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DESIGN BY JACK SILBERMAN, CHRISTINE JEGARL, MICHELLE FAN - PHOTOS BY ALEC COHEN, KATELYN MULCAHY, EVAN AARON, FILE PHOTO / DAILY

30

YEARS

of Michigan Basketball

2019 to 1989


Michigan Basketball - 1989

Friday, February 22, 2019 — 2B

The Michigan Daily — michigandaily.com

1989: Michigan wins title

“We were rockstars” ARIA GERSON

ETHAN SEARS

Daily Sports Writer

Managing Sports Editor

THEO MACKIE

JACOB SHAMES

Daily Sports Writer

The Michigan men’s basketball team walked into practice, only to find its coach missing. It was the week before the 1989 NCAA Tournament, and, after a blowout Senior Night loss to Illinois, the Wolverines should have been focused on the road ahead. Instead, their world turned upside down. Athletic director Bo Schembechler fired coach Bill Frieder after he took the head coaching job at Arizona State. In his place, Steve Fisher was appointed the interim. Such a dramatic upheaval so late in the season could have easily derailed a season that had seen the Wolverines lose only seven games. It could have halted Michigan before the team really got a chance to get going. But instead, Michigan rose to, vanquish its demons — losses to North Carolina in the previous two postseasons and two regularseason setbacks against Illinois — and ultimately win the whole thing. Thirty years later, it remains the only national title banner hanging at Crisler Center. And Sunday, players and coaches from that team will reunite to honor that historic season before Michigan faces Michigan State on Sunday. The Daily spoke players and coaches to piece together the story of a one-of-akind season. “It’s 30 years later, and people still talk about it,” said Terry Mills, a junior center on that team. “Every time I come to the arena, I’ll walk out of the arena, you got people there like, ‘Thanks for ‘89.’ ” This is the story of how, somehow, it all worked out in the end: Michigan came into the 1988-89 season ranked third in the country. Expectations were high after the Wolverines had bowed out in the Sweet 16 against North Carolina the season prior and brought back most of their core. Mills: It was either win it all or it was a bust. Sean Higgins, Michigan forward, 1986-1990: That’s all we talked about preseason, start of the school year, is that we had that talent and the ability to win the whole thing. Glen Rice, Michigan forward, 1985-1989: We wanted to just come out, try and represent ourselves and the team as best possible. Just try to come out, compete, win as many games as possible. Chris Seter, Michigan forward, 1987-92: We knew we had Terry, Loy (Vaught), Mark (Hughes), Rumeal (Robinson) and Glen. Oh my god, right? Those are five pros. Mills: When you’ve got all these McDonald’s All-Americans on your team, the expectations are gonna go through the roof. Seter: Loy was one of the best rebounders I’ve ever seen in my life. Mark was just a big body. A great defender, a great position player. And Mark was just a great floor leader. Mark was a great motivator and leader. Glen led more by his actions. He would just get mad and score 40 points. The season started with the Maui Classic, where Michigan beat Vanderbilt and Memphis before the season’s first test, a date with then-No. 4 Oklahoma. The Wolverines won the tournament by defeating the Sooners, before rolling through a less-than daunting non-conference slate. Mills: When we actually beat (Oklahoma), we looked at ourselves like, “Well, we can beat

Daily Sports Editor

anybody.” Higgins: It was a necessity for us to play those teams that were, if you will, somewhat inferior to us. I think that it gave us a chance to really find ourselves somewhat before we went into conference play. Sitting pretty at 11-0, the Wolverines went to Salt Lake City for the Utah Basketball Classic. Ranked second in the country, their first game was against Division II Alaska-Anchorage. They lost, 70-66. Rice: We may have gotten a little too big for ourselves at that time. Mills: Iowa had lost, and Iowa was No. 1 or something like that. … We’re kinda like, “Man, we can go in here and win this game, win these couple games, and we’ll be No. 1!” Higgins: That really woke us up. Mike Boyd, Michigan assistant coach, 1978-90: Looking back at it, eventually you’re gonna lose. It’s a sad situation that you lost to that team, but eventually we were going to lose. Still, Michigan entered Big Ten play at 12-1, one of the favorites in a conference that included another Final Four contender in Illinois. The Wolverines dropped a game in Champaign in mid-January, starting a stretch in which they won just one of four games. Higgins: I think we did have some sort of false sense of identity going into the Big Ten season, just because we hadn’t been tested other than just that Oklahoma game. Mills: It was always games that went down to the wire that we lost, one way or another. Seter: The question was, could we gel and could we come together? And could we win consistently? Boyd: It took us a few games to understand, who is a go-toguy, who’s going to knock down the three when we need it, who’s going to be the rebounder? Higgins: What happens sometimes when you have teams with so much talent, you kind of disregard the little things that are important in terms of winning With the talent-laden roster falling into place after the inconsistent start to Big Ten play, Michigan won five straight games down the stretch. But the Wolverines had one final regular season test: Illinois, at Crisler Arena, on Senior Night. Rice: That was one of the worst teams you could play on a very emotional night like that. Higgins: Glen was pretty much the only senior. And he had his whole family at the game. Rice: The other players on your team, they think, “Wow, this is our guy, our brother, and he’s not gonna be here anymore after this year.” So everybody gets emotional, and you get sidetracked. Mills: Sean kinda jogged my memory and was like, “Remember in the Illinois game when Frieder had told us before the game?” And I was like, “No, what are you talking about?” And he was like, “Remember, he had told us it was Glen Rice’s Senior Day and we wanted to send Glen Rice out the right way against Illinois. So the rule was, we wanted to have five passes before any shot went up but we wanted Glen to shoot it.” Higgins: That whole game then backfired on us. Mills: You can’t play a game like that. It’s almost like if I got a

layup, “Where’s Glen?” Rice: They jumped on us, and man, it was painful from that point on. Illinois dominated, winning 89-73 — the Wolverines’ worst loss of the year. Bruce Madej, Michigan sports information director, 1982-2010: We got booed off the court. I’ll never forget walking through the tunnel and people are just yelling at Frieder and the team as we’re coming down. Mills: We were almost embarrassed to come out of the locker room. Boyd: That was the big wakeup call right there. Mills: We go back to watch the game, had the VCR tape in, and I think midway through the second half, it was so bad that (the broadcast) went to something else. Following Michigan’s Senior Night loss to Illinois, Frieder accepted an offer to coach at Arizona State. Rice: We had an understanding of what Frieder was thinking about doing. Frieder didn’t keep anything from us. Higgins: Coach Frieder was a businessman, first of all. He was a businessman before he was a coach. Joe Czupek, graduate assistant coach, 1988-89: (Earlier in the year), we were coming back from a charter somewhere. And we had won and everyone was in a pretty good mood, and Frieds was kinda joking with the staff. … Frieder was talking (to assistant coach Brian Dutcher) about, “Hey Dutch, if I go to Texas, are you coming with me?” And, “Oh yeah, I’ll come.” ... It was just kinda jovial and playing and we were really feeling pretty good. And it kinda planted the seed in my head. Madej: I put on my answering machine — “This is Bruce Madej,” I said. “I’m pretty sure I know what you’re calling about, but I’m tired, and I need my sleep, because it’s going to be a long day tomorrow, and I gotta get this done. So if you need an official statement, the University of Michigan athletic department does not have any comment on this, period.” And I said, “Call me in the morning.” Mills: We get a call at maybe one in the morning, two in the morning from coach Fisher. Frieder is saying, telling us that he’s accepted the job at Arizona State. Higgins: It was a shock. Madej: I have my clock radio set to WJR on, and all of a sudden, first thing, J.P. McCarthy says, “Well, last night, big rumors going on that the University of Michigan is going to lose Bill Frieder to Arizona State just days before the NCAA Tournament.” … He says, “We couldn’t get an official statement, but we got Bruce Madej’s answering machine.” And I’m sitting there going, “Oh, God.” And they played the whole thing. My wife goes, “That isn’t our answering machine.” And I just say, “Suzette, it is.” Higgins: We walked into practice one day and coach Fisher gave us the news. Rice: Frieder’s intentions were to remain a Michigan coach until that season was over with. But then (athletic director) Bo Schembechler just had other ideas. Seter: There was angst between Bo and Frieder. … You could tell it wasn’t perfect.

