Wolverines players Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Moritz Wagner, Jordan Poole and Charles Matthews talk about the team's 77-71 overtime win over the Hawkeyes in the second round of the Big Ten tournament. Matt Charboneau
New York — Michigan appeared to be on the brink of an early exit in the Big Ten tournament.
Personal fouls, missed 3-pointers and clanked free throws were piling up at an alarming pace before the Wolverines squandered a six-point lead over the final couple minutes in regulation.
But in the end, fifth-seeded Michigan found a way to survive and push past No. 12 Iowa for a 77-71 overtime victory in a whistle-filled, second-round game Thursday at Madison Square Garden.
It was the 11th straight year in which Michigan won its opening game of the Big Ten tournament.
Charles Matthews rediscovered his shooting touch with 16 points and eight rebounds to lead Michigan (25-7), which finished 18-for-32 on free throws, 3-for-19 from 3-point range and racked up 22 personal fouls
Zavier Simpson added 12 points and Duncan Robinson scored 11, while Moritz Wagner (11 points) and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (nine points, five rebounds) both fouled out of the game in the second half and overtime, respectively.
“I don't know what to say about the game,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “We haven't been in foul trouble like that. You've seen us shoot foul shots and shoot like 3s like this and still win. It continues to say a lot about our defense. Our defense in the second half was excellent.
“We didn't do a lot of great things down the stretch … but we guarded people. That was really good to get that ‘W.’”
With the victory, Michigan advances to face No. 4 Nebraska at 2:30 p.m. Friday in the quarterfinals and will have a shot to avenge its worst loss of the season.
Wolverines coach John Beilein discusses the 77-71 OT victory over Hawkeyes. Matt Charboneau
However, it looked like Michigan might not get its chance after Iowa struck first in overtime and Abdur-Rahkman fouled out with 2:34 left, which led to Luka Garza splitting two free throws to give the Hawkeyes a 70-69 lead.
But Michigan clamped down on Iowa throughout overtime, forcing the Hawkeyes to miss their final eight shots and holding them to just four points in the extra session.
The Wolverines took the lead for good after Robinson splashed a 3-pointer and Simpson split four free throws to give Michigan a 74-70 edge with 1:17 to go.
That didn’t prevent it from being a tense finish, though, as Tyler Cook made one free throw to cut the deficit to three at the 1:04 mark and Jon Teske missed two free throws with 24 seconds left.
After Isaiah Moss missed a potential tying 3-pointer with 13 seconds remaining, the Wolverines, who were 7-for-14 from the line in overtime, were able to seal it at the stripe. Robinson and Matthews combined to make three free throws in the final 10.1 seconds to keep Michigan’s bid to defend its tournament title alive.
Ryan Kriener finished with 14 points and Garza and Cook scored 13 apiece for Iowa (14-19), which was held to 37 percent (10-for-27) in the second half and 11.1 percent (1-for-9) in overtime.
“We were able to stick together,” Simpson said. “We fought through adversity. There were some tough calls out there. We just wanted to stick together, keep playing hard and keep playing smart. That's what we did, and we're just glad to come out with the victory.”
After Iowa rolled into halftime with a five-point lead following a 14-4 run, the Wolverines jumped all over the Hawkeyes and quickly erased the deficit with an 11-0 run to open the second half.
Michigan did all the damage at the rim with Wagner, Simpson and Matthews each knifing their way to the basket for a layup before Wagner capped it with a three-point play following a one-handed dunk to pull ahead, 46-40, with 17:43 remaining.
The Hawkeyes wouldn’t go away though and kept hanging around until they pulled within 67-64 following a Nicholas Baer 3-pointer with 59 seconds left. Then following a five-second call by Michigan on the ensuing inbounds, Iowa got the ball back but Jordan Bohannon (11 points) misfired on a 3-pointer.
Abdur-Rahkman grabbed the rebound and raced up court, where he was fouled and had a chance to put the game away with 28 seconds left. He missed the front end of the one-and-one to give Iowa hope and Bohannon knocked down a 3-pointer to tie it at 67 with 16 seconds left.
Abdur-Rahkman had one final shot to win it in regulation, but he couldn’t connect on a layup attempt in the final seconds before Michigan ultimately dug deep and found a way to pull through in overtime.
“We just knew it was win or go home,” Matthews said. “And we understand they made a great run at the end, and we said we just want to stick together.
“It feels really to get the first one. I feel like in many of these tournaments the first one is always the hardest one.”
And that proved to be the case for Michigan, who moves on and will get an opportunity to avenge its 72-52 loss to Nebraska in the teams’ lone meeting earlier this season.
“I'm excited to play them again,” Wagner said. “They were tied with us for the fourth-fifth seed, so there's a certain chip on your shoulder as a player to prove that you're better.
“We played them once this year at their place. That didn't go well for us, so I think we owe them one.”
No. 15 Michigan vs. Nebraska
Tip-off: 2:30 p.m. Friday, Madison Square Garden, New York
TV/radio: BTN/WWJ 950
Records: Michigan 25-7; Nebraska 22-9
Outlook: Nebraska won the only meeting between the teams this season, 72-52 in Lincoln on Jan. 18. Michigan made just 4-of-18 from 3-point range in that game and shot 37.5 percent (21-of-56) from the floor. … Michigan had been 8-0 against the Cornhuskers since they entered the Big Ten in 2011.