INDIANAPOLIS — Derrick Walton stripped the ball from OG Anunoby as the final seconds of regulation ticked down and gave the ball to Kameron Chatman.
Twenty seconds later, on the opposite end of the court, the ball returned to Chatman.
Walton kicked out the ball to Chatman with 2.9 seconds to go. At the time, Walton didn’t even think it was Chatman, mistaking the sophomore forward for another sophomore forward, Aubrey Dawkins.
But the ball landed in Chatman’s hands for the biggest shot of his Michigan career.
With the game tied at 69, Chatman buried a 3-pointer from the corner right in front of the Wolverine bench to put Michigan up, 72-69. Chatman fell back into his teammates as they mobbed him, and though the officials later put two tenths of a second back on the clock, it wasn’t enough for the Hoosiers to answer.
Michigan will head to the Big Ten semifinals after adding another marquee win to its NCAA Tournament resume.
“Kam, just a big-time shot, a big-time player,” Robinson said. “I’m just so happy for him. He’s worked so hard, hasn’t caught all of the breaks this year, but definitely deserving of that opportunity and that moment and that shot.”
Added junior forward Mark Donnal: “After it went in, it was like slow motion. Everyone just ran up to the bench, and there’s just a big dog pile. It was just an unbelievable shot, an unbelievable kid. All the adversity he’s been through, it’s great for him.”
Unlike many of Michigan’s games this year, neither team ever pulled away in the first half. Both teams shot close to 50 percent, with Indiana just above and the Wolverines just below.
Sophomore guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rakhman led the Wolverines (10-8 Big Ten, 22-11 overall) in the first frame with 12 points, with freshman forward Moritz Wagner adding seven points of his own — his first since Jan. 23.
Wagner went 3-for-3 overall, adding nine points to starting forward Mark Donnal’s 12.
“Our little thing is we call each other the bigs, we call each other the ‘hard hats,’ ” said sophomore forward Ricky Doyle. “It’s great, it’s like our own little fraternity. It’s good seeing like basically our little brother out there showing the world what he’s got. (Wagner’s) got a lot of talent, he’s a great player. He can shoot the ball really well and he hit some great shots. Mark and Moe, I think didn’t miss a shot out there.”
In the teams’ first meeting, on Feb. 2 in Ann Arbor, Michigan couldn’t find a way to stop the bleeding. In a disastrous first half, the Wolverines allowed Indiana to go on a 25-0 run that effectively ended the game.
Michigan coach John Beilein showed his players highlights of the last Indiana game to motivate them and remind them of the Hoosiers’ offensive onslaught.
“We’re thrilled about that win,” Beilein said on Friday. “We have a lot of respect for Indiana. And by winning this championship, in a year that I think anybody that could get eight or nine wins in this league this year really had a great team. And they got 15 of them. So they’re a terrific team. And you all know the story at our place. They just pounded us.”
But this time, Michigan stayed strong defensively, forcing 15 turnovers and capitalizing with 22 points off of them. Junior guard Derrick Walton Jr. didn’t attempt a shot in the first half, but he dished out seven assists while holding Yogi Ferrell to seven first-half points.
Michigan-turned-Indiana forward Max Bielfeldt didn’t make any noise early in the game, but he made his presence felt while closing out the half. Wagner hit a big 3-pointer to put Michigan on top, but Bielfeldt quickly took action to give Indiana a one-point lead. Abdur-Rahkman hit another trey on the next possession, but Bielfeldt was there again to tie it up at 32 with a jumper.
The first-half action finally ended when junior guard Zak Irvin pushed off, giving the ball to Indiana with 5.7 seconds until halftime and allowing the Hoosiers to head into the locker room with a 37-36 lead.
But the second half progressed with the same seesaw battle.
Four minutes into the half, forward Thomas Bryant made a monster one-handed slam, but nine seconds later, junior forward Mark Donnal responded with a dunk of his own. Another seven seconds later, Bielfeldt hit a 3-pointer to make it 49-44 in favor of Indiana.
From that moment onward, though, the Hoosiers hit a dry spell, unable to score for more than five minutes while the Wolverines rode a 9-0 run that included an Abdur-Rakhman transition layup after stealing the ball on the other end.
Michigan didn’t go without scoring droughts of its own, though. Late in the second half, the Wolverines didn’t score for four minutes. Just as it looked like Michigan would get off easy, Donnal made two costly errors as the Wolverines were about to snap their scoring drought.
He walked on an easy layup, giving the ball to Indiana, and two Hoosier possessions later he committed a blocking foul for an and-one. Suddenly, Indiana had a five-point lead.
But the Wolverines battled back, including a Robinson 3-pointer that tied the game at 69, and Chatman delivered the final blow.
Saturday, Beilein is allowing his players to sleep in until about 8:30 a.m. It’s an extra half-hour from the day before, and it’s easy to assume the first thing that will come to Chatman’s mind when he awakens: the shot that changed his career and made the 2016 NCAA Tournament a possibility.