INDIANAPOLIS — Less than 24 hours after a wild overtime over Northwestern to keep its season alive, the Michigan basketball team found itself in a thriller yet again. This time, the Wolverines faced an even tougher task, taking on No. 10 ranked Indiana — the tournament’s top seed.
But Michigan was just fine with that.
The Wolverines (10-8 Big Ten, 22-11 overall) put together one of their best efforts of the season, and stole a win in the Hoosiers’ backyard. In front of a near-capacity crowd that was vastly comprised of Indiana fans, sophomore forward Kam Chatman hit a game-winning 3 with 0.2 seconds left that gave Michigan a 72-69 win to bolster its NCAA Tournament resume.
The end was fitting for what was a wild and entertaining game. Here are our immediate reactions from the contest.
MVP: Zak Irvin. Playing just a short drive from his hometown in Fishers, Indiana, the junior forward led the game with 17 points while also chipping in five rebounds. After tallying 19 points the day before, Irvin looked poised and controlled throughout Friday’s affair, stopping runs, working in transition, and finding buckets when other Michigan players couldn’t. Going 6 for 6 at the line helped, too.
It was over when… With 1:01 to go, the Wolverines found themselves down only 68-66. But when Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman fouled out, it appeared to be a crushing blow to Michigan. Instead, Abdur-Rahkman’s replacement, Chatman, proved to be the hero of the game, knocking down a corner 3-pointer with virtually no time left on the clock.
Key Stat: It’s no secret that Indiana’s offense is one of the best in the country. It’s also no secret that the Hoosiers play with fast tempo, and Michigan was able to use that to its advantage Friday. The Wolverines kept themselves in the game throughout thanks to 14 turnovers and 19 points off turnovers. Indiana’s turnover rate of 23.4 was its worst since Jan. 26.
Unsung hero: Derrick Walton Jr. . After scoring just three points in Thursday’s win over Northwestern, the junior guard was quiet offensively yet again, only attempting one shot in the game and not scoring any points. He did, however, tally a Big Ten Tournament record 12 assists, including his last one to Chatman for the game-winner.
Runner-up: Moritz Wagner, who scored more points Friday (nine) than he had in Michigan’s previous 14 games combined. Wagner provided a jolt of energy and emotion as he provided critical minutes off the bench.
Room for improvement: Throughout Big Ten play, the Wolverines had developed into one of the Big Ten’s best defensive rebounding teams, and finished the season 27th in the nation with a defensive rebound rate of 74.3 percent. But that was hard to believe Friday, as Indiana rebounded 48% of its misses in the loss.