With nine seconds left, Charles Matthews stepped up to the charity stripe with the game in his hands.
He had scored a career-high 27 points up to that stage, but the Michigan men’s basketball team still trailed by two to Lousiana State (3-0). The redshirt sophomore left the first free throw short. He hit the second one, but after the Tigers inbounded and made a free throw of their own, the Wolverines couldn’t hit a desperation shot, and they fell, 77-75.
Matthews wasn’t entirely alone in his efforts. Junior forward Moritz Wagner tallied 24 points of his own. From there, save for a 12-point output from senior guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Michigan got almost no help. The rest of the team combined for just 11 points.
Fifth-year senior forward Duncan Robinson, who came into the game leading the Wolverines in scoring, could only muster three points. They may have come on the shot that gave Michigan its first lead with 8:52 left to play, but that was it for Robinson.
Starting point guard Zavier Simpson didn’t attempt a single shot, and his backup, fifth-year senior guard Jaaron Simmons, didn’t fare much better. The duo finished with a combined one rebound, three assists and three turnovers.
Michigan coach John Beilein turned to freshman guard Eli Brooks as the primary ball handler late in the game. While he showed flashes of steadiness, even he finished with just four points, two rebounds, one assist and one turnover.
Even still, it looked like the Wolverines were going to pull out a victory. After Wagner hit a 3-pointer from the left wing, they led by six with 3:11 left.
It wasn’t until just over a minute remained that LSU regained the lead, as guard Tremont Waters knocked the ball away from Brooks, dove to the floor and threw a no-look pass over his head to a wide-open Skylar Mays, who promptly threw down a two-handed reverse dunk.
On the next possession, Matthews got the ball and attempted an off-balance, mid-range jumper that he had already shown he can make. But as he turned to his left and rose into the air, he did so without the ball, as LSU’s Wayde Sims poked it from Matthews’ hands.
Then, after the Tigers turned the ball over themselves, Matthews drew a foul collecting a rebound off a missed three from Abdur-Rahkman. With his team in the double bonus, he stepped to the line. As his first free throw fell short, so too did his and Wagner’s sterling efforts.
Now, the Wolverines are left with a date against Division II Chaminade in the consolation bracket of the Maui Invitational.