Michigan 84, Minnesota 77

Submitted by Ace on March 11th, 2017 at 4:04 PM

A masterful Walton kept Minnesota off-balance all afternoon. [Paul Sherman]

Can we get a recount?

Minnesota's Nate Mason beat out Derrick Walton for a spot on the All-Big Ten first team last week. Today, the difference between those two guards proved to be the difference in the conference semifinal. Walton was productive and efficient, scoring a career-high 29 points on 8-for-15 field goals and a perfect 10-for-10 mark from the line, dishing out nine assists against a lone turnover, and pulling down four rebounds.

When the Gophers mounted their second-half comeback, Walton's cold-blooded outside shooting and impeccable passing put Michigan back out in front and kept them there. Mason was productive, and nobody would accuse him of not playing well, but he needed 23 shots from the field and a pair of free throws to score 23 points. He tried to match Walton shot-for-shot down the stretch, and that played to Michigan's advantage.

Michigan came out of the gate on fire. Walton had five assists in the opening five minutes as John Beilein's offense created layup after layup. Moe Wagner hit all five of his first-half shots for 14 points, Zak Irvin went 4-for-5 to net nine, and Walton took what the Gopher defense gave him for ten of his own. While Minnesota generated almost all of their offense in the paint, they didn't make any of their four three-point attempts in the half, and that's no way to keep pace with this Michigan squad; the Wolverines threatened to turn this into a laugher with a 47-36 halftime lead.

A plane accident, the hectic travel that ensued, and three games in three days appeared to catch up to Michigan in the second half, however. While the Gophers continued to get what they wanted inside, the Wolverines left a lot of open shots short and failed to pick up shooters on the other end. A wide-open Mason three knotted the game up with 13:11 remaining.

Duncan Robinson broke a six-minute Michigan shooting slump two possession later. While the Gophers would keep it tight they couldn't close the gap again, even with Wagner limited to nine second-half minutes with foul trouble. Walton poured in 17 points after Minnesota tied it up, going 4-for-6 from the field and 6-for-6 from the line with a steal and two assists in that span to shut the door on the Gophers in Burke-like fashion.

Wagner (17), Irvin (13), and Robinson (10) all finished the game in double figures, as did all five starters on a shorthanded Minnesota squad that lost starting two-guard Akeem Springs for the year yesterday. Michigan overcame a severe disadvantage on the boards—Minnesota had a 15 to 2 edge in offensive rebounds—with superior outside shooting, transition offense, and having the only Derrick Walton on the floor.

Walton's Wolverines will face the winner of Wisconsin and Northwestern in tomorrow's Big Ten title game. The unbelievable nature of this week almost obscured the equally unbelievable turnaround by both Walton and the team as a whole in the latter half of the season. This has turned into a banner-worthy squad. They can secure one tomorrow afternoon.


Inflammable Flame

March 11th, 2017 at 8:38 PM ^

I forgot about that guy. There's a bunch of one year tournament wonders that I'm sure we all forgot about...Along with a bunch of college prospects that disappeared in sport afterwards.

Since we're on UConn and Napier...Khalid El-Amin comes to mind...


March 11th, 2017 at 4:17 PM ^

Donnal has had a rough year but thought played really well today. Shots didn't quite fall but got himself good looks and after Minnesota was abusing Wagner in the second half I thought Mark steadied the ship on defense.


March 11th, 2017 at 5:26 PM ^

This is like something out of the movies.  We have a near-death experience and barely make it to the arena for the first game, and then we go on a run to the final.  When Minnesota hit those three 3's in a row, I feared we weren't going to have the legs to hang on.  But we keep digging deep.  Whatever happens tomorrow, this has been a special moment. 


March 11th, 2017 at 4:34 PM ^

I'm worn out just watching.Don't forget the ridiculous 8PM road game start time last Sunday (we put student-athletes interest first.my ass) Re Seeding:Getting a Fri/Sunday rather than Thurs/Sat more important than whether we get a 6 or 7 seed.


March 11th, 2017 at 4:42 PM ^

This team can win the national title.
Walton has finally grown into the player that showed glimpses as a true frosh beating msu singlehandedly in EL.
Irvin is picking his hero spots nicely.
MAAR has become very efficient in his play
Wagner is in the the trajectory I thought he'd be, and it seemed I was alone in predicting this.
And Wilson is our best overall player going forward.
And figure, this will be Beilein best shot to win it.


March 12th, 2017 at 2:28 PM ^

While Walton played well in the MSU game in EL, that one was 90% Nik---who lit it up with swagger.

And despite your self-congratulations, you were no where near alone in predicting Mo's upside; in fact, I'd suggest he was always a popular pick for success even when he wasn't playing much.


March 11th, 2017 at 4:44 PM ^

Walton = Rudock.

The light came on and now he's playing as well as anyone in the country. His stop-start moves had the Golden Goofballs perplexed the whole game.


March 11th, 2017 at 6:02 PM ^

I wonder if a team has ever given up that many dunks and that many layups before and still won. Because this continued and continued and I kept thinking it's just a matter of time before we finally give up this lead.

So happy to be wrong. And I'm really happy to get revenge on those guys.

Walton will be soooooo missed next year.


March 11th, 2017 at 6:18 PM ^

...the team has leaned on every starter (to varying degrees, admittedly) during a stretch of a tournament game. The fact that Michigan has multiple guys who can score 20+ points in a given game makes them tough to beat. And I love that none of the guys seems to let his offensive woes stop him from contributing in other ways. They seem to be very comfortable taking turns being the offensive star. They have become an admirably cohesive unit.

Also - this has been a blast!


March 11th, 2017 at 6:21 PM ^

How about starting the big ten tournament on a Wednesday. Two game's on Wednesday. Top two team's play the seventh and eighth place team's. Thursday the third and fourth place team's play the fifth and sixth place team's. Saturday the semi-finals and Sunday the championship game. The bottom six teams are eliminated from tournament because of conference finish. Give the fellas a day off between game's. Michigan or any big ten team having to play three or four game's in same amount of day's is stupid. After two straight day's the quality of the game is going to suffer. Not a fan of the tournament in this type of scheduling.