Wagner is big down stretch as UM rallies past VCU

Robert Collias
Special to The Detroit News

Lahaina, Hawaii — Moritz Wagner saved his best for last at the Maui Invitational.

Michigan’s 6-foot-11, 245-pound junior scored a 3-point play on a drive to the basket to break the final tie of the game, then added a 3-pointer with 13 seconds to go in the Wolverines 68-60 win over Virginia Commonwealth in the fifth-place game Wednesday afternoon.

Wagner scored 12 points, grabbed nine rebounds, and had two steals in the win. Duncan Robinson had 18 points, Charles Matthews added 11 and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman chipped in 10.

BOX SCORE: Michigan 68, VCU 60

“Obviously to win the game was pretty good, especially after coming out like that after halftime,” Wagner said. “It was fun to be able to finish two plays and that we won.”

Michigan (5-1) led by 11 early in the second half before VCU went on a 21-6 run to take a 53-49 lead with 8:11 to play. Robinson made a free throw to give Michigan a 54-53 lead with 5:02 to play.

A jumper by De’Riante Jenkins gave VCU a 60-57 lead with 1:59 to play before a 3-pointer by Abdur-Rahkman tied the score for the final time with 1:48 remaining.

Abdur-Rahkman’s pass to Wagner led to the big man’s 3-point play on a drive to the basket from the right side with 1:11 to play.

The foul was committed by Justin Tillman, a Detroit Pershing graduate who finished with six points and six rebounds in 27 minutes for VCU.

After VCU’s Malik Crowfield missed a 3-point attempt with 43 seconds left, Wagner rebounded and passed the ball to Zavier Simpson, who found Wagner on the left side where he hit his 3-pointer as the shot clock expired with 13 seconds to play.

Abdur-Rahkman added an uncontested layup at the buzzer.

“We’re thrilled just to get 2-1 out of this tournament,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “Someone’s going to go home 0-3 and somebody’s going to go out of here 3-0 and it’s just those two. To be on the other side of 2-1 or 1-2 is really big. VCU plays so hard and they’ve got a lot of talent and a great coach, so I really feel blessed. I think they’ll have a really good year.

“This win will be a good one for us going forward.”

The Wolverines bounced back after a 77-75 loss to LSU in the opening game with a 38-point win over host Chaminade, an NCAA Division II school, on Tuesday. Chaminade beat Cal by 24 points in the seventh-place game.

Michigan schedule

“After that first one on Monday night obviously we were very disappointed, but we kind of huddled together and agreed that taking the next two would be a big accomplishment,” Robinson said. “So that was kind of our focus after Monday night’s result that we just have to kind of just bear together and hopefully that can set the tone for us moving forward.”

Jon Teske scored eight points helped by 3-for-4 shooting and grabbed four rebounds in 16 minutes off the bench for the Wolverines.

“We just wanted to take it one game at a time,” Teske said. “We lost against LSU, but we know we can bounce back — we just wanted to bounce back and go 2-1 on this trip. It was good for us and there’s a lot we can take away from this.”

Robert Collias is a freelance writer.