Michigan basketball team squanders its chances down the stretch
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — They fought.
But by the time the No. 4-seed Michigan basketball team climbed back within three points of No. 13 Ohio, it didn't have much fight left.
Basketball works like that sometimes. Getting back into the game isn't the hardest part. Getting over the top is. On this night, it cost the Wolverines their tournament.
They went down 65-60 to the upstart Bobcats in their opening game of the NCAA Tournament. It's the lowest-seeded team to ever beat Michigan in the Big Dance.
Senior guard Stu Douglass said the Wolverines came out "flat," and the ensuing comeback took a lot out of the team.
OHIO 65, MICHIGAN 60
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"It's tough, being down like that all game," he said in the locker room, draped in a Michigan jersey for the final time. "We were very anxious to make up points. We were trying to shoot a 3 when we're down three, hoping it's a four-point play to regain the lead. We were just a little quick.
"I'm in shock. Still just can't believe what happened. In my mind, when I played it out in my mind over and over in my head, it wasn't supposed to happen like this. It's going to be a hard thing to face for a few days."
After tying up the game 20-20 with 8 minutes, 49 seconds left in the first half, Michigan trailed the rest of the way. It fell behind by as many as 13.
But it pecked away at the Bobcats, and eventually pulled within three points with 4:12 left thanks to 12 consecutive points from freshman point guard Trey Burke.
Michigan had six chances to pull within one, or tie up the game.
"We were really emphasizing, this doesn't have to be a 3-point (shooting) game right now," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "We can get 2s, and Trey was in isolation. You've seen him make that. He's really our highest-percentage 3-point shooter in that."
Instead, the Wolverines fell apart, missing five shots and turning over the ball once.
Burke had been the hot hand who got them back in the game, and he was the Wolverines' best clutch shooter this year. But this time, he missed all three of his shots in that final 4 minutes — each a 3-pointer.
"They felt good," Burke said. "The one, man, I thought it was down. They weren't doing anything to me, I just missed. They felt good, and I just missed."
Sophomore forward Evan Smotrycz, the Wolverines' best player on this night, had made each of his six shots against Ohio -- until breaking for the basket and missing a contested layup with less than 3 minutes left.
Even senior guard Zack Novak, who so many times in his career has hit the big 3-pointer, missed one.
"I’ve made that shot, at that time, probably 25 times in my career," Novak said. "Just did it last week (against Minnesota). The guys joked, 'You can shoot 35 percent in the first 36 minutes of a game, then all of the sudden, you’re 70 in the last 4.'
"But, you can’t hit ‘em all. I know I’ll think about that shot for a long time. That’s just the way I’m wired, and I’m pretty pissed off."
The final blow to the Wolverines' chances came when Smotrycz, facing a double-team in front of his own bench, lost control of the ball and turned it over with 7 seconds left.
"Just lost the ball," he said. "That's it."
Michigan had trailed by only three points for 4 minutes, 6 seconds. It felt like an eternity, the Bobcats giving the Big Ten champions every opportunity to seize a game in which it was heavily favored.
It went 0-for-6.
They Wolverines had a puncher's chance, but couldn't deliver the final blow. And down they went.
Sat, Mar 17, 2012 : 6:56 p.m.
This team was very difficult to watch all season long. That is just my own view. I saw them almost blew a 19 point lead against Penn State to end the regular season, squeek out a win against MN in the B-10 tournament, lose big to the buckeyes and miss several chances to beat the Bobcats. Am glad to season is over. The 2012-13 team will be much more fun to watch.
Sat, Mar 17, 2012 : 4:26 p.m.
Hopefully, Michigan and John Beilein have learned some valuable lessons. We missed several layups and dunks. Those things should never happen. What's the purpose of practicing if you can't make layups and dunks? Also, Jordan Morgan needs to work on his post moves. No team respects our inside game because WE DON"T HAVE ONE. Can we PLEASE get a big man or two who can play with his back to the basket? Also, the zone was not working. Inevitably, a Bobcat player would be open for a wide open three. I would have liked to see us play more man to man.
Sat, Mar 17, 2012 : 4:11 p.m.
It was pretty obvious we were looking ahead to Temple. A rookie mistake.
Sat, Mar 17, 2012 : 4:07 p.m.
There are a lot of things I could dwell on right now. A lot of faults I could point out with this team. But I won't do that. I really enjoyed watching this team this season. I don't know if Michigan has ever had a pair of seniors quite like Stu and Zack. I'll certainly miss watching them play. I have a feeling Evan Smotrycz will be the most improved player next season. That kid has a ton of potential. It sucks to end a season on a silly mistake like that, but those things happen. He'll get better and he's gonna do some good things for this team. I know it sounds trite, but there really is next season. We've all known for months that our 2012-2013 team is our real shot at a GREAT season. Nothing is certain but there's definitely good reason to hope. Trey will get better. Tim might get better. We'll get Horford back. Smotrycz will hopefully get the confidence he needs to be a key player. With Jordan Morgan, I think what you see is what you get, but if he works hard this summer he might be able to develop his game even further. And, as we all know, our freshman class looks like it could be one of the best we've had since the Maceo Baston/Maurice Taylor/Robert Traylor days. Morgan might even become virtually obsolete if McGrady starts producing right away. Anyway. Great game Bobcats. I'll be rooting for you guys. Thanks for the great season, Michigan.
