INDIANAPOLIS — The Michigan men’s basketball team has had more than its share of disappointing losses this year, but none of them can approach what happened in Michigan’s 69-68 loss to Ohio State in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament on Friday.
The Wolverines clawed their way back from a 13-point deficit to pull it to within five with less than three minutes remaining.
After stopping the Buckeyes on defense with the game tied at 64, Michigan guard Manny Harris made an extremely tough fallaway jumper to put Michigan up by two. Ohio State answered with a floater at the other end, and Michigan called a timeout with nine seconds left and the score tied.
Harris got the ball, curled around a screen at the top of the key, and elevated for a midrange jumper with about three Buckeye defenders hanging off of him.
It went in. And Michigan, as well as most of the fans in the stadium, thought that was the game, that the Wolverines had won, 68-66.
But there were still 2.2 seconds left, and Ohio State had Evan Turner.
Turner took the inbounds pass, dribbled about three feet past half-court and made a desperation 3-pointer to win the game with Michigan guard Stu Douglass’s hand in his face.
“I just wanted to stay in front of him, get a hand up and try to distract him a little bit,” Douglass said. “But he got it off pretty clean, I didn’t want to foul him and it just dropped right in.”
Officials convened to make sure Turner released the shot before time ran out, and the confirmed that it had. Replays showed the clock didn’t start until about half a second after Turner touched the ball.
“I tried to be a part of that, and they wouldn’t let me be a part of that,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “I was in my coaching box. It’s a whole other issue for another day.”
Even so, questions arose after the game about why Beilein didn’t have someone pressuring the inbounder or someone on Turner before he crossed half-court.
“I don’t think Evan Turner is going to hit a half-court shot better than anybody else is going to hit a half-court shot,” Beilein said. “If you try and put two guys on Evan or you try to deny him by throwing over the top, then he even can get closer. A half-court shot is a half-court shot.”
The shot effectively ended Michigan’s season, with an NIT bid looking highly unlikely.
It was obvious from the beginning the Wolverines (7-11 Big Ten, 15-17 overall) knew this might be their last game of the season — they played with intensity on both offense and defense.
‘We just really wanted to win this game,” sophomore Zack Novak said. “We honestly felt we had a pretty good shot to do that. They got ahead and we kept fighting back and fighting back, it’s just disappointing.”
Senior DeShawn Sims was playing in probably his last game as a Wolverine, and he made it count. He put the team on his back in the first half, scoring 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting and singlehandedly kept the Wolverines in the game.
The second half was the Manny Harris Show. Harris scored 22 of his 26 points in the second frame, going to the line and knifing his way through the interior of the Ohio State (14-4, 25-7) defense.
The amazing shots he hit at the end of the game were supposed to be the cherries on top of a pantheon-level performance, but ended up instead being footnotes.
“Coach drew up good plays, I was able to make some shots,” Harris said. “I don’t think none of that matters now that Evan made that incredible shot. It was good to make shots, but at the same time, I wish we would have won that game.”