FILE PHOTO/Daily

Glen Rice set a scoring record in the 1989 NCAA Tournament.

Madej: (Schembechler) says, “A Michigan man is going to coach the Michigan team.” Schembechler fired Frieder, giving Fisher the role as interim head coach. Then, the legendary football coach addressed the team. James Voskuil, Michigan forward, 1988-93: Fish was like, “Hey, everybody. Grab a seat.” This is where it got really interesting. Mills: Bo got us all around, he challenged everybody. One at me, one at Glen, one at Sean. Typical Bo, ranting and raving. Voskuil: We’re in the first six rows, and every guy takes up three or four seats and we’re all spread out. And he’s like, “No. Sit next to each other in the first three rows, like I asked.” Rice: Bo was just very direct. Voskuil: Picked out every guy. Knew everybody’s name. I’m a freshman. He chews me out for, gosh, I don’t even know what. It was like, not sitting in the right seat. He went up and down. Finally, he got to Higgins. Mills: I think Sean had talked about, something about, he wanted to transfer, he didn’t want to be here no more. And Bo was like, he’s tired of hearing that. He was like, “If that’s what you wanna do, I got the papers on my desk. Let’s go right now.” Voskuil: Asked Higgins if he was a Michigan man. He goes like, “Well, what are you talking about?” “Hey, no, no, no. I didn’t ask you to ask me a question. I asked you if you’re a Michigan man.” So, at this point, it’s dead silence. Madej: I’m going like, “Holy.” So this is not what you would call a pump-up speech at this point. This is like — he was calling him out. Voskuil: He had plane tickets in his hand ready for anybody that didn’t give him the response he was looking for. Mills: I remember Glen telling him and said, “Coach, all you’ve gotta do is buckle up and get ready for this ride.” Rice: Bo was Mr. Michigan himself. So you damn right we wasn’t gonna go out there and let him down. With Fisher in charge, Michigan arrived in Atlanta for the NCAA Tournament. Just six games stood between the Wolverines and their ultimate goal — but the Frieder saga wasn’t going away just yet. Mills: We landed, who did we see? Coach Frieder. Czupek: Coach Frieder addressing the team — I don’t know if closure is the right word, but it seemed like that was good. Mills: He was waiting on us. He talked to us. He shook our hands and stuff like that. Boyd: Instead of the media being concerned with our next opponent in the tournament, they were so concerned with, “What do you think Bill Frieder’s thinking?” Mills: A lot of people thought, “This is a vulnerable team. This is a team broken right now. They’ve lost their coach, they don’t have nothing to play for, they may quit in the first game.” Rice: When I tell you we said we were on a mission to shock the world, that was our focus. Mills: I always say that when people lose something, they become a dangerous team. Michigan got through the first two rounds, beating Xavier, 92-87, and then South Alabama, 91-82. In Lexington for the Sweet 16, the Tar Heels awaited. Higgins: They knocked us off the two previous years, so we really wanted to get at North Carolina. We wanted to get at them bad. Rice: We’d be lying if we didn’t understand the implication of that moment. Seter: Glen was so positively intimidating, in my opinion. He was so, so focused and driven that I don’t think anybody wanted to let him down. Voskuil: Compare Glen’s leadership to some of the stuff we had three years later, and you can see that that guy brought it. Rice: I already knew I was on. I’ll be honest with you, going into the tournament, I already knew that Glen Rice was a different player. Seter: Glen was just nasty. Mills: We got under their skin. It was like, whether you beat up on us before, now all of a sudden, when you don’t comply and don’t act the way we want you to act, then they get frustrated. Rice: Everybody was talking about, “Oh, they got this great shooter in Jeff Lebo.” And he was a great shooter. But I was really determined to let them know there is no way in the world he can be in my house as a shooter. Led by Rice’s 34 points and eight 3-pointers, Michigan won, 92-87. Their next matchup was with Virginia in the Elite Eight. Madej: And all of a sudden, this thing just takes off. Rice: I knew Sean Higgins was gonna have a really good game, because he was always saying, “Yeah, man, some guys are on that other team who think they’re better than me.” Higgins: I ran into (Virginia point guard) John Crotty at the McDonald’s (All-American) Game on the elevator going up to our hotel rooms. John was See ORAL HISTORY, Page 3B