Sat, Mar 17, 2012 : 3:57 p.m.
Walmart is having half off all Michigan gear this week, so don't fret Walverine fans. Don't worry, Mitch McGary can't start for his high school team right now, so he's surely going to crack U of M's starting lineup and lead you to the promised land. 11 points and 10 rebounds a game as a 5th year senior in high school is darned impressive. If you think McGary is going to see serious minutes as a freshman, even though he'll be 20-1/2 years old, you are delusional.
Sat, Mar 17, 2012 : 4:12 p.m.
McGary's team is loaded with talent. He's not like some of these other high school players who run their team by themselves. He's gonna be an excellent college player. I don't know if you've noticed but the NCAA isn't exactly loaded with talented big men. That being said, I think most of us are more excited about Glenn Robinson and Nick Stauskas.
Sat, Mar 17, 2012 : 3:25 p.m.
Wal Mart nation sheds a collective tear.
Sat, Mar 17, 2012 : 3:17 p.m.
Not happy with how this otherwise very good season ended...in the last two or three games it seems that UM was satisfied with their share of the B10 crown and lost their edge. However, UM is definitely heading in the right direction. With our top recruits coming in, new facilities, the B10 title...the program is on the rise. It still sucks to go out in the first round of the tournament to a team you would think UM should beat, but at least we're in good company...just ask Duke.
Sat, Mar 17, 2012 : 3:03 p.m.
I am going to absolutely sick for a few days -- I live for these games and I bleed blue. Can't stand all of the trolls out there -- and you know who you are: "Do you want some whine with your cheese"? "Excuse University strikes again". "Will you blame the officials"? "I suppose Ohio cheats just like TOSU". It all makes me sick. Time to find a new interest. At leaast we have some nice weather. JEFF, GO BLUE!
Sat, Mar 17, 2012 : 7 p.m.
I feel your pain, let's move ahead and cheer on the Hockey team. Spring football is here. The 2012-13 Michigan basketball team will be whole lot more fun to watch. Rememeber: "This is Michigan!" Go Blue!
Sat, Mar 17, 2012 : 2:04 p.m.
I can't tell you frustrating it is to see our big guys trying to kandle the ball, they are just bad, and missing layups repeatedly shows a lack of focus and mental toughness. This team was totally unprepared, and thats on the coach. I like coach B overall, but that performance gave a lot of fuel to his naysayers. Why belein let's smotrytz handle and dribble the ball is beyond me, and why, at the end of games, is our offense reduced to four guys standing around on the three point line while Burke dribbles in circles trying find his way into the lane, is also beyond me. I would like say " wait till next year"but frankly that a line we've been using for too long now.
Sat, Mar 17, 2012 : 2:05 p.m.
I need to quit typing on my IPad. Freakin auto correct makes me look like a first grader!
Sat, Mar 17, 2012 : 1:04 p.m.
Ohio played well no doubt but i thought michigan culd change there defenses to zones but they didnt and trey burke threw up shots all game. Tim hardaway shuld have gotten the ball more. I wish zack and stu the best. Will be better next year with mcgary and robinson the third
Sat, Mar 17, 2012 : 12:40 p.m.
I've got to lay this one in the Coach's lap. The team didn't look prepared and there were no half time adjustments. Did Michigan score any points in the paint other than layups?
Sat, Mar 17, 2012 : 9:16 a.m.
Well Michigan saved their worst basketball for the end of the season. I thought I read somewhere that someone was questioning whether Trey would hit the imaginary wall. And of course everyone said no way and down played the whole idea. But after two lackluster performances against OSU and Ohio you have to wonder. I personally was very disappointed in Hardaway's play whenever I saw him. And to see how the whole team played without heart was sad. I mean you don't even get a shot off to try and tie the game, Michigan just booted the ball out of bounds, very disappointing. Well bottom line one and done.
Sat, Mar 17, 2012 : 12:05 p.m.
Hardaway has disappointed all season long. No consistency and at times no defense.
Sat, Mar 17, 2012 : 5:08 a.m.
Missed slam dunks lead to missed dreams. You have to make the easy ones. On top of that, the 3-point attempt in the last couple minutes without even trying for a 2-pointer didn't make sense. Then they were in a position where they had to make a 3-pointer and couldn't get one in. Get the 2's when you should and things will come out better.