The stakes were clear and there would be no more second chances. Michigan had to get the job done against a team that embarrassed it on its home floor a little over a month ago.
From the opening tip-off, the Wolverines were up to the challenge. The composure, heart and hustle that was on display on Friday afternoon in Indianapolis reached another level from anything that this group has shown most of the season.
In the end it was the resiliency, and a bit of luck, that has been absent all season which got the job done down the stretch.
Michigan had weathered Indiana’s runs and bounced back from its own scoring droughts for 35 minutes, but it appeared that the Hoosiers had finally broken them down the stretch.
Indiana took a five point lead thanks to an impressive driving layup by Troy Williams and then fouled Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman out a few possessions later. But with their season on the brink, the Wolverines had one more answer. Duncan Robinson fired up a three — his first made triple of the game — to tie the Hoosiers. Then Kameron Chatman recorded a steal on the defensive end of the floor only to have Derrick Walton find him open in the corner for a game-winning three.
It wasn’t how Michigan drew it up — Walton admitted afterward that he assumed he was passing to Aubrey Dawkins — but Chatman, a career 27% three-point shooter, calmly buried the shot as Nick Zeisloft flew by.
Michigan’s offense had just enough in the tank. It’s hard to put your finger on one thing that the Wolverines did particularly well offensively.
It wasn’t a great shooting night by any standard — the Wolverines made just 6-of-22 triples and didn’t make one in the second half until the final minute — but Michigan figured out ways to score. The Wolverines had a great passing game — with assists on 18 of 26 made baskets — thanks to a tournament record 12 assists by Derrick Walton. They also got just enough baskets in transition and off of turnovers (22-13 advantage).
I think the Wolverines are still wasting far too much time to get into offensive sets. There were easily a handful of possessions where they didn’t start running anything until there were about 15 seconds on the shot clock and then were forced into desperation mode. I’m not sure what exactly is always going on, but it’s a major culprit in many of Michigan’s painful scoring droughts.
On the other end of the floor, we saw vintage Indiana basketball. The Hoosiers were dominant on the offensive glass — rebounding 48% of their misses — but were continually sloppy with the basketball. Indiana gave the ball away on a quarter of its offensive possessions and John Beilein did a great job mixing in the 1-3-1 zone, especially when Yogi Ferrell was off the floor, to force a few additional turnovers.
John Beilein spoke after the game about how his game plan focused on taking the three away from Indiana. They were willing to live with the inside play — almost never doubling Bryant or Bielfeldt inside — as long as they didn’t give up open threes. The approach worked. Indiana made just 4-of-17 three-pointers in the game — the second fewest made threes and second fewest attempted threes in a Big Ten game.
Is this enough to put Michigan into the NCAA tournament? It should certainly be a major boost, but maybe not a guarantee. Next up is Purdue on Saturday at 1 p.m. (CBS) in a game that would almost assuredly punch the ticket to the NCAA tournament.
- Derrick Walton: Walton hasn’t hit a field goal through two games in Indianapolis, but he made up for his struggling jumper with 12 assists to two turnovers. Walton assisted just shy of half of Michigan’s makes on the night including the game-winner. Sooner or later, Michigan needs scoring from their point guard, but there won’t be many better games by a player who failed to make a shot.
- Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman: Abdur-Rahkman hit a few threes early to clam Michigan down and played another steady 15 point performance. He just knows how to get baskets at opportune times and that ability is vitally important on a roster that has its fair share of offensive issues.
- Duncan Robinson: Robinson didn’t knock in a three until it mattered most, with Michigan’s back against the wall in the final minute — at almost the exact same juncture he knocked one in against Northwestern.
- Kam Chatman: This was perhaps one of the least-probable game-winning plays ever, but they all count the same. Chatman had 5 points, an offensive rebound, a block and a steal and he gave some quality energy minutes off the bench. The fact that he checked in for Abdur-Rahkman late rather than Dawkins shows that the 6-foot-7 sophomore is starting to earn his time with his hustle.
- Zak Irvin: Irvin led Michigan with 17 points on 5-of-13 shooting (1-4 3pt) and grabbed 5 rebounds in the win. He continued to demonstrate some questionable shot selection and earned an earful for dribbling the air out of the ball on a few possession, but give him credit for hanging in there offensively and battling and hitting some big shots — including his 6-of-6 free throw shooting.
- Moritz Wagner: Energy, emotion and a few timely plays. Wagner had been all but forgotten in the rotation, but he gave Michigan 16 quality minutes off the bench. He knocked in a three and had a couple nice finishes at the rim. He’s a high-risk, high-reward option and still has the tendency to freelance a bit. John Beilein noted after the game that Wagner’s triple was supposed to be a dribble-hand off, but he turned and shot because he had the space.
- Mark Donnal: For as many bright spots as Donnal had on Friday, he unraveled down the stretch in the second half. 12 points on 6 makes and four rebounds is a solid performance in 20 minutes, but the three errors late almost cost Michigan the game. It’s a confidence issue with Donnal, who just didn’t seem to want to shoot down the stretch.
- Ricky Doyle: Doyle has been battling an injury and determined he couldn’t go after a quick first half shift.
- Aubrey Dawkins: Dawkins will get chances for his shooting ability, but Chatman is giving Michigan so much more in other areas of the game that I wouldn’t be surprise to see him continue to eat into his minutes.