INDIANAPOLIS — Chaundee Brown Jr. accepted the role when he joined the Michigan Wolverines for a chance to win after years of frustration. He would come off the bench. He would provide energy and defensive skill. He had scored 876 points and started 74 games at Wake Forest. He came to Michigan to win.
“What he was doing does not show up in a box score,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “Chaundee has been rock-steady all season long. When one guy may have it going one night, we still need to have the focus on winning. My focus is on winning and he has done a lot of special things to help us win.”
On Monday night, with the season on the line for the top-seeded but shorthanded Wolverines, Brown did things that showed up in the box score.
“I just come in and be aggressive,” Brown said. “My coaches told me before that this is my game, just come and play the game of basketball. I had a talk with myself before the game. I pray before every game. I told myself to ‘Be you, and great things will happen.’”
Brown’s season-high 21 points led Michigan to a 86-78 victory over LSU, advancing the Wolverines to a regional semifinal for a fourth consecutive time. Michigan (22-4) will meet Florida State in an East region semifinal. Maryland’s loss to Alabama Monday night left the Wolverines as the last Big Ten team to survive among the nine conference members that made the field. Michigan reached the second weekend for the sixth time in eight tournaments.
Michigan extended its season because of a decisive stretch of 4:25 in the second half, when Brown scored 12 of 14 Wolverine points in the 14-1 run that turned a 5-point deficit into a 72-64 lead with 5:57 to go.
Brown made 6 of 9 shots, including 3 of 6 from 3-point range. “Chaundee brings a lot of energy,” said Eli Brooks, who also scored 21 points for the Wolverines. “It is good to see him make shots and it’s good to see him smiling. His energy and presence helps the team and brings the defense to a higher level.”
Franz Wagner scored 15 points and center Hunter Dickinson scored 12 with 11 rebounds. But with guard Isaiah Livers out indefinitely with a foot injury, and Michigan facing a deficit as large as nine points in the first half, Brown’s role had to change. He averaged 7.4 points this season before Monday night.
He had provided a hint in his first game with the Wolverines, with five 3-point baskets against Bowling Green in a 19-point effort. Brown scored in double figures eight times this season going into the second round, but just three times in the previous 13 games.
All that changed in the stretch of 4:25. Brown made a pair of free throws, and then another. After a basket by Dickinson, Brown added a 3-point basket, another pair of foul shots and another 3-pointer. Michigan had an 8-point lead, and a sudden sense of control, with 5:57 to go.
Brown’s contribution helped Michigan produce a game-changing statistic.
Bench points: Michigan 26, LSU 2.
“You can’t fill the void of Isaiah but we knew once he went down, we needed to step up,” Howard said. “Our bench stepped up and brought energy to the floor. When you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready.”