The Michigan Daily — michigandaily.com

Michigan Basketball - 1989

ORAL HISTORY From Page 2B from New Jersey, I was from the West Coast. He told me I was overrated. I was ranked No. 3 in the country. Seter: Sean never stopped talking. Come on! Sean? Higgins: I just had a personal vendetta against him. And so we blew those boys out. Mills: I was like, “These guys can’t fucking hit us and they’re fucking scared of us!” I said, “The guy can’t even look me in my eye!” Rice: We almost played a perfect game. Mills: I was like, “You think some fucking guy who plays quarterback is gonna guard me?” And I think the guy was a quarterback from Virginia, Matt Blundin. Seter: Whatever Sean said that night, he backed it up. Higgins: I scored 31 off the bench in 20 minutes. Michigan went on to crush Virginia by nearly 40 points, 102-65. Blundin went on to play backup quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs and Detroit Lions. Mills: We turned on the TV and they were showing our fans in Ann Arbor climbing poles. That’s when they were down on (South) University, just all up on the lights and everything. For us to see that on TV, they were like, “Well, this is what’s going on in Ann Arbor.” We’re looking in like, “Damn! We made this happen? We’re making people do this?” Higgins: We were still happy and still celebrating. I said, “Hey, listen fellas, let’s not get to the Final Four if we’re not gonna win the whole thing. Let’s win the whole thing and then we can celebrate.” Mills: (Schembechler) came in the locker room, and he was congratulating us. … His speech was something like, “You know who I want?” And he said, “I want Illinois, that’s who I want.” Rice: We come to find out we had to play them (in the Final Four) — oh my god. It was almost like getting a brandnew pair of tennis shoes and you just couldn’t wait to wear them. Well, we just couldn’t wait to play them. Mills: I want to play them again still to this day. In addition to the beatdown on Senior Night, the Illini had beaten the Wolverines in Champaign earlier in the season. Now, at the Final Four in Seattle, Michigan had its chance for revenge. Rice: Illinois probably was one of the most athletic teams in the country that year. They had guys who could play. You’re talking about Nick Anderson, Kenny Battle, Lowell Hamilton, Marcus Liberty, Stephen Bardo and Kendall Gill. Mills: We just wanted to control the tempo of that ballgame. We just said, at that time, “They’re the Flying Illini but we’re taking the flying out of them.” Czupek: I always used to tell (Rice), “Don’t start something you can’t finish.” … And I remember one of the practices that week before we left for Seattle, he kinda whispered to me, “Hey, Smoke, no reason to start something we can’t finish.” Rice: We understood what we had to do, and compete and keep them from getting second-chance points. Keep them off the boards with their athleticism and length, and do what we do on the offensive end. Seter: It was a different team … because Frieder was gone. Because Glen had simply proven over the last four games that he wasn’t gonna be stopped. With 26 seconds left and the score tied at 81, Michigan had the ball. Higgins: The play was for Rumeal to get something going to the basket, and he got cut off on a (baseline) drive on the opposite side of the floor. Mills: I just kinda got myself in his vision so he could see me. Because I knew we had to get a shot up. Higgins: Rumeal, being as athletic and as good as he was, found Terry on a skip-pass over the court. Mills: I thought the shot was good. Higgins: I thought that it was gonna go in because he got his feet lined up and he got a good look at the basket. Mills: It went down and then all of a sudden I see the ball just come back up. Higgins: Just to be on the safe side, I got myself in position for a rebound. Seter: I don’t even know how he got the ball. Higgins: A lot of Illinois fans, they say that I pushed off on the rebound, but I didn’t. Nick (Anderson) just didn’t box out. Voskuil: Higgins was in the right place in the right time and threw it up. Higgins: It hit nothing but the net. Boyd: I jumped up off the bench. Higgins: My high school coach was laughing when I hit that shot. After the game … he came by the hotel and he was like, “You’ve been hitting that baseline shot your whole life.” Rice: We beat them how they had beat us throughout that year. On offensive rebounding, with length. Boyd: I think some of the guys felt that that game was for the national

championship. Rice: That was a great deal of satisfaction. But that satisfaction couldn’t last. Michigan had a short turnaround and one final hurdle to clear — Seton Hall, which had beaten Duke in the other national semifinal. Seter: Coming into the weekend, it was, the odds were it was gonna be an Illinois-Duke final. And it ended up being a Michigan-Seton Hall final. Voskuil: I think the confidence was very high going into Seton Hall. Rice: I had no idea who they were. No idea. Madej: I go into the locker room (before the national title game) and all these guys sitting, and there’s Glen Rice on the training table. You know what he’s doing? Taking a nap. The game was a back-andforth affair. Rice was lights-out as he had been all tournament, but Seton Hall’s John Morton matched him bucket for bucket. Michigan led, 37-32, at halftime, but the Pirates refused to go away. Rice: Mike Griffin was doing a hell of a job on Andrew Gaze as far as defensively. We were very thankful that (Gaze) had one of his worst shooting nights. Mills: We kinda felt like we had control of that game the whole way, and John Morton just kept hitting shots out of nowhere. Rice: He was some kind of player. Seter: There was anxiety in that building. I felt it. I was like, “Holy —.” I don’t think anybody expected Seton Hall to be in that game. Once again, as seconds ticked away in regulation, the Wolverines found themselves in a tie game with one last shot — this time for the national championship. It went to the player who had gotten them there in the first place. Rice: It was for me, coming off a double screen from the baseline. Boyd: The bottom line is this: if we got the ball to him, it was a rare miss. Rice: When I got the ball, Gaze was kind of still in front of me, so I tried to get a little spin move and then shoot the shot then. Mills: Glen has been on fire in the tournament. We felt if we could get him a look, then we’re gonna win that game. Rice: It just rolled right off the rim. I was like, “Oh, my god.” I’m thinking right away, this is a shot I hit in my sleep. Mills: For him to get a clean look like that and miss it is like, “Oh my god, now we’ve gotta go to overtime.” So it wasn’t a problem. We weren’t down on ourselves. Rice: Just wasn’t meant to be. So we said, “That’s okay, we’re still here, we’re still in good shape.” Mills: We were just saying, “This is our game, we’ve come too far.” Rice: We knew it was gonna be close and needed something special that had to happen. Seton Hall took a 79-76 lead in overtime before Mills nailed a two-point jumper with one

FILE PHOTO/Daily

Steve Fisher took over for Bill Frieder just before the NCAA Tournament.

Friday, February 22, 2019 — 3B

minute left. The Pirates then ran the clock down to 10 seconds, but missed a shot that would have put them back up by three. Rice grabbed the rebound and passed to Robinson. Higgins: Rumeal coming down the floor, he got tripped up during the course of him trying to get to the basket. … Just a hit to try to impede his progress. Referee John Clougherty called a foul on Seton Hall’s Gerald Greene, sending Robinson to the line with three seconds left. Madej: You don’t see calls like that made. It’s like, they let ‘em go. Boyd: It was a foul. Seter: I think everybody remembers the same thing. The ref should’ve swallowed his whistle, and he didn’t. Higgins: It was a bonehead play. Gerald Greene should’ve played off of Rumeal a little bit. Rice: That was ballgame. Because quickly, right away, I remember, “Oh, my god, this kid has prepared for this.” And it is so ironic that it’s on the biggest stage of the year. I was like, “He was made for this.” Voskuil: When he went to that free throw line, that’s when it got a little bit scary. Higgins: You go back and revert to Wisconsin (earlier in the season), where Rumeal missed two free throws to win it. Mills: After that game (Robinson) had said, he told coach Fisher, “I need you to work with me on my free throws and I’m gonna shoot 100 free throws after practice every practice after that.” Rice: The only thing I had told Rumeal was that, “Look. It’s sad that you missed the free throws. It happened. But what you gotta do is just make sure when that opportunity comes around again — and it will come around again — you need to be ready for it.” And he just looked at me and said, “Yeah, I’ll be ready.” The junior stepped to the foul line and calmly sank the first free throw. Madej: You could just see it in his eyes. They were just so focused. Rice: I don’t think there was one person that thought that Rumeal wasn’t gonna make those free throws. Voskuil: Rumeal was clutch. He always has been. Robinson eyed the rim, took three dribbles and swished the second. Michigan was just three seconds and one defensive stop away from its first-ever national championship. Mills: I can remember that timeout coming. … It was, everything was pretty much like, “After Rumeal makes these free throws, this is what we’re gonna do.” Rice: They made that long pass up the floor and those guys — you know, he shot it and it bounced off the side of the backboard. I was like, “That’s it. We’re national champions.” Higgins: I was like floating on a cloud. I was running around everywhere, I didn’t know what to do with myself. Rice: I don’t know how the hell Rumeal Robinson got down there so fast, but he was the first one who jumped on me.

