Three minutes into the second half of Saturday”s game against Penn State, Bernard Robinson threw up a long 3-pointer that failed to hit the rim. Fortunately for Michigan, Chris Young made a great play to retrieve the errant shot and drop it in for two before the shot clock expired.
In many ways, that play defined the Wolverines” horrifically ugly but nonetheless crucial victory.
Michigan started sloppy, but found a way to make the game-changing plays down the stretch.
Equating the game”s first half to Robinson”s air ball is really an insult to the air ball.
The first possession for each team ended with a turnover, and just like that, the tone was set.
By the time play stopped for the first media timeout (16 minutes left), the Wolverines had committed four turnovers and scored just five points.
Then things got even sloppier. In a one-minute span, the two teams threw away five consecutive opportunities.
After Michigan freshman Dommanic Ingerson”s pass was stolen for the game”s 16th turnover in 10 minutes, Michigan called timeout.
At that point, the comic bookstore guy from The Simpsons stood up and said: “Worst basketball game ever.”
Perhaps as a result of the 11 a.m. start, it took an honest effort to keep myself from dozing off, as the teams continued to trade traveling violations like fifth graders. But the ugliness was not limited to just bad passes and sliding pivot feet. It appeared as if the Wolverines and Nittany Lions were going for the “turnover cycle.”
Offensive fouls, backcourt violations and five-second calls were as much a part of this game as jump shots and rebounds.
But LaVell Blanchard and Young earned the Academy Award for “Most Original Loss of Possession.”
Both of them grabbed a defense rebound. But rather than allowing one player to receive the statistical credit, Blanchard and Young each held on tight and shuffled their feet till the official took their ball away and gave it to Penn State.
Tommy Amaker said this game “wasn”t a work of art.”
I”d go a bit further and say it was bad basketball.
When the Wolverines came out of the gate sluggish and turnover-prone, they didn”t deserve to win.
But this game was against Penn State, which, despite its 81-62 win earlier this week against Purdue, is clearly one of the conference”s worst teams.
The Wolverines won in Happy Valley without playing their best basketball, and this game was no different.
With six minutes left and the Nittany Lions leading by three, Michigan needed to find a way to win and it did.
The Wolverines may have thrown up an air ball with their horrible start, but in the end, they still scored with a “W”.
Michigan outscored Penn State 15-5 to close the game. Although point guard Avery Queen, Blanchard and Robinson started on the bench, they made the big plays late in the game to give the Wolverines the victory they desperately needed.
They used turnovers to generate fast-break chances, and they grabbed eight of the game”s final nine boards.
They were aggressive taking the ball to the hole, and they converted 5-of-6 from the line in the final minute to seal it.
But let”s be careful not to put too much stock in the final result.
Remember, Michigan struggled to defeat a crummy team on its home floor. The game was ugly and boring.
But when you”re 10-11, every win feels good.
Steve Jackson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.