Michigan blew out Wayne State tonight in an exhibition that was never remotely competitive. The usual suspects, Caris LeVert and Zak Irvin, led the team in scoring with 16 and 13 points, respectively. Derrick Walton came back from an injury scare—just a cramp, it turned out—to tally 11, while freshmen Kam Chatman and DJ Wilson both turned in nine-point efforts. The team looks expectedly disjointed on offense despite their production; the defensive effort was quite encouraging for a young team's opening game.
That all mattered very little when Austin Hatch, survivor of two tragic plane crashes, subbed into the game with 1:40 left to a standing ovation. The Crisler Center crowd, subdued to that point, nearly burst in nervous anticipation every time Hatch touched the ball, aching for him to take a shot that didn't seem like it would come. Hatch was content to kill the clock in a blowout win. The crowd moaned when not he, but Ricky Doyle, finished a long possession with an easy layup; each time he had touched the ball, his teammates on the bench were literally jumping up and down encouraging him to shoot. He waited.
Then Hatch drew a foul at the top of the key with 12 seconds remaining and Michigan in the double bonus, and the crowd rose once again. The first free throw caught the back iron. The second did not. You're going to want to click that link.
To top it off, John Beilein called a timeout after Hatch sunk his free throw, then wrapped him in a bear hug as he came to the bench.
Words cannot describe the feeling of watching a man who's twice fallen from the sky get to fulfill at least some small part of his big dream. I'm sure Austin Hatch never envisioned his first point at Michigan being this big a deal, a capital-'M' Moment. It was, though, and to see his teammates, coaches, and fans react as they did—special doesn't cover it. The cheers and the hugs and the smiles tell just a fraction of the story, a joyous moment in an unfathomable journey.
Thank you, Austin, for sharing it with us.