Higgins: I remember a couple of my teammates, they were like sobbing, crying. Even though I was crying, tears coming out of my eyes and I didn’t even know it. Rice: It was like a five or six-year-old’s birthday party when he’s running around and he busts the pinata and candy flying everywhere, and you see everybody just running around, scattering, just happy as hell. In his last go-around as a Wolverine, Rice was named the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player after he scored 184 points over Michigan’s six postseason games, a record that stands to this day. Madej: Glen’s All-American status, I think, was not cemented until that run. Seter: It’s never been done before. That’s just amazing. Rice: When it hit me, it was like, “Shit. Oh my god, I’m leaving.” It was my last time going on the court in college at the University of Michigan with these guys. But the Wolverines didn’t need to worry about Rice’s pending departure just yet. Once they got back to Ann Arbor, the celebrations really began. Mills: Everybody reeked of alcohol when we got on the plane. We didn’t sleep. Higgins: I don’t know if we even went to class. It was on campus, like I said, we were rock stars, man. Mills: We’re just thinking, “We won it, it’s time to party.” Higgins: We had celebration month. And we celebrated for months after that. And so I think a couple of us had to go to summer school because we celebrated too much. Mills: I’m almost gonna say that it wasn’t any work or anything that was required. It was almost like everybody had a pass. I’m talking about all students. … “Hey, take off today! They won a national championship!” After the season, Schembechler hired Steve Fisher as the permanent head coach. Glen Rice was named an All-American as a senior and went to have a 15-year career in the NBA. Michigan has played for a national championship four times since. However, the Wolverines have yet to equal the triumph of the 1988-1989 team. The memorable NCAA Tournament run that spring remains the program’s crowning achievement. Higgins: My dad used to always tell me that you’re gonna have that experience you’re gonna talk about for the rest of your life. And here we are, 30 years later, still talking about it. Madej: I’ll be on my deathbed going, “How did we pull that off?” Just an amazing, amazing, six-game run. Higgins: It was the biggest triumph and accomplishment to this day, other than becoming a father to my children. Rice: I looked at Mark Hughes, and we hugged, and said, “Yeah. That’s it for us.” And we just looked and — mission accomplished, buddy. That was it. That was the end of our story as far as basketball players at Michigan.

FILE PHOTO/Daily

Rumeal Robinson hit the game-winning free throws in the national title game in overtime against Seton Hall.


Friday, February 22, 2019 — 4B

Michigan Basketball - 1993

The Michigan Daily — michigandaily.com

Fab Five lift Michigan past Kentucky, into Title Game

FROM THE LOCKER ROOM “I picked up the dribble, called timeout, and I cost our team the game.” -Chris Webber

ANDY DEKORTE

Former Daily Sports Writer

NEW ORLEANS — All season the Michigan basketball team has been notorious for playing to the level of its opponent. However, it’s only notorious when Michigan (31-4) happens against a team who finished in a four-team tie for second place in the Atlantic 10. Against Kentucky (30-4), ranked No. 1 during part of the 1992-93 season, strateg y produced a thrilling overtime national semifinal victory. In each case the results matched — a victory bringing the team one step closer to the National Championship Game. Chris Webber (27 points, 13 rebounds), Juwan Howard (17, 3) and Jalen Rose (18, 6) did most of Michigan’s leg work. With Ray Jackson (11, 8) kicking it up when needed. The defensive effort signaled one of Michigan’s strongest this season. Kentucky, which had been averaging a 31-point victory margin in the Tournament, could only manage to shoot 41 percent for the game, and barely 35 percent after the halftime intermission. “Give them all the credit,” Kentucky assistant coach Jeff Brassow said of Michigan’s perimeter defense. “They took away the 3-point shot in the first half — I don’t even think Travis (Ford) scored. They did a great job on him, and no one else could get a shot off either. “They did a great job of denying the passing lanes and taking our guards out of it,” he added. Despite the Wildcats’ pressing defense, Michigan continued to get the ball down to Webber and Howard. Not even Kentucky’s AllAmerican Jamal Mashburn could deter the inside presence of Webber and Howard. Mashburn’s offensive prowess nearly matched that of Webber’s. He scored 26 points to go with six boards. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, their reliance on the “Monster Mash” led to their downfall. When he fouled out with 3:23 remaining in the overtime, Kentucky had a four-point lead, 76-72. A three-point deficit and the end of the season faced the Wildcats 3:23 later. “It was like night and day with (Mashburn) out there,” Howard said. “Mashburn is a top-five pick in this year’s NBA Draft.”

(Webber and Howard) are definitely the strongest guys... Howard made one free throw to cut the Kentucky lead to three. But the Wildcats’ offensive options dwindled when Mashburn sat down. “We had to fight a lot of adversity down the stretch,” Kentucky coach Rick Pitino said. “We were going to create motion for Mash and isolate him. He’s a great one-on-one player, and we thought we could utilize his skills.” Without those skills on the court, Michigan’s rebounding edge and size advantage became even more pronounced. After Kentucky missed, a Wolverine rebound led to two Ray Jackson free throws in a 76-75 game. “Webber and Howard are definitely the strongest guys I’ve been up against this year.” Wildcat forward Jared Prickett said. “They’re a force on the boards, powerful underneath and were a little too much for us to handle tonight.”

FILE PHOTO/Daily

Chris Webber called timeout with fewer than 20 seconds left, despite the fact that Michigan had none, giving UNC free throws and the ball.

Time To Lose

Webber’s timeout costs ‘M’ chance at title KEN DAVIDOFF

Former Daily Sports Writer

NEW ORLEANS — Games rarely get decided by one play. Sure, it makes for good drama, but usually the sequence isn’t worthy of such significance. Oftentimes the designated play symbolizes a larger problem, displayed by the losing competitor. Maybe a missed free throw or a failure to snatch a key rebound seems to be responsible for the result, but a closer look at the box score may show that the team had trouble with that facet throughout the contest. That rational might not cut it, though, for Michigan’s loss last night to North Carolina. The Wolverines played a nice game, certainly good enough to come out victors. And Michigan fans had to feel somewhat confident down 73-71 with 20 seconds left and the ball. After all, Saturday night’s triumph over Kentucky had proven that Steve Fisher’s club could come through in the clutch. First, it should be noted that the Wolverines were lucky to get the ball past the half court line. Chris Webber, after receiving Pat Sullivan’s missed free throw, blatantly traveled in front of the Tar Heel bench. Coach Dean Smith grew furious at the official for not calling anything. Michigan fans, relieved, likely wondered where Webber’s head was. They found out a few seconds

later, as Webber called for a timeout near the Michigan bench. Fisher and the assistant coaches cringed at the motion of Webber’s hands. Michigan supporters fell back in their seats as they realized that Webber’s maneuvers — asking for a timeout where none existed — meant two free throws and the ball for the Tar Heels. Knowing how many timeouts your team has left can be compared to being aware of how many outs there are in baseball — it has great influence on how you approach the situation. Either Webber didn’t know or he knew and he forgot, and

