Reserve guard Spike Albrecht helped spoil a second-half Texas rally Saturday (Mar. 22) as U-M advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16.
The 79-65 final score appears to signify a walk in the park, but the second half proved to be nothing of the sort.
The Wolverines (27-8) shot their way to an 18-point lead with 16:02 remaining but Texas (24-11) wasn’t ready to quit.
A 15-5 run by the Longhorns in the next eight minutes had the Michigan fans squirming in their seats and for good reason.
Texas was back in the game, thanks to a Wolverine team which couldn’t buy a rebound, was lost on defense, and was suddenly out of sync on the offensive end.
With 8:27 left at Michigan’s lead only eight, U-M coach John Beilein called time out and sent in reserve guard Spike Albrecht to calm things down.
Beilein has called on Albrecht several times this season to help mentor freshman Derrick Walton, Jr., who is learning the point-guard position on the fly.
Albrecht, who definitely understands his role, has the demeanor of someone who might be a coach someday.
From there, Michigan’s offense came alive. Glenn Robinson III, who finished with 14 points and five rebounds, scored the next five points. ”I wanted the ball. I think they were kind of keying in on Nik (Stauskas), and some of our other guys,” Robinson said. ”I hadn’t scored in a while.”
Eight assists for Nik
Stauskas scored 17 points but more importantly kept his teammates involved by dishing out eight assists. ”As soon as I put my eyes on the basket or just pretend like I’m going to raise up, a lot of guys would start running at me,” Stauskas said. ”That would leave some of the other guys wide open.”
After Albrecht hit a three of his own, Caris LeVert, who scored 14 points, hit a huge three inside the three minute mark to put Michigan up by 11.
Jordan Morgan, who gets very little help defensively, still managed 10 rebounds to go along with 15 points.
As a team, the Wolverines hit a tournament record 14 threes (in 28 attempts). “‘It wasn’t the 14 3s that beat us. It wasn’t,” was Texas coach Rick Barnes’ instant analysis. ”It was not finishing a couple times defensively and the shots in close that we didn’t get to go down.”
It can be added that Texas forced only four Michigan turnovers while the Longhorns committed nine of their own.
Michigan, however, struggled again on the defensive glass and Beilein noticed.
“Those 21 offensive rebounds,” Beilein said.” We’re not a great rebounding team, but the talent he’s (Barnes) assembled right there and the year they had this year, it’s a credit to them what a great season they had.”
The Longhorns turned those offensive rebounds into 19 second chance points, compared to 11 offensive boards for and six second chance points for Michigan.
The Wolverines sported their “We Work” t-shirts before the game. They have until Friday (Mar. 28) to work on their defense, when they’ll meet the Mercer-Tennessee winner in the regional semifinal.
All quotes via the post-game press conference
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — Joel Greer