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Michigan loses Puerto Rico Tip-Off title game in heartbreaking style

By Daniel Feldman, Daily Sports Writer
Published November 24, 2013

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — On Friday, the Michigan men’s basketball team won in dramatic fashion. On Sunday, the result was reversed, as the Wolverines lost to Charlotte in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off championship game, 63-61, after a put-back by Terrence Williams with 0.4 seconds remaining.

“We were right there at the end,” said sophomore guard Nik Stauskas. “We had a great opportunity to win. It just didn’t work out for us.”

After a corner 3-pointer by freshman forward Zak Irvin cut the lead to two with 38 seconds left, Stauskas fouled Williams. After making the front end of the one-and-one, Williams missed the second, giving Michigan a chance to tie with a triple. But sophomore guard Caris LeVert missed from beyond the arc, forcing the Wolverines (4-2) to foul again.

That time around, Denzel Ingram missed the front end of the one-and-one, and sophomore guard Spike Albrecht drove to the hoop. Initiating contact at the basket, Albrecht’s shot missed, but he earned a trip to the line. After making the first free throw, the second hit the rim — fifth-year senior forward Jordan Morgan collected it in the scramble as Michigan called its final timeout. Morgan collected nine rebounds, including five offensive ones, in 13 minutes of action.

“I thought it was going in,” Morgan said. “I just wanted to be there just in case it did come off (the rim).”

After a game-tying layup from sophomore forward Mitch McGary with less than eight seconds remaining, the 49ers drove to the hoop, where they converted in the final second.

Michigan trailed 35-30 at halftime after shooting 8-for-34 from the field in the first half. The deficit only got bigger as Charlotte (5-1) made the second half’s first three baskets to push it to 12.

Michigan found itself trailing thanks in part to LeVert missing the final 18 minutes of the first half after drawing two quick fouls. Sophomore forward Glenn Robinson III also missed the final 17 minutes of the game after suffering a hard fall on his back on a first-half foul. Robinson attempted to play in the second half, but Michigan coach John Beilein pulled him when it was clear he wasn't comfortable on the court.

“We tried to get him in there as much as we could,” Beilein said. “The advice from the trainers was keep him going and after the first time, we could see even when he was out there he wasn’t moving, and it was going to be a very, very physical game. And so it wasn’t worth it to risk further injury.”

Without LeVert in the first half, the offense ran through Stauskas — the tournament MVP – and he did his part, scoring 16 of his team-high 20 points, while playing all 20 minutes. But Michigan trailed from the 16:55 marker onward due to a field goal drought until Albrecht converted a layup with 6:50 left.

In place of LeVert, trying to fill the offensive void was Irvin. But he wasn’t much help, shooting 1-for-9 in the half, with his only make coming on a 3-pointer with 21 seconds left. Despite his off night from the field, 3-for-14 shooting with eight points, Beilein was happy with what the 6-foot-6 guard brought.

“I liked that Zak Irvin didn’t stop shooting even though he couldn’t make a shot,” Beilein said. “Because he had a huge one for us late and a huge one in the first half. So these are all things I see positives from the loss.”

But like Friday’s game, the Wolverines clawed back. Finally scoring its first points of the half with 15:48 remaining on a layup from fifth-year senior forward Jordan Morgan, Michigan hopped on the comeback trail once again.

LeVert, out of foul trouble, played the entire second half, scoring 11 points, including a 3-pointer that brought the Wolverines within one with 11:43 remaining. LeVert would eventually give Michigan its first lead since the first half with 6:12 left on a pair of free throws.

But Michigan would relinquish the lead with 5:26 left after McGary, who had six points and nine rebounds, picked up his fourth foul. The Wolverines never regained the lead — they came back to tie the game after Charlotte opened a five-point advantage, but got no further.

Trading baskets from then on out, the 49ers took advantage of McGary’s fear of drawing a fifth foul when he reentered the game with 3:37 remaining.