I picked up my dribble, I called timeout. And I cost our team the game.

it’s hard to dispute that his decision did indeed cost Michigan the game. “I think (timeouts) were (discussed in the huddle), but like I said before, they weren’t quite specific to every player on the team or we wouldn’t have called the timeout,” Fischer said. “We thought

they had been made aware. But I’m the guy who is responsible for that.” Webber, while saying he did not know Michigan had no timeouts left, did not deflect the blame. “There were 20 seconds left. I started to dribble the ball, we were down by two, the ball was on our side of the court, I picked up my dribble, I called timeout,” Webber explained. “And I cost our team the game.” He stated that phrase three times in the approximately five minutes that he sat facing the national media. His devastated demeanor reflected his emotion. There were so many other ways the Wolverines could have lost. They could have simply been outplayed, or fell on a buzzer beater, or been victimized by poor officiating. All of Michigan’s critics who crawled under their respective rocks after Saturday night’s inspiring victory will slither back out into the spotlight to regain their glory. Congratulations, they just got enough artillery to last them well through next November. In the next month, we will find out if last night marked the end of the Chris Webber era at Michigan. There is no need to sugar coat anything. Judging from his previous comments, if he does choose to turn professional, he will consider this period of his life unfulfilled. It’s a shame one play can mean so much, but as Webber himself would tell you, life isn’t fair.

“This team would not have been here without Chris Webber ... Sometimes when you get in the heat of the battle some things happen that you say just can’t happen.” -Steve Fisher

“I wanted it for this team and this staff ... We might not be the best but we’re the champions.” -Dean Smith “(Losing two national championships) hurts anytime. We had a great season and a great run in the tournament. I don’t take anything away from our team or any of our accomplishments.” -Jalen Rose “This definitely hurts more than last year. It’s my last time to put on a Michigan uniform.” -Rob Pelinka

“Chris Webber is the heart and soul of this team, and he should not be blamed for our loss. It’s unfortunate this is how the game will be remembered.” -Rob Pelinka

FILE PHOTO/Daily

Jalen Rose was drafted 13th overall in the 1994 NBA Draft, finishing his college career as one of the best players in school history.

“All these questions being asked, it’s stupid. The questions being asked over and over.” -Juwan Howard


Michigan Basketball - 1993

The Michigan Daily — michigandaily.com

Friday, February 22, 2019 — 5B

1993: Michigan-UNC

whistle, but I don’t know what was called. So I’m walking over to the sideline, and I’m asking Jalen what the call was, and then he told me that Chris called the timeout. Chris Webber, after the game, via the Daily article the next day: There were 20 seconds left, I started to dribble the ball, we were down by two, the ball was on our side of the court, I picked up my dribble, I called timeout. And I cost our team the game. In the huddle, with reality beginning to set in for the Wolverines, Jimmy King approached a hunched over Chris Webber. King draped his arm around a clearly despondent Webber. Rose was the voice in the huddle. Rose: If you look back at the film, everybody had their role.

“oh shit, that was it” Webber’s timeout costs Fab Five in Title Game MIKE PERSAK

Former Managing Sports Editor

Few, if any, University of Michigan undergraduate students were alive to see the last time Michigan played North Carolina in basketball. But those who watched the 1993 national championship game will never forget it. When Chris Webber, the face of the Fab Five, called a timeout that the Wolverines didn’t have, legacies changed forever. College basketball tilted on its axis. A group that had captivated the hearts and minds of basketball fans for two seasons ended its final run with a whimper. Over the following 25 seasons, North Carolina persisted as one of the premier programs in college basketball, adding three more national titles. Michigan endured a scandal and NCAA sanctions, coaching turmoil, losing seasons and has only clawed back to national relevance in the last decade. The Daily interviewed former players, coaches, writers, staff and fans, all of whom offered their perspectives on a game that, for many, defined college basketball. This story is about more than a timeout. It’s about the consequences of that historical game in April of 1993. It’s about a recruiting class and a culture. It’s about what they didn’t achieve as much as what they did. It’s about what is remembered and what is still trying to be forgotten 25 years later. This is a story about the most infamous moment in Michigan athletic history. The second half was back and forth, with neither team establishing a big enough lead to relax. North Carolina nursed its modest lead until midway through the second half, when the game tightened. In the last 10 minutes of the game alone, there were five different lead changes. I remember clapping right after he did it, looking at Chris like, ‘Oh shit.’ Pat Sullivan misses the second of two free throws and Webber rebounds the ball with 19 seconds left, down 72-70. Jalen Rose, Michigan guard, 199194: We went to the huddle, and Coach (Steve Fisher) specifically said, ‘He’s gonna miss this free throw, when he misses it, outlet it to Jalen and we gonna do our secondary break.’ King: It’s what we did all year: Grab the rebound, we out. Chris, Juwan, Jalen, Ray, myself, whoever grabs the rebound, we’re out. There is no grabbing the rebound, kicking it to the point guard, although, in that moment, Jalen was open.

MAX MARCOVITCH Managing Sports Editor

Webber looks up and, nearly passing the ball to Rose, noticeably drags his pivot foot. No call. Color commentator, Billy Packer, interjects with a highpitched intonation: “‘Oh, he walked! He walked and the referee missed it!’” Bruce Madej, Michigan sports information director: He dribbles and walks, and I’m looking at the ref — seriously — and nobody called it. And then it’s like, ‘Yes.’… I mean, it wasn’t a little walk, my friend. It was a travel. Kirschner: I mean, he drags his foot about three feet. And it was right directly across from where I was sitting. My first reaction was ‘They blew the call! They missed it!’ Eric Montross, UNC center, 1990-94: Certainly, when you look at the travel in the backcourt, I mean, that’s on film. It simply was. There’s not any speculation as to whether it was or it wasn’t. Rose: And I think what made (Webber) lose his bearings or his train of thought is, he got the rebound, and he hesitated. When you hesitate in sports, now you’re thinking instead of reacting. So he hesitates and looks down at the bench, doesn’t react. Then he tries to look to me and pass, and it’s too late. So at that point whatever he had going on in his head for the moment, I think he kinda lost his bearings, for a player that obviously has been going coast-to-coast dunking on people since 7th grade. We’ve seen him do that play a million times. With the North Carolina bench uproarious at the no-call, Webber continues to dribble down the court. Frantically, he dribbles straight into the corner by his bench, into a trap set by the North Carolina defenders. Jim Nantz, calling the game for CBS: “Webber brings it into the front court, they have no timeouts remaini—” Lucas: Once they didn’t call travel — and all of us in the Carolina section regained our pulse, saw him dribble down the court, saw him go over to the sideline next to the sideline by the Michigan bench, there were a lot of people in that building screaming ‘Timeout.’ Before Nantz could finish his sentence, Webber turns toward the referee and signals for a timeout. Madej: I remember the time from the travel to when he made the call almost like a surreal time for me, like, ‘We’re gonna get away with this?’ And I don’t know. If that didn’t happen, I don’t know if the timeout would

(Webber) tries to look at me and pass and it’s too late.

