With a Big Ten title literally hanging in the balance, a tip-in off the fingertips of redshirt junior forward Jordan Morgan rolled around the length of the rim before finally dropping out of the cylinder, leaving a previously undefeated home team heartbroken on senior night.
Sophomore point guard Trey Burke, likely playing in Ann Arbor for the final time, drove right at Indiana’s Cody Zeller with just under 10 seconds remaining. After his layup rimmed out, Morgan’s put-back had a little too much on it, and Indiana grabbed possession with just a few ticks left, sealing a Hoosier victory, 72-71.
“I thought the ball went in,” Burke said of Morgan’s miss. “It looked like it went all the way down and then came back up. We were unlucky.”
Added Michigan coach John Beilein: “I just thought for sure that baby was going in.”
After the Wolverines had grabbed a four-point lead with 1:10 to play, Michigan proceeded to miss three of its next four free throws, allowing the Hoosiers to close the gap and eventually take the lead after Zeller made a layup with 13 seconds remaining.
With the win, Indiana won sole possession of the Big Ten Championship — a title that could’ve been split four ways with a Michigan win.
The two top-10 teams battled until the final horn, just as expected. After Michigan (12-6 Big Ten, 25-6 overall) controlled much of the opening half and took a three-point lead into halftime, No. 2 Indiana opened the second half on a 7-2 run. But neither team could put together any significant run or even come close to pulling away. The game saw a total of eight lead changes, with seven coming in the second stanza.
Battling Indiana guard Victor Oladipo for National Player of the Year, Burke finished with 20 points — 16 in the second half — while Oladipo registered 14 points and 13 rebounds.
The Hoosiers dominated the battle on the boards, though, 53-30, including 24 offensive rebounds. Zeller scored a game-high 25 points, and pulled down 10 of those rebounds.
“Somebody always seemed to be missing someone,” Beilein said of his team’s struggle to box out. “The rebounding was a huge, huge part of this game. It’s a shame when we defend so well and then they just walk in and get a layup (off an offensive rebound).
“That is a really talented Indiana team. … We still could’ve won if just shore up some of those areas.”
Just as it did at home in early February, Indiana jumped out to a red-hot start against Michigan. The Hoosiers (14-4, 26-5) scored 10 of the game’s first 13 points, thanks to two 3-pointers from guard Jordan Hulls.
Indiana guard Yogi Ferrell made a layup at the 16:05 mark, giving the Hoosiers a 10-3 advantage at the first official timeout, but the Wolverines stormed back, scoring the next 12 points in what would turn into a 24-6 run.
Hardaway got Michigan rolling with a highlight-reel block on an attempted dunk by Oladipo. The ball, which Hardaway stuffed against the backboard, found itself in Burke’s hands. Burke sent a pass ahead to Morgan, who glided in for a dunk. After freshman forward Glenn Robinson III converted an alley-oop layup, Stauskas scored the next eight points, including two 3-pointers.
The freshman carried Michigan with 10 points in the first half, after an unusually quiet half from Burke that saw him record as many points (four) as turnovers. Robinson added seven, but he and Stauskas both went quiet in the second half, combining for just eight points in the latter stanza.
Burke admitted to trying to “make some plays that weren’t necessarily there” in the first half, and Beilein, without singling out anyone in particular, said several players let the pregame buzz and the game’s implications get to them.
“I think there were several times in the game where all of our guys (were caught up in the moment),” Beilein said. “We’ve been there before, but it’s exciting. … We’re playing for a championship and you can get excited. I wouldn’t just say Trey was the only one doing it — we all did it.”
Burke’s only field goal of the first half, a 3-pointer, put the Wolverines ahead, 27-16, which tied the Hoosiers’ biggest deficit of the season. But Indiana battled back, as its two stars made their presence felt. Zeller and Oladipo scored 11 of the Hoosiers’ next 14 points to bring Indiana within three, 33-30, at halftime.
Zeller led Indiana with nine first-half points, while Oladipo scored eight points to go along with eight rebounds.
A win would’ve secured Michigan a No. 3 seed in next weekend’s Big Ten Tournament, which would’ve meant a first-round bye, but the Wolverines must now play Penn State on Thursday after dropping to the No. 5 seed.
“We told the team, ‘I’d hate to have that be a situation where that’s the end of your season,’ ” Beilein said. “We do have some time here … (but) we have to get quick rest and turnaround and try and find some good out of this particular loss.”