Why Isaiah Livers Didn't Play vs. Penn State, Update on if He'll Play vs. Indiana

Why Isaiah Livers Didn't Play vs. Penn State, Update on if He'll Play vs. Indiana

Basketball

Why Isaiah Livers Didn't Play vs. Penn State, Update on if He'll Play vs. Indiana

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Twenty-three minutes into Michigan’s Thursday night contest against Penn State, a team spokesperson went row-by-row up in the media box in Crisler Center’s section 201, alerting everyone that sophomore sixth-man forward Isaiah Livers would likely not be playing in the No. 2 Wolverines game that evening. That was made apparent quickly, as Austin Davis and Eli Brooks both came out onto the court, but Livers didn’t make an appearance.

Suffering from back spasms, it wasn’t something that the team anticipated.

A game-time decision, Michigan head coach John Beilein said after the game that they had hoped that Livers was going to be able to go. But, given his situation, it just wasn’t in the cards for Thursday.

“He practiced the last two days,” Beilein said. “He asked out of extra session on Tuesday, because his back was a little sore. We worked on it. He practiced fine yesterday, but he woke up really sore today. He did three sessions. It’s back spasms. We’ll get an MRI tomorrow and see where he is. But it was a game-time – he really tightened up as the day went on. He was in therapy for like three hours.

“Yesterday, and I probably wouldn’t have mentioned it anyhow, but it wasn’t even a concern to me at the press conference.”

Of course, Livers figured heavily into the game plan, which complicated matters. Michigan still won handily, defeating the Nittany Lions 68-55, but it wasn’t an easy affair.

So, how to you re-enter Big Ten Conference play with such a key figure sitting out? Livers may be a sixth-man, but he’s more than that to this Wolverines team. A starter a year ago, his responsibility is more like one of the five preceding him than the two that come behind him off the bench.

Beilein says that the sudden shift in the Wolverines capabilities, while not ideal, is something that the team had to quickly be ready for. Likening the injury to a notable one several years ago, he hoped that his players would rally, given Livers’ absence.

And, in a way, that’s what they did.

“It’s that sudden change that we have no choice but to embrace it and just look at it,” Beilein said. “I just told the team, remember years ago, this was the game where Caris Levert broke his ankle in the Northwestern game and was out for the season. And we had to go in and play Penn State here and we played really well. I made that analogy to them that the team didn’t know either. As a result, we had a plan with him that, it was loose, because again, we didn’t know how they were gonna play us. And we’re just going to have to be really good at being flexible and that’s a great example of that flexibility.”

Now, there’s no time for rest — both figuratively and literally.

In a mere two days, No. 2 Michigan hosts a resurgent Indiana team, currently ranked No. 21 in the nation with just two losses on the season. The Hoosiers have lost but two games thus far — a close loss at Arkansas and a blowout loss at the hands of formidable Duke — both on the road. So Michigan will assuredly need all hands on deck.

Will Livers be available? Beilein isn’t quite sure yet, given that he hoped that his star forward would have been able to play on Thursday night.

“Yeah, it is too early,” Beilein said. “I had planned on him playing. There was nothing – I talked, when he was tight yesterday, I said make sure to get him – but my thought was, back spasms, he probably won’t be at 100. Being a guy that had back spasms, he probably won’t be at 100%, but hopefully he can go, because we just need the minutes there from that position.”

Michigan and Indiana will tip-off — with or without Isaiah Livers — on Sunday afternoon at 4:30PM EST at Crisler Center, with the game being broadcast nationally on CBS.

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