Ann Arbor — With under 13 minutes left in the first half, Michigan coach John Beilein wanted to give junior guard Zavier Simpson a breather.
It’s a spot where Beilein has called upon sophomore Eli Brooks to be the first guard off the bench all season.
But in Saturday’s 65-52 win over No. 24 Maryland at Crisler Center, Beilein switched things up and turned to freshman guard David DeJulius.
“He's really been playing well,” Beilein said. “We said, ‘You know what? We can use Eli in some ways, but it's time for David right now to back up X much like X backed up Derrick Walton.’”
DeJulius’ first stint didn’t last long. He checked in at the 12:38 mark before Simpson returned with 11:58 left in the half, playing just one defensive and two offensive possessions.
An extended opportunity came later in the half when Simpson picked up his second foul and headed to the bench with 6:25 remaining before halftime.
DeJulius recorded his first basket in Big Ten play by driving to the basket, absorbing contact and getting a layup to roll in for what proved to be one of only Michigan’s four made shots in the final 11:05 of the half.
"I think Dave did a great job coming in and relieving X when he got in foul trouble,” sophomore forward Isaiah Livers said. “Even when he had that left-to-right crossover and kind of mimicked Zavier's little hook. It was a strong finish.”
DeJulius was relieved by Brooks with 1:20 left in the half after giving what Beilein described as “five good minutes.”
DeJulius didn’t see any action in the second half and finished with the one basket, a steal and one missed 3-point attempt in six minutes, which tied for the second-most playing time he has received all season.
“He did great,” Simpson said. “He played great defense, knocked down a little 3 o'clock (layup). We need that sense of urgency off the bench, so I was happy to see him come in and just be greedy, be vicious and demonstrate what he can bring to the team.”
Remember Simpson’s free-throw woes? Those are quietly starting to become a thing of the past.
While he’s shooting 66 percent (31-for-47) from the stripe on the season, he’s shooting an impressive 75.9 percent (22-for-29) on his free throws in Big Ten play.
That includes sinking both of his late-game attempts against Maryland when he was fouled with 1:53 to play and Michigan up, 59-50.
“He's worked really hard at it,” Beilein said. “He's worked very hard at things off the court of just visualization and things like this that will make him a really good player.
"That's a big one-and-one today because there's still two or three minutes to go. One-and-one and he buries them both. Well now they're not going to foul. If he misses them they're going to foul him right away and we know how that can sort of escalate and can snowball.”
It was a scenario that unfolded many times last season as opponents strategically sent Simpson, who shot a team-worst 51.6 percent on free throws, to the line in the final few minutes and he struggled in those pressure-packed moments.
But this season? Not so much.
“Obviously not (shooting) a great percentage, not being a great free-throw shooter last year you're going to want to capitalize on your weaknesses, and that's what I did,” said Simpson, who added he’s not doing anything different at the line.
“Hopefully it can continue. But at the same time, I'm going to keep working.”
Former Wolverines Moritz Wagner, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Duncan Robinson, Jaaron Simmons and Jordan Morgan were all on hand for Saturday’s game.
Wagner (L.A. Lakers), Abdur-Rahkman (Canton Charge) and Robinson (Miami Heat/Sioux Falls Skyforce), who were all part of last season’s team that reached the national title game, were on break from their respective NBA and G-League teams thanks to All-Star weekend.
The trio attended the team’s practice on Thursday, got in a workout with strength and conditioning coach Jon Sanderson on Friday and even put up some shots at Crisler Center before the game on Saturday.
“Thank God we had a noon game, so I can hang out with my guys,” Livers said. “They always give me words of wisdom and I just take it out there on the floor and play with it.”
… Michigan has won 22 straight at Crisler Center, which is tied for the second-longest streak in program history.
… The Wolverines are 6-0 against Top-25 opponents this season, with five wins of at least 11 points.
… Michigan hasn’t lost two consecutive games since Jan. 29-Feb. 4, 2017 and has won 14 straight games coming off a loss.
... Maryland's 52 points scored were its fewest in a game since a 62-52 loss at North Carolina on Jan. 19, 2013.