The writing was clearly on the wall. With No. 18 Michigan State’s 53-46 upset loss to Illinois earlier in the day, all No. 16 Michigan needed was a victory over Minnesota to clinch a share of the regular season Big Ten title for the second time in three years.
So Michigan (21-7, 13-3) took care of business, and as coach John Beilein said, “It wasn’t pretty.”
Big Ten Title Tuesday
The Wolverines let an 11-point halftime lead evaporate to a single basket, before two of their unsung heroes made some classy contributions down the stretch, giving the Wolverines a 66-56 win at Crisler Center Saturday night (Mar. 1).
In the last four minutes alone, Jordan Morgan pulled down a huge rebound, made a pair of free throws and converted a touch pass by Spike Albrecht.
Morgan’s layup gave Michigan a four-point lead, 56-52. Albrecht, who was subbing for Derrick Walton, Jr. who had three fouls, hit a pair of free throws and a huge three-pointer to give Michigan an insurmountable ten-point lead with 1:13 remaining.
Morgan crashes the boards
Nik Stauskas, who himself hit an NBA-style pull-up jumper down the stretch, finished the night with a team-leading 21 points and four assists, while hitting 5-of-8 behind the arc. Caris LeVert had 13 points and five assists, while Glenn Robinson III scored 12 points and pulled down four rebounds. Jordan Morgan wrestled down 10 rebounds to go along with his five points.
Austin Hollins led Minnesota (18-12, 7-10) with 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting.
The Wolverines, who have been contenders for the conference crown in each of the last three seasons, shared the title in 2012. A win at Illinois Tuesday will give the Wolverines their first outright title since 1996.
Michigan hardly looked like a championship team in the opening minutes. The combination of cold shooting and very little post defense enabled Minnesota’s 6-10, 240 lb. Elliott Eliason to score six of the Gophers’ first nine points while the Wolverines could score only five themselves.
But Minnesota, including Eliason slowed considerably, hitting only 1-of-7 from behind the arc and 9-of-24 overall in the first half.
Michigan took advantage of Minnesota’s lapse by getting its transition game going. The first of two highlight-reel moments occurred when Robinson blocked an Austin Hollins shot, then found Stauskas on the run for an uncontested three.
Seconds later, Stauskas found Robinson for a basket to climax a 7-0 run which gave Michigan a 31-20 halftime lead.
Eliason also cooled off, scoring only two points the remainder of the night. ♦
Big Ten Standings
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — Joel Greer