LSU rallies in Maui, hands Michigan first loss
Lahaina, Hawaii — Just about everything went well for the Michigan basketball team in its opener at the Maui Invitational until the final minute
That’s when the game turned in favor of LSU in a 77-75 loss for the Wolverines on Monday night.
“Really great basketball game,” Michigan coach John Bellein said. “Anybody who was watching it on TV or at the arena saw that it was a great game by everybody. Really proud of the way our guys fought back.
"We couldn't get some things done on offense and defense most of the game, and then played really well.
“Last four or five minutes, I think we really played well, except in the last minute really, we got done what we needed to get done."
Michigan had chances to win or tie in the final seconds as Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman’s 3-pointer under pressure was short, and LSU’s Aaron Epps blocked a putback attempt by Michigan’s Moritz Wagner, who had 24 points and seven rebounds, at the buzzer.
Wagner was somewhat dejected in the post-game press conference after his final shot was blocked — his exuberance helped the Wolverines battle back in a game that the Tigers led for more than 30 minutes.
"I didn't know, honestly, I was just trying my best,” he said. “You never know how much time is on the clock. Yeah, maybe it could have been.”
The reaction on the other side of the court was in stark contrast to the Michigan bench.
“Obviously you could tell by the way we reacted that was a huge win for us,” first-year LSU coach Will Wade said. “Huge. I’m so proud of our players. We turned the page on our program tonight.”
The loss drops Michigan (3-1) into a fifth-place semifinal against Division II Chaminade at 8 p.m. Eastern time Tuesday. LSU (3-0) plays Notre Dame at 10:30 Eastern time.
Michigan led 68-59 with 5:35 to play after going on a 27-12 run over a 7½-minute span. The Wolverines led by nine points with 5:11 to play after a pair of free throws by Charles Matthews, who finished with a game-high 28 points and eight rebounds.
That lead slowly evaporated as LSU point guard Tremont Waters, who led LSU with 21 points and four assists, went to work. Waters’ jumper with 1:33 left tied the game for the fourth and final time at 74. Waters scored 15 in 16 second-half minutes.
Waters then stole the ball with 1:16 to play, which led to a dunk by Skylar Mays for a 76-74 LSU lead.
Matthews missed the first but made the second of two free throws to bring Michigan within one with 9.2 seconds to play. Waters then was fouled with 5.8 seconds to go and made one to set up the final drama.
Matthews tipped his cap to Waters and the Tigers.
“He's a great player, great team,” Matthews said. “Felt like we had great defensive execution, so I give credit to them, but I feel like we did a good job.”
Wagner said the game will be a learning experience for the Wolverines.
“A game like this, you learn from every single mistake you had in that game,” he said. “So all of us are going to think about it, and we're going to see it on film, for sure, and we're going to learn from it.”
The Tigers shot 27-for-46 (58.7 percent) for the game, while the Wolverines were 27-for-59 (45.8 percent). Matthews and Wagner combined to shoot 19-for-33, while the rest of the Wolverines went 8-for-26.
“I think the errors we made are definitely correctable, and I think we're going to learn growing forward,” Matthews said.
Robert Collias is a freelance writer.