Despite final minute of high-stress basketball, Michigan keeps it cool

Teresa Mathew/Daily
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By Daniel Feldman, Daily Sports Writer
Published March 28, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS — For most Michigan fans, the final minute of the Michigan basketball team’s 73-71 win over Tennessee felt like forever.

In reality, the minute of the game actually took 18 minutes.

“That’s all I was thinking,” said Michigan sophomore forward Glenn Robinson III. “That was a long minute.”

In the span of 60 seconds, the Wolverines inbounded the ball seven times. Tennessee had committed just two fouls before that final minute of action and it was going to be up to sophomore guard Spike Albrecht to get the ball from underneath Michigan’s basket.

Caught in the corner without the option of running the baseline, it was difficult for Albrecht to get the ball in bounds. The athleticism and long arms of the Volunteers even more challenging for Michigan to handle.

As the in-bounder, the situation was stressful with just five seconds to find someone.

“You don’t want to make 50-50 plays, he said. “If a guy’s open for a split second, (you have to pass to him), but if you don’t see him, you’re in trouble.”

And with 9.6 seconds left, it seemed Michigan was in trouble. With sophomore guard Caris LeVert cutting, Albrecht passed the ball to him, but as LeVert gathered it, he stepped out of bounds, turning over possession — one of Michigan’s 13 in the game — to Tennessee.

If the situation was nerve racking before, it was even more so now.

But for the bench, the moment wasn’t one to start freaking out about. With two timeouts being called in a row, they were needed to help organize the next inbound play both times.

“We’ve always had a positive mindset,” said redshirt sophomore forward Max Biefeldt. “You can’t put your tail between your legs and start getting nervous. Then that reflects on everyone else.

“You’ve got to keep encouraging the team. They’re the ones that are under pressure.”

As the bench kept its “yes faces” on, all of Michigan coach John Beilein’s assistant coaches were in his ear.

When play resumed and Tennessee got the ball in, down by one, it was only appropriate for the Wolverines’ captain, fifth-year senior forward Jordan Morgan, to be the one to take a charge with six seconds left — bringing back memories of Morgan’s charge against Syracuse in last year’s Final Four.

But even with the turnover, giving Michigan possession again, the play put the Wolverines back in an inbounds situation they had failed at just seconds before.

As Michigan called its last timeout, it would have to get the ball in safely or risk turning it over via a steal or five-second violation.

And unlike before, where the ball was going to LeVert in the corner, Michigan passed the ball to someone else.

With players still cutting in the backcourt to get open, Robinson strode toward midcourt as Albrecht fired a pass.

And according to sophomore forward Mitch McGary; this play was one he had called for earlier in the game’s final moments.

“I tell them different looks they can see,” he said. “Different progressions the out-of-bounds guy is looking for. Coach is always calling up a play so I was saying if all else fails, throw it up to Glenn.”

McGary wasn’t the only one who saw the potential of a long pass to Robinson working either.

“I told Spike when he was inbounding, I was like, ‘go over the top to Caris,’ ” said redshirt junior forward Jon Horford. “The way they were guarding Caris was denying him the ball. If he just went deep, (Caris) was wide open. And then they did the same thing with Glenn, and he’s a freak athlete — he’s going to out-jump pretty much anybody.”

With the Volunteers “not expecting it,” according to Robinson, he was able to gather the ball and take a dribble, because he was fearful of traveling, before the ball was knocked out of bounds.

So why wasn’t the play called earlier if it worked so well?

“I think that play was built off of how they were guarding us,” said freshman guard Derrick Walton Jr. “Kind of calling that play first (time), I don’t know how it would work.”

Whether the play would have worked right away for the Wolverines is up for debate. Given the team came out victorious, it doesn’t matter.

But if there was one effect of the final minute of action drawing out the way it did, even with the Wolverines containing their composure, it may be this, according to Morgan.

“(Beilein) probably lost a couple more years because of it.”