Tennessee nearly overcame a 15-point second half Michigan lead Friday night (Mar. 28) before losing 73-71 in the NCAA tournament’s round of 16.
The No. 2 seed Wolverines (28-8) will play the No. 8 Kentucky Wildcats, a 74-69 winner over defending national champ Louisville, Sunday.
Due to a plethora of uncharacteristic turnovers, U-M saw it’s commanding lead drop to five with 1:56 left.
From that point on, John Beilein’s Wolverines committed five more miscues before the No. 11 seed Volunteers (24-13) found themselves down 72-71 with :09 remaining and a chance for the winning shot. But Michigan’s Jordan Morgan wasn’t about to see his career end there, so he drew a stylish charge on Tennessee’s Jarnell Stokes with :06 left.
Stauskas at the line
Nik Stauskas made the first of two free throws with :02 on the clock and the Volunteers were unable to get a good shot away as time expired. “Certainly it was a lot of drama at the end,” Michigan head coach Beilein said. ” But we’ve had a lot of that this year and a win is a win.”
Michigan shot 61.5% in the first half then dropped to 47.8 in the second. On the same note, Michigan hit 7-of-9 from beyond the arc in the first period, and just 4-of-11 after intermission.
Tennessee, which shot 57.6 for the game earned most of its pay in the paint. The Volunteers hit only 3-of-11 from three, but outscored Michigan 44-28 in the paint and 16-5 off of those dreaded Michigan turnovers.
Michigan faced a size disadvantage which nearly sent the game Tennessee’s way. The Volunteers go 6-8, 6-8 and 6-6 across the front line. Morgan, who finished the game with seven rebounds and 15 points, was pounded all night by the Tennessee bigs. With nine seconds left, Morgan knew where the 6-8, 260 lb. Stokes was going.
Just another charge
“Well, they set a screen for him to come open,” Morgan said the the post game press conference. “So I knew that the play was going to be for him. And I just know he likes to play bully ball, he’s in a stance ready.” Morgan added. “I don’t know. I just was there. It’s just something I do. I take charge. That’s what I do.”
Morgan then discounted the mismatch theory:
“We heard all week about they had mismatches and how we couldn’t guard them inside. I guess people forgot we play in the Big Ten and we won the Big Ten outright.
“So we’re not really soft around here. That’s not who we are. We lift a lot of weights. So it’s just—I don’t know, it’s a pride thing for us. We’re not about to get punked.”
Michigan actually was a big winner in one of the matchups. Glenn Robinson III, who gives up two inches and 40 pounds to Tennessee forward Jeronne Maymon, held him to two points and three rebounds. Maymon was in foul trouble most of the game and was only able to play 14 minutes. “I tried to be strong in the post,” Robinson said. “I tried to front it when I could. Make them force tough passes into the post. And I think the guards did a great job of helping me out down low by scratching down and giving me a little bit of help.
“But I just tried to make him struggle a little bit on offense. And then when we were on offense, Robinson added. “I just tried to attack him and find straight line drives down and their coach had to take him out of the game and get four guards in there.”
Stauskas had 14 points, Robinson had 13 and Caris LeVert had 10 points along with five frustrating turnovers.
For Tennessee, Jordan McRae led all scorers with 24 points and Josh Richardson chipped in with 19.
Should the Wolverines get past Kentucky (27-10), they’ll have a week to prepare for the Final Four. Coach Beilein keeps saying that F/C Mitch McGary won’t be available, but McGary left the subject open, according to the following tweet.
#Michigan F Mitch McGary: “I would love to play, but as of right now I’m not playing. If we make it to next weekend, you never know.”
— Brian Hamilton (@BrianHamiltonSI) March 27, 2014
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — Joel Greer