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Orion Sang | Detroit Free Press | December 5, 2018

Michigan basketball: Freshman Ignas Brazdeikis is rapidly developing into a star

EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern coach Chris Collins was sitting at a podium in Welsh-Ryan Arena when he was asked if he had recruited Michigan's Ignas Brazdeikis.

Collins said yes. He and his staff had seen the 6-foot-7 forward from Oakville, Ontario, play. They loved what they saw.

"I knew he was really good," Collins said. "I just loved his spirit. He's a warrior, he's tough. He makes shots, he gets to the basket, he competes. He's a really fun guy to watch play."

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Collins also knew the schools that were pursuing Brazdeikis, and the schools that Brazdeikis favored. Northwestern wasn't one of them.

That was the difference Tuesday night. No. 5 Michigan remained undefeated with a 62-60 win at Northwestern because Brazdeikis plays for the Wolverines and not the Wildcats.

The freshman forward scored a game-high 23 points on 9-of-18 shooting. Time after time, it was the 6-foot-7 left-handed shooter who responded with a huge bucket to stem a Northwestern run.

"He gets us buckets when we can't get one sometimes," said Michigan coach John Beilein. "He still is gonna hunt some bad looks. He makes such obvious freshmen mistakes sometimes, he missed a curl that we were gonna switch.

"And then, all of a sudden, he'll just go get you a bucket. Getting knocked down and making one of the two free throws, that was pretty big. And the big 3 he hit."

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In the first half, Brazdeikis responded to a 7-0 Northwestern spurt by hitting a floater with his right hand and then a mid-range jumper on the next possession.

Later in the game, he scored on a drive to the rim after another 7-0 Northwestern run. And he swooped into the lane again to stretch U-M's lead to six after the Wildcats had cut it to two.

"I just do whatever it takes to win," Brazdeikis said. "That's the most important thing for me. So if that means me being aggressive and attacking, then that's what I'm going to do."

His biggest shot came later, with the Wolverines trailing by three.

Michigan moved the ball around and found Brazdeikis an open look from 3. He buried it to tie the game.

Later, as the two teams traded the lead, Brazdeikis absorbed a hard foul at the rim, got up and split a pair of free throws to tie the game again.

"I'm just a confident and aggressive player," Brazdeikis said. "I don't shy away from these moments and neither do my teammates. We all expect to succeed."

It was the fourth 20-plus point game of Brazdeikis' career. He has played nine games.

At the current pace, there will be fewer games left in his college career than first expected.

Brazdeikis has plenty of talent. But his scoring ability wouldn't matter if he wasn't confident enough to use it.

Luckily for U-M, he is.

"That's why he came to Michigan," Beilein said. "He watched Nik Stauskas make a lot of those big shots and he wanted to be in this element and play in front of that crowd today. That's who he is, and that's why we love him."

This article is written by Orion Sang from Detroit Free Press and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.