'Gave them the game': UM collapses in final minute, season ends in second round of NIT

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

Michigan’s frustrating season came crashing to an end with an unfathomable finish.

In a campaign that’s been defined by one heartbreaking loss and one blown opportunity after another, the shorthanded Wolverines closed the season with a fitting final chapter in the second round of the NIT.

Leading by eight with a minute to go, No. 3 seed Michigan collapsed, turned the ball over three times and watched No. 2 Vanderbilt close the game on a 9-0 run in a brutal 66-65 loss Saturday at Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville.

“We just gave them the game,” junior center Hunter Dickinson said.

Michigan coach Juwan Howard and the Wolverines finished the season 18-16.

Dickinson finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds and was called for goaltending on Vanderbilt’s go-ahead basket with 12.5 seconds to play. He also couldn’t finish a point-blank look that would’ve resulted in a 10-point lead with 1:07 left.

Instead, that missed shot kicked off a stunning final minute when Michigan (18-16) crumbled in crunch time. After Dickinson’s miss, Tyrin Lawrence got the ball in transition, split two defenders and finished through contact for a three-point play.

BOX SCORE: Vanderbilt 66, Michigan 65

The Commodores (22-14) applied full-court pressure and Michigan initially broke the press. But junior forward Terrance Williams II had the ball poked away and fouled Ezra Manjon after turning it over with Vanderbilt in the bonus. Manjon made both free throws to make it a one-possession game, 65-62, with 49.8 seconds remaining.

On Michigan’s next possession, freshman guard Dug McDaniel dribbled the ball past halfcourt and tried to toss a cross-court pass as he was being trapped by two Vanderbilt defenders. McDaniel’s pass went over Williams’ head and out of bounds for a second straight turnover.

Vanderbilt made Michigan pay for its costly mistake. Manjon scored on a driving layup and cut the deficit to 65-64 with 19.3 seconds left.

On the ensuing inbounds play, Michigan turned it over again coming out of a timeout. After Williams inbounded the ball to Dickinson, Dickinson tried to pass it back to Williams. But Williams couldn’t handle it, which led to a mad scramble that ended with Dickinson being whistled for goaltending on Lawrence’s layup attempt and 66-65 Vanderbilt lead with 12.5 seconds to go.

“We gave them the game,” said McDaniel, who was the team’s lone ball handler with sophomore guard Kobe Bufkin (ankle) and freshman wing Jett Howard (ankle) unavailable.

“They had pressure throughout the whole game. But toward the end, we just kind of let up and gave it to them.”

On Michigan’s final possession, the Wolverines got two cracks at winning it, but McDaniel’s floater was short, Dickinson’s tip-in didn’t drop, and the curtains came down on a rather forgettable season.

McDaniel finished with 19 points and grad transfer wing Joey Baker added 11 points, all in the second half, for Michigan, which was also without sophomore wing Isaiah Barnes (leg).

Lawrence scored 24, including the winning basket, while Manjon added 17 and Colin Smith scored 11 for Vanderbilt, which scored 18 points off 15 Michigan turnovers and advanced to the NIT quarterfinals for the second year in a row.

“That’s Memorial magic if you haven’t seen it before,” Vanderbilt coach Jerry Stackhouse said. “We kept fighting and we found a way. We picked up our pressure on them.

“We were able to make them make some mistakes late. They're a young team and they lost some games like that before. … As Dug continues to mature and get the experience, he probably won't have those type of turnovers that he had, which really helped us secure the win.”

Down two starters, the Wolverines switched up their starting lineup, replacing Bufkin and Howard with Baker and freshman forward Youssef Khayat, who finished with three points and three rebounds in his first start. They also swapped Williams in for sophomore forward Will Tschetter.

With the pieced-together lineup, the Wolverines struggled on both ends early and the Commodores ripped off a 17-0 run that was fueled by Michigan turnovers and Smith. A poor pass by McDaniel was picked off and led to a fast-break dunk. After an errant entry feed into the post by Baker sailed out of bounds, Smith ended the flurry with back-to-back corner 3-pointers. The Commodores jumped out to a 17-5 lead with 12:51 left in the first half.

The Wolverines withstood the early barrage and erased the deficit in a hurry. After Williams stopped Vanderbilt’s spurt with an offensive tip-in, McDaniel brought Michigan back with a three-point play and a pull-up jumper during a string of nine unanswered points that made it a one-possession game.

McDaniel continued to torch the Commodores with his jumper and buried back-to-back 3-pointers to knot it at 20. By the time Williams made two free throws to put the finishing touches on a 19-5 run, the Wolverines pulled ahead, 24-22, at the 6:58 mark.

Michigan took a 30-29 lead into the break and stayed in front for much of the second half thanks to Dickinson and Baker, who combined for Michigan’s first 22 points after halftime.  

A steady diet of post touches to Dickinson helped Michigan widen the gap as Vanderbilt had no answer for the big man. Dickinson made his first six shots in the second half and went on a personal 11-2 run to give the Wolverines their largest lead, 52-42, with 10:52 remaining.

Vanderbilt hung around and stayed close. After a 3-pointer by Trey Thomas cut it to 61-57 with under four minutes to go, Michigan created some breathing room. During one sequence, McDaniel banked in a floater off the glass and drew a charge on the other end. Baker followed with a mid-range jumper to make it 65-57 with 1:45 remaining.

But just when it looked like Michigan was on its way to surviving and advancing, it found a way to cough up the lead in headshaking fashion.

“I'm sure my view (of the final minute) was similar to yours. We turned the ball over three straight times. Very uncharacteristic for us as a team,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “We always want to walk away with some learning opportunities from a game like this. Unfortunately, we can't play the next game because our season is over.

“I appreciate the effort from our guys, particularly that we lost two of our star players. I loved how our guys came out and competed. But at the end, those possessions, that's really painful.”


Twitter: @jamesbhawkins