Michigan overcomes 3-pointer woes to rally past Gophers
Ann Arbor - Michigan wore Adidas throwback basketball uniforms Saturday to honor the 1989 national championship team.
That was the only similarity in the first 32 minutes. The Wolverines missed 13 of their first 16 3-point shots, including 0-for-8 in the first half, and their defense was almost non-existent as Minnesota built a 49-40 lead with under eight minutes remaining.
But then the Wolverines would have made the 1989 champions proud, suddenly playing with more enthusiasm and hustle in the final eight minutes as they stormed back for a 62-57 Big Ten victory at the Crisler Center.
"It's momentum," U-M Coach John Beilein said, explaining his team's turnaround after that nine-point deficit in the second half. "One (Minnesota) turnover and one made shot. It (momentum) just shifts so quickly. It can rise a team right up."
Michigan (10-6, 3-1) stretched its winning streak to seven against the Gophers (11-6, 0-4), who are winless in the Big Ten despite returning four starters from last year's NIT championship team.
There were several key plays down the stretch but the biggest probably was freshman center Ricky Doyle's dunk on an alley-oop pass from sophomore point guard Derrick Walton Jr. with 27.8 seconds left, giving U-M a 59-56 lead.
U-M junior guard Caris LaVert got a steal with 56 seconds left and then U-M called timeout with 38 seconds remaining.
"Derrick told me to be ready for it (pass down low) if my man slacked off," Doyle said. "We've been practicing that play and it paid off."
Walton had a strong game with 15 points, five rebounds and three assists in 35 minutes. He made 4-of-7 shots, including 3-of-4 from three-point range. The rest of the Wolverines shot 1-of-14 on 3-pointers.
Walton hit a three to cut U-M's deficit to 49-40 and then added another three on a pass from LaVert to put U-M up 54-52 with 3:23 remaining.
"My teammates told me they needed me to make plays," Walton said about the rally in the last eight minutes. "And our fans did a great job of helping us get more energy. We had to protect home court."
Zak Irvin sealed the victory with two free throws with nine seconds left.
LaVert and Irvin also played big down the stretch. LaVert, who had four steals, scored five of his 15 points in the last 5:44 and Irvin made seven of his 12 points in the final 7:15.
Doyle had 12 points (5-of-8 shooting) and six rebounds. Andre Hollis topped Minnesota with 18 points and Carlos Morris had 16.
The U-M defense tightened up in the last eight minutes. The Gophers finished with 17 turnovers and shot 38.8 percent from the field.
"You don't have to be an expert to see why we lost the game," Minnesota coach Richard Pitino said. "Give them (U-M) credit, but we made ridiculous turnovers. Throw the ball away like that and you're not going to win."