BLOOMINGTON — Michigan coach John Beilein grabbed his jacket, picked up his water, put his head down and started walking back to the Michigan locker room at halftime. Then he looked up at the scoreboard to see if that had really just happened.
Against an Indiana team with a 5-8 record and nine freshmen, his team trailed 39-22.
But Beilein knew exactly what to focus on.
“The big thing was poise, poise, poise,” Beilein said. “We cannot win this game if everybody tries to do it all by themselves. Just don’t lose your poise. And for a young team, we did pretty well.”
Michigan responded by pulling out a 72-66 overtime victory and its first win at Assembly Hall since 1995.
This isn’t the first game the Wolverines have come out flat this season against a team they were expected to beat. Michigan faced a 20-point halftime deficit before pulling out a 66-64 overtime win over Savannah State in late November.
The Wolverines (2-1 Big Ten, 12-3 overall) dominated the extra period thanks in part to 3-pointers from sophomore Kelvin Grady, who made his first start of the year, and redshirt freshman Laval Lucas-Perry, who poured in a game-high 18 points. Indiana shot just 3-of-9 from the foul line in the five-minute span.
Fifth-year senior guard C.J. Lee said Beilein’s message was to “be the better team for five minutes,” and Michigan certainly was.
But to reach overtime, the Wolverines had to stay poised while down by six with less than one minute remaining in regulation.
After sophomore Manny Harris hit a 3-pointer from the left wing, Michigan put on the full-court press. Indiana quickly beat it and Lee found himself defending a 2-on-1 fastbreak. But Indiana junior Devan Dumes exposed the ball for a quick second, allowing Lee to poke it away, and the ball ended up in Grady’s hands.
“I just tried to make a play,” Lee said. “I was actually trying to set up for a charge.”
The next time down the floor, Lucas-Perry’s 3-point attempt hit the front of the rim, bounced up and swished through the net to tie the game. The basket capped a 15-6 Michigan run over the game’s last eight minutes. Indiana failed to score at the end of regulation, sending the game to overtime.
Lee’s play was the difference-maker at the end, but Beilein said he felt the momentum began to shift earlier in the half. Down 48-35 with less than 13 minutes remaining, freshmen Zack Novak and Stu Douglass hit back-to-back 3-pointers. For the first time all game, Michigan looked like it had a chance to win. But Indiana came right back and the Wolverines went scoreless for more than three minutes.
Michigan played the worst it had all year on both ends of the court against Indiana (0-2, 5-9), which ranks last in the Big Ten in more than half of the major statistical categories.
“We played a terrible first half,” Lee said. “We’ll have to look at that tape and see what we did wrong.”
Before halftime, the Wolverines shot a measly 25 percent from the field and were just 3-for-18 from behind the arc. Harris even sent a scoop-layup attempt over the backboard. And on the defensive end, Michigan didn’t close out on Indiana’s shooters well and gave up numerous easy layups.
But in the end, the scrappy comeback win kept Michigan’s NCAA Tournament hopes alive.
“We didn’t quit … I thought that was a big point for us,” Beilein said. “And maybe at the end of the season, we’ll look back at that as a pretty important part of the season.”