Michigan was able to eventually pull away from Minnesota for a while, but the Gophers erased a 13-point deficit and tied the game with less than a minute left — John Beilein drew up a play for Ignas Bradeikis at the end of regulation, but the freshman was blocked, and Charles Matthews came up with the rebound, took a dribble, and hit the game-winner: a tough, one-handed baseline floater just ahead of the shot clock and the final buzzer. The Wolverines played an ugly game (shooting 3-22 from three and scoring just 0.92 points per possession) but managed to prevent overtime and the prospect of a bad upset loss.
It was clear from the beginning that the Gophers were going to be a challenge. Minnesota had scored six points and it was almost three minutes into the game before Isaiah Livers opened the scoring for Michigan with a pair of free throws. Minnesota maintained that lead for most of the first half. The Wolverines were mired in a funk this weekend against Wisconsin, and that seeped into the start of this game: Michigan began the game shooting 3-19 from the field as Minnesota crawled out to a 19-10 lead. The Gophers took advantage of Michigan’s smallest lineup with some nice big-to-big passing early on, and freshman shooter Gabe Kalscheur knocked down a couple early threes.
Eli Brooks provided a nice spark with nine minutes left in the half. On back-to-back possessions, he found Jon Teske on a pick-and-roll for an easy alley-oop layup, then stopped Dupree McBrayer cold on a drive, leading directly to a fast break layup for Matthews. Richard Pitino called a quick timeout, but Michigan was awake — because of Teske. The Big Sleep scored on the next possession, following an Iggy miss; Matthews set him up for another pick-and-roll finish; then he hit a pick-and-pop three to tie the game at 23. It was a mostly horrible half for Michigan, but Teske shined — he scored 11 points and didn’t miss a shot. He finished with an efficient 15 and was Michigan's only unequivocally positive player on offense.
Beilein tried to steal some minutes with Brandon Johns at the five after Michigan tied it up late in the half, but Amir Coffey took advantage with some drives all the way to the rim. Minnesota regained the lead and carried it into the second half. Kalscheur got past Jordan Poole for a layup to put the score at 36-29; Iggy responded with a tough three over Jordan Murphy on the next possession. Iggy had a rough start, missing his first seven shots, but got going late in the first half with a couple buckets. He followed up the three with a nice defensive stop on Murphy and a coast-to-coast and-one layup. It was an inefficient game for him — his 18 points came on 23 shot equivalents — but Michigan needed Iggy’s production.
After the Gophers built that seven-point lead, the Wolverines played a dominant stretch of basketball, outscoring Minnesota 23-3 over a ten minute span. Zavier Simpson had a nice sequence — scoring on a tough running sky hook off glass, then taking the ball from Daniel Oturu and converting an easy layup. Iggy was fouled twice on three-point attempts during the run; Brooks roasted “Jelly Fam” Washington for a bucket; Livers got a transition dunk (after having missed one earlier in the game) following a Teske block at the rim. Michigan’s offense was finally up and running, but the defense was locked in too: Minnesota was leveraged into awful shots with Teske patrolling the paint.
Murphy dragged the Gophers back into the game. Michigan led 52-39 when the burly senior forward took it at Poole and tipped in his own miss to stop the run; he scored on two more possessions soon after, drawing a shooting foul on Iggy, then bullying him on a drive from the three-point line for a tough bucket. Michigan’s offense cooled off, but the Wolverines still led by ten following a shorted pick-and-roll jumper from Teske… and then Michigan didn’t score for the next five minutes. A missed Simpson layup which led to an excellent Dupree McBrayer outlet pass to Coffey for a layup and a McBrayer runner off glass over Teske trimmed the Michigan lead to 57-51 and prompted a Beilein timeout with under three minutes left.
The Gophers ran some action for a high-low pass to Murphy, who was fouled by Iggy and hit one free throw. 57-52. Matthews threw up a wild miss in traffic and Coffey got out in the open floor for a tough layup through a Teske contest. 57-54. Kalscheur got loose off a screen and knocked down a three with 31 seconds left. 57-57. Those three were the only three Gophers to finish in double figures, and the huge three from Kalscheur put Minnesota one stop away from sending what had looked like a near-certain defeat to overtime. They had gone on an 18-5 run over the last eight minutes of the half. Meanwhile, Michigan couldn’t buy a bucket — before Kalscheur’s three, Iggy barely missed a layup after getting a step on the defender.
For a moment, it looked like they had that stop. Beilein drew up a play for Iggy to receive the ball at the top of the key and make a play with Poole slipping a ball-screen and popping to the wing. Predictably, the freshman was aggressive — and he threw up a tough, well-contested shot. Eric Curry blocked that shot, and it fell to Matthews. A patient dribble caused Coffey to fly by, Murphy stepped up for a contest, and the high-arcing shot fell through the net shortly after the clock struck zero. A lengthy replay review to determine whether Matthews had beaten the shot clock as well as the game clock was evidently inconclusive, as the referees upheld the original call after a frame-by-frame review of the shot leaving Matthews’s hand.
Michigan had its worst overall offensive performance (0.82 points per possession) since that horrible loss to South Carolina in November 2016 against Wisconsin; they had their worst shooting performance (36.3% effective field goal percentage) since that South Carolina game tonight — but still escaped with a win over Minnesota. A substantial advantage in shot margin (14 equivalents) because of Michigan forcing turnovers and uncharacteristically crashing the glass provided just enough cushion to make up for the awful shooting. Matthews was the hero; Michigan avoided a bad loss (and avoided falling further behind Michigan State in the Big Ten standings). The next game is in Bloomington on Friday against an Indiana squad in free fall.
[Box score after the JUMP]