Foul call leaves UM's Wagner in tatters after loss

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

New York — Michigan's bench sure didn't like the call when it happened.

But after the game, a 70-63 loss to Notre Dame in the NCAA Tournament on Friday night at Barclays Center, the Wolverines were diplomatic on the crucial charge called on freshman Moritz Wagner.

"I was blocked by it," coach John Beilein said. "Those are three good officials. They did a really good job."

Wagner took the call hard in the locker room afterward, as he wasn't able to hold back the tears after finishing his media obligations.

But his teammates had his back.

After all, without the emergence of Wagner the last nine days, it's possible, no probable, Michigan doesn't make the NCAA Tournament at all.

"That's a tough play. I kind of led him into that one because I was the one who threw that pass," Duncan Robinson said. "Not one play is gonna make the difference."

On the play, with 5:39 left in a time game, Wagner took the pass from Robinson and worked his way inside against Zach Auguste for the bucket and a whistle.

One might have been seen by some as a huge one-and-one instead was called a  charge, prompting a chorus of boos from the heavy Wolverines contingent in attendance. (Of note, Michigan drew four charges on defense in the loss.)

No luck against the Irish: Michigan's season ends

Wagner, from Berlin, still is new to the American game, and rarely, if ever, thinks he's committed a foul. He wasn't sure what to make of this one, either.

"It's really not my call. The ref called it, gotta get through that, haven't seen it on film yet," Wagner said. "Not my call to judge. He does his job, I do my job."

That was Wagner's fourth foul, and set perhaps Michigan's most consistent defender of late to the bench.

It was a sour end to a pretty sweet month of March for Wagner, who barely played at all in Big Ten play, especially the closest of games, then emerged as a big-time contributor when it mattered most, in the wins over Northwestern and Indiana in the Big Ten tournament, and Tulsa in the "First Four" NCAA Tournament game.

He finished the game with six points, two rebounds and a steal, and greatly impacted Notre Dame's ball screens.

But he finished the night with tears.

"He really wants to win so badly, and we've just gotta get him to continue to move on to the next play and move on to the next year," Beilein said. "You can see, he's giving us great energy, he's got a great future here, at 18 years old, still.

"I just love what I saw from him.

"It's gonna be fun seeing how he develops, but he'll get over it. He will."