Paradise Island, Bahamas — Michigan’s most exciting 3-pointer of the first half Friday was the only one that didn’t count. Following a rebound off an air ball, Duncan Robinson collected his shot 35 feet away from the basket and drilled what appeared to be UM’s 10th 3-pointer before halftime.
The referee’s whistle blew. A lengthy video review determined the shot had come after the shot clock ended. But it was but a slight setback in a half in which Michigan lived, and lived large, by the long ball.
“We’re going to take what people give us,” Michigan head coach John Beilein said. “And when you’re that big at the four and the five position, we’ll stretch people. … If we can get some open looks … we’re going to take them.”
Caris LeVert (19 points) capped off the half by hitting a buzzer-beating pull-up from deep. Thirty-three of Michigan's first 44 points were from outside the arc. A 12-point lead had sprung. Michigan kept going to the well, and it led the Wolverines to a 78-72 win over Texas in the fifth-place game of the Battle 4 Atlantis.
Beilein said he thought the lead was still three when Texas had cut it to one on an and-one in front of the rim. He didn’t know until he looked up at the scoreboard. But Caris LeVert hit two straight shots to create separation, and then a 3-pointer from Zak Irvin extended the lead to eight, and it never got much closer.
“They got us into rotation, flying around,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said. “They made some extra passes, shot faked, and we just didn’t do a good job of getting shooters.”
Smart employed his diamond full-court press, running down his bench clapping in players. and coaches. faces because of its success. He said the thought it worked well, but that his team didn’t show the 40-minute urgency on defense that it needed.
A 3-pointer from Derrick Walton Jr. (13 points) halted a 9-0 run and put the Wolverines back up by seven with 8:30 left to play. Then Irvin’s shot was the dagger, extending to eight a lead that had shrunk to one. “Let’s Go Blue” chants rang through the arena as the game came to an end.
“We really respond well to adversity,” Walton said. “The last couple games we had some things we thought could have went our way that just didn’t. Nobody in that locker room pointed fingers.”
Robinson (14 points) laughed after the game about his 3-pointer that never was. He still insisted that it should have counted. Beilein asked reporters if they had seen it on television because he hadn’t.
“I was really excited that we were able to hold that lead,” Beilein said. “We made a couple of big shots.”
Moritz Wagner (seven points) was effective once again, going 3-of-3 from the field. He also recorded four rebounds in 18 minutes of play. A night before, he scored 19 points, a career-high, on 8-of-9 shooting.
“He has never really prioritized rebounding,” Beilein said. “He played guard. Europeans, all they do is teach everyone to play guard.”
... Mark Donnal was given important minutes. He had been taken out of the starting lineup for the tournament and played only the final seven minutes of a blowout on Thursday. On Friday he finished with four points and three rebounds in 10 minutes.
“I can turn to that bench to any one of those guys and feel OK,” Beilein said. "It’s your turn. They’ve got to be ready. And that’s a great sign for the guys on our scout team.”
Sam Blum is a freelance writer.