I remember clapping right after he did it ... like, ‘Oh shit.’

MARK CALCAGNO Daily Sports Editor

have happened. Montross: We’re in a fullcourt trap, we have fouls to give. He gets trapped in that corner, and part of what you want to do as an opponent is create an atmosphere of duress, where you force actions that are not thought about. And those reactions that you don’t have time to think about can become those when you are most prone to mistakes. … And so when I think about that game, I don’t ever think about it as, ‘That’s the timeout game,’ or ‘That’s where Chris Webber cost his team a national championship.’ Kirschner: And that’s a drill that Coach Smith and now Coach Williams do every single day in practice. James Voskuil, Michigan forward, 198993: Remembering what I remember, I was like, ‘Oh shit, that was it.’ I remember clapping right after he did it, looking at Chris like, ‘Oh shit.’ Packer, stunned by the turn of events, explains the implications: “He got by with a walk, and Jim, he calls timeout, he doesn’t realize that Michigan (has) too many. And so it’ll be a technical foul, North Carolina shooting and the ball. Huge mental mistake!” Rose: I definitely knew we didn’t have any timeouts,

Everybody was just, kind of, staring at him.

King: My role was always to support. To support and help my teammates, emotionally, schematically, physically, whatever. And at that moment, Chris probably felt like he was the only one — that everybody was just, kind of, staring at him in that moment. Rose: And then if you look at me I’m barking in the huddle, letting everybody know there’s still time on the clock, anything can happen, let’s try to find a way figure this out and get this win. But the Tar Heels made their free throws to put the game away. Ford: It was just great joy. I think sometimes you’re happy for other people sometimes more than you’re happy for yourself. ‘You just got to face the fact that you called the timeout’ On the other side of the court, the hopes of a national title for the Fab Five vanished in just a few seconds. Some claim that a player on the bench implored Webber to call the timeout, others deny that happening. For the fans in attendance, some immediately understood the implications of the timeout. Others waited for the PA announcement to echo through the arena like a death pronouncement. Gradually, though, the reality began to seep in for the Wolverines and their fans: This was over. But for Chris Webber, the nightmare was just getting started. Madej: Chris made a comment to me one time – maybe it was a couple years (before) that (he’d seen) one player come down with cameras in his face and the guy was real upset and almost crying — Chris made the comment one time that, ‘I’d never want to have that for me.’ That was the first thing that went through my mind. I’m thinking to myself, ‘Well, I know what’s going to happen here.’ Cameras are gonna be there, so we made sure that, as soon as the game was over, that we got Chris to the locker room. And we got Chris to the locker room, and what was interesting to note is you have to put the two players on the list of who is going to talk after the game. Chris was one of those players. So, what I basically did was I had to sit there with Chris, and Chris did not want to go. I mean he didn’t want to go. Would you want to go? Could you imagine a 5-foot-9 guy sitting with what, a 6-foot-10 Chris Webber? And he’s on a bench near his locker, and he had tears running down his eyes. I’m looking at him, and I’m saying, ‘Hey, Chris. You gotta face it.’ ”

I don’t ever think about it as, ‘That’s the timeout game.’ the coaching staff stressed in the huddle we didn’t have any timeouts, and out of respect to anybody that wasn’t in the game, sometimes when you’re not in the game — watch any collegiate game, watch any professional game — sometimes there’s a reason why the other eight or nine guys aren’t in the game. And the five guys are actually in the game. Because they’re in during the game and they’re paying attention — they’re supposed to know the assignments, they’re supposed to know what everyone’s running, they’re supposed to know details of the game. It’s not foreign for the players on the bench not to know everything that’s happening in the game. Now, it is foreign when the players on the f loor don’t know what’s happening in the game. King: My immediate thought was to run the opposite wing in case there was a double team, and there was a swing-out, I was gonna pop the three. Or, if Chris, or whoever has the ball, goes to the basket, then I’m on the weak side for the rebound. And if you watch that clip, that’s exactly what I’m doing. And when the ball comes down and I hear the whistle, because I’m fighting under the basket trying to grab a rebound, I heard the

FILE PHOTO/Daily

Jimmy King comforted Chris Webber after he infamously called timeout.

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6B — Friday, February 22, 2019

Michigan Basketball

2006 Michigan navigates scandal, turnover

2007-2018

BEILEIN ERA TAKES SHAPE

MIKE PERSAK

Former Managing Sports Editor

It all started with a car crash. Just over 22 years ago, about 5 a.m. on Feb. 17, 1997, a Ford Explorer driven by Michigan men’s basketball player Maurice Taylor rolled over on M-14. Inside the car, along with Taylor, were four other Wolverines: Louis Bullock, Willie Mitchell, Ron Oliver and Robert Traylor — who suffered a season-ending arm injury in the crash — as well as five-star recruit Mateen Cleaves, who was on a recruiting visit to Michigan at the time of the crash. The five were driving back from a party. The details surrounding the crash caused questions. For one, the party itself was likely illegal, though that in itself was not grounds for great punishment. However, the ownership of the expensive Ford Explorer, and how exactly Taylor came to get it, was unclear. Then, when Michigan discovered that the late-night trip had included a stop with booster and friend-of-the-program Ed Martin, the puzzle pieces began to fall into place. After investigations from Michigan, the Big Ten and outside law firms revealed nothing, in the end, a grand jury investigation revealed that Martin paid four Wolverine players — Taylor, Traylor, former All-American and two-time national championship runner-up Chris Webber and Bullock, the school’s thirdleading scorer in history. Martin had paid each more than $100,000 with the expectation he would be paid back when they made it to the NBA. Over the years, Michigan had given Martin hotel rooms and tickets in return for his donations to the team. In 2002, Martin pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to launder money, while his other seven charges were dropped. He was forced to cut all ties with the program. “We have always been interested in finding out the truth with the case surrounding Ed Martin,” said thenathletic director Bill Martin after the guilty plea. “Today’s plea bargain is a step in that direction. We hope to have the opportunity very soon to sit down and speak with Mr. Martin, so we will be able to bring this matter to a close.” The Wolverines fired coach Steve Fisher in 1997 amid the investigations and were forced to vacate their 1992 Final Four appearance, the 1992-93 season which ended in a national championship loss and all 65 of their wins from 19961999 — removing four banners from Crisler Center as a result. Additionally, Michigan was banned from postseason play for the next two seasons, was docked a scholarship a season from 2004-05 to 2007-08 and was forced to disassociate from Bullock, Taylor, Traylor and Webber until 2013. Today, the results of the scandal still live on. Those Final Four banners have yet to be re-hung in Crisler Center. Taylor and Bullock both voiced their excitement to re-associate with the program when their ban ended in May 2013, and Bullock’s third-all-time scoring record has been restored in the Wolverines’ record books, albeit with an asterisk. Traylor died of a heart attack in 2011, before his disassociation with Michigan had expired. Webber officially received $280,000 from Martin, and admitted to paying back $38,200 before eventually pledading guilty to a charge of criminal contempt. He has little to no relationship with the Wolverines. Webber returned to Ann Arbor for the first time publicly this fall to be an honorary captain for the Michigan football team. While he was there, however, he had no contact with Beilein or anyone on the basketball team. As for Ed Martin, he died of a pulmonary embolism in 2003 while awaiting sentencing. After the sanctions were passed down, the Wolverines spent years scratching and clawing to regain the success they enjoyed in the early 1990s. They have only recently gotten back to that level, making it to two of the last six national championship games. On Sunday, Michigan will commemorate the 30-year anniversary of its one and only national championship in 1989. The most successful team of the Wolverines’ past will stand on the same court as the current team, which has national title aspirations of its own. The two teams represent two golden eras of Michigan basketball. It is the period those eras are bookending, however, which is the greatest — or at least most publicized — black mark in the program’s history.

