it’s just going out there doing the things I’ve been working on my whole life.”

He continued the charge early in the second half, capping a 6-0 spurt with a steal and dunk to make it 38-35 less than two minutes into the second half. And when Houston made back-to-back 3s midway through the second half, Michigan led 53-49.

The Wolverines never trailed again, closing it out at the free-throw line.

Big picture:

Michigan: A year ago, the Wolverines won the Big Ten regular-season crown and came within one win of reaching the Final Four. Most of those players opted to return to chase Michigan’s second national title. After teetering early, the Wolverines gave themselves a chance – especially if Jones returns this weekend.

Colorado State: The Rams had all five starters return from last season’s third-place NIT squad. They’re not likely to be as fortunate again next fall. While this was likely Niko Medved’s best coaching job, it wasn’t the way the Rams anticipated heading home.

Up next:

Michigan: Moves within one win of a fifth straight Sweet 16 appearance.

Colorado State: Will use this offseason to regroup and reload.