The Michigan Daily — michigandaily.com

Culture shift starts immediately under newly-minted head coach MAX MARCOVITCH Managing Sports Editor

FILE PHOTO / DAILY

Just months after Michigan fired Tommy Amaker and hired some coach from West Virginia in April of 2007, the men’s basketball team opened offseason workouts. It was a directionless program, desperate for national relevance and one — only one — NCAA Tournament berth. It was day one of the John Beilein era. And, little did anyone know, day one of perhaps the greatest sustained period of success in Michigan basketball history. At the beginning of the workout, then-assistant coach John Mahoney barged into the weight room, hooting and hollering. “We’re trying to win a motherfing national championship,” he yelped. “And that’s why we’re here.” Guard Jevohn Shepherd gave his teammate Anthony Wright a glance. Wright still recalls what Shepherd said next. “Man, this guy has to calm down.” *** “Culture shift” is a phrase that gets thrown around in sports, when change wants to be sugarcoated with a smile. It can often be meaningless and exaggerated in its tone. There are countless examples of failed attempts at culture shifts in sports because culture, as it turns out, is hard to shift. This isn’t one of those stories. As with everything John Beilein does, this change took time, and it was a process. But the results have been on display for nine years now. The national runner-up Wolverines are a shining beacon of a college basketball program, and it’s easy to forget it hasn’t always been that way. “When he first started recruiting me in 2007, the program … was obviously not in a good place,” said center Jordan Morgan, a member of the Wolverines from 2010-14. “At that point in my life, Michigan going to Final Fours and winning Big Ten Championships, it was a little bit hard to fathom at the time just because of where Michigan was at.” At the start of Beilein’s tenure, “where Michigan was at” could only be classified as oblivion. It hadn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 1998, and at a school in the heart of the Lloyd Carr era in football, the basketball team toiled with mediocrity more than disaster. Well removed from the Fab Five era, with the 1989 national title a faint memory, Michigan had yet to turn a page on the court. Final Fours? This team just wanted to make the damn tournament. Internally, though, the overhaul began immediately. “I’m not sure I really knew what ‘rebuild that program’ meant,” Morgan said. “But from the minute that I met him, he used to talk to me about rebuilding. Rebuilding a program. Building something special. Being a part of rebuilding that. And that was what made me want to go to Michigan in the first place.” Before practices even began, Beilein and his staff instituted a number of tests — tests of skill and of athleticism — that each player needed to accomplish before he could even step on the practice court. They ranged from conditioning requirements, like running a mile in 5:30 or less, to skill-based measures, like making 50 threes in five minutes. “You have to learn how to win,” said Michigan guard Zack

Novak. “That’s a real thing. Just the way that we competed in practice, every drill. … He just had us learning how to win, how to execute when the pressure was on.” But learning how to win doesn’t automatically translate into winning. The players struggled to grasp the complexity of an offense that has since come to be accepted as one of the most efficient in the country. At the time, its genius was also its biggest flaw. “There are so many plays, and there are always plays within the plays,” Wright said. “And there are always counters of the plays within the play that can change just by someone doing an action.” Confused? You wouldn’t be alone. Bewildered players asked questions that often took 30 minutes for Beilein to explain before his team could execute it all. And this frustration seeped onto the court. In his first season on the job, Michigan scuffled to a 10-22 record, the most losses in a single season in program history. In his first three seasons, Beilein guided his group to a middling 46-53 record, and couldn’t crack a single top-30 recruiting class, according to 247Sports.com. Questions sprouted about the direction Beilein was leading, and with good reason. Beilein’s propensity for nabbing lowerranked recruits who fit his scheme and the culture of the program he wanted to cultivate began to draw ire. According to Morgan, Beilein paid no mind. “For him, he’d rather fail putting together teams like that than to succeed and sacrifice on his integrity.” But “failure” and Beilein don’t often compute. Over the next decade, the program’s faith in him would be rewarded in droves. *** Charles Matthews called his teammates back. Following a particularly rough practice before the NCAA Tournament, Matthews and his teammates broke the huddle and began walking back to their locker room. The redshirt sophomore wasn’t satisfied. “Charles said, ‘No, no, no, come back. We’re national champions,’” recalled freshman Isaiah Livers. “And he does it again. ‘National champs. National champs.’” This time, 11 years after Shepherd and Wright shrugged off their screaming assistant coach’s vision, Matthews’ team was all ears. It became a rallying cry — a motivator to “play on Monday night,” as the team referred to the title game. No one asked him to calm down and no one thought his proclamation was the least bit unreasonable. It was a chant the Wolverines kept through the April 4th title game against Villanova, coming just short of bringing the dream of a national championship to fruition. And it wasn’t just a chant. It was symbolic of a mindset — an entirely realistic annual goal — of a program with sky-high expectations. This is no longer the meager program in a timeout huddle pleading to keep the margin close in order to maintain its waffling NCAA Tournament berth. It’s a program telling you it won’t settle short of a national championship. And meaning it. *** On occasion, Beilein will distance himself from the intensity of his day-to-day grind and reminisce with Greg Harden about the state of the program 11 years

ago. Harden, an executive associate athletic director, was Beilein’s administrator then and is again now. Harden and Beilein are two of the only remnants from an era that is now a deeply suppressed memory. “We talk about a few of those days,” Beilein said last Wednesday with a hearty chuckle. He’s allowed to chuckle now. There wasn’t much chuckling then. “I look at them fondly, as it’s part of the foundation of growing. There’s things that happened in those days that were not great for me or the program. I saw a great quote that came from Sean McDermott of my beloved Buffalo Bills, ‘You don’t lose, you learn.’ When we lost, we learned and we got better from it. And we’ll lose again, and we’ll continue to learn.” He can say that now — just weeks removed from the winningest season in program history, fresh off his second national title appearance in six seasons — and it’s taken with sincerity. As well it should. Over a week removed from the end of the season, Beilein still regularly wakes up at 5:45 a.m. instinctively to review tape and prepare for the next game, only to recall there’s nothing left to prepare for. He’s as process-oriented as any coach — any human — out there. But while that focus is so finite in its implementation — from tape to meetings to the practice court to games, rinse, repeat — it rarely comes with a necessitated end goal. None of that is to say the losses, particularly in the two title games, don’t irk him. Beilein waited months before re-watching the Louisville game from 2013. He tried to re-watch the Villanova game, but shut it down after seeing two plays that drew frustration. “I’m still mad about that (Louisville game), too. It’s, like, pointless,” Beilein said when asked about watching those games. “Pointless right now.” Still, it’s a near certainty that John Beilein has never said, “We’re trying to win a motherfing national championship.” In fact, it’s a safe bet that the mildmannered coach has never said “motherf-ing” in his life. But it’s no longer a mindset worth chiding. To Matthews, Livers and every athlete who walks into the locker room at Crisler Center these days, it’s the expectation. It’s now an implication that John Beilein’s name is perpetually prefaced with “Hall of Fame” and “greatest coach in program history.” It’s not even worth an argument. The only thing left unetched on his plaque is whether he adds a “national champion and…” in front of that esteemed title. Regardless of how his career finishes or when it finishes, Beilein has written his legacy into the apex of Michigan history. There’s only one hill left to climb — the same one John Mahoney was yelling about all those years ago. Will it happen? “I hope,” said junior Moritz Wagner, happy to weave in and out of questions about his NBA draft status. Three days later, Wagner became Beilein’s 10th early departure for the NBA in the last nine years. Does it need to happen? “People always say this, ‘Coaches are great when they win national championships.’ That is true. But there is a lot more — especially in college basketball,” Wagner said. “You can’t just measure that with national championships.”


The Michigan Daily — michigandaily.com

Michigan Basketball - 2018

Friday, February 22, 2019 —7B

BEILEIN at 800 Those who know him best speak about John Beilein THEO MACKIE

Daily Sports Writer

In 2018, Michigan coach John Beilein began his 41st season as a collegiate head coach. Along the way, he had collected 799 career victories, from Erie Community College to his current 11-year tenure with the Wolverines. Ahead of his 800th win, The Michigan Daily spoke to former players, assistants and opponents to learn about their experiences with Beilein. Patrick Beilein, son; guard, West Virginia, 2002-06; graduate assistant, Michigan, 2008-10 I would just remember always being excited to go to the gym with him for practice or a game. I remember if I couldn’t go to a game with him because it was too late on a school night, I would give him a toy, one of my favorite toys that I thought would give luck, and he would put it in his suit. So that was just big growing up, we looked forward to the basketball season because we would be able to go to the games, practice but also be around the game that I obviously grew up to love. Once I got older, once I got into high school, I was able to play with the University of Richmond guys in the summer and in the spring. So that was good for my development. But at a young age, my brother and I, we would just be there at the gym, and we’d be on the side, whether dribbling a ball or chasing each other around, getting into trouble. So that’s how it was. Spike Albrecht, guard, Michigan, 2012-16 I played AAU with Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson, and they were both already committed to Michigan at the time. So my AAU coach, when he started catching wind of this Trey Burke situation, he reached out to coach Beilein like ‘Hey, I got a guy you should look at for a point guard, just like insurance policy, basically, if Trey leaves.’ And he was like, ‘Hey, he doesn’t really look the part but you should go give him a call or go see him.’ Coach Beilein told me I didn’t pass the eyeball test, is what he told me. He still tells a story, when he came in, he did an in-home visit with me back at my house in Crown Point and he got out of the car and was walking up, I came outside to come say ‘hi’ and greet him, welcome him into my house. But, like, my driveway’s kinda on a slant so he, like, got out, and I was on the low end, and he was looking at me, and he was like, ‘Holy shit, who is this little dude. Like, I can’t believe I’m gonna recruit this kid to play in the Big Ten.’ But even if I was a big-time recruit and had all those other schools, man, coach Beilein was just an awesome dude. He was super genuine. And I could just tell he was a first-class guy. He genuinely cares about his players. And I could just feel that throughout my recruitment with him. And he was honest and up front. I mean, he told me I’d probably never play more than five or 10 minutes a game, honestly, in my career at Michigan. But hey man, that’s cool, don’t give me bullshit. So I respected that. Moritz Wagner, forward, Michigan, 2015-18 He was always really hard on me, and I — something I felt I was the blame for everything. But after my sophomore year, I understood that was the way he wanted to get me better. … It was for my sake. He sees the potential in you, and eventually I committed to that and said, ‘Ok, whatever. I know what you’re doing, so let’s work together.’ I don’t really know if I have a specific story but that’s just what I’ve experienced. Coach Beilein really cares about his players. I still have a really good relationship with him, try to talk to him as much as I can. And yeah, it was the best decision of my life to go there, 100 percent. Tom Izzo, head coach, Michigan State, 1995-present I just had (my son) out there at an AAU event and John was there and he just sat with us and that’s where I learned he was just a regular guy. That’s kinda what I hope I am, just a regular guy that enjoys what we do and tries to make life better for other people, and that’s what he did for my son that day.

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10B — Friday, February 22, 2019

Michigan Basketball

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Michigan Basketball - 2013

Friday, February 22, 2019 — 11B

Burke sends ‘M’ to Elite Eight with miracle shot

Thanks for the memories DANIEL WASSERMAN Former Daily Sports Editor

DANIEL WASSERMAN Former Daily Sports Editor

ARLINGTON, Texas — Trey Burke wasn’t ready for his Michigan career to be over. After missing numerous buzzerbeaters over the course of his illustrious two-year career, the sophomore point guard came through in the biggest game of his life, sending Michigan into the Elite Eight for the first time since 1994 with a 87-85 overtime win. Kansas guard Elijah Johnson missed the front-end of a 1-and-1 that would’ve given the Jayhawks a two-possession lead with 12 seconds remaining in regulation, and after an uncharacteristically poor showing for much of the night, Burke drilled a game-tying 3-pointer with four ticks left to send Cowboy Stadium into pandemonium. Burke said after that the play was drawn up for him to attack the rim and try to get a quick 2-pointer, but as he dribbled it up the floor, his instincts took over. “I read it,” Burke said. “I seen that they were going to switch. As soon as they switched, I was thinking about going to the rack, but it was about six seconds left, so I was like, ‘Man, step back, get some separation and take your time and shoot it.’ And it went in.” Did it ever. After being held scoreless in the first half, Burke scored 23 points in the second half and overtime, turning the ball over just once. He played the entirety of the final two periods. Kansas scored first in overtime, but Burke scored the game’s next five points and freshman forward Mitch McGary responded to another Jayhawk layup with four points of his own. On the ensuing possession, freshman forward Glenn Robinson III came up with a steal and hit both of his free throws after being fouled, giving Michigan an 87-82 lead. Elijah Johnson hit a 3-pointer to bring Kansas within two, and after a Burke missed layup with nine seconds left, the Jayhawks final possession turned into a scramble that resulted with a desperation heave from several feet behind the arc, sealing an improbable win for Michigan. From start until the final minute of the game, the Wolverines (12-6 Big Ten, 29-7 overall) never could sustain any sort of momentum. After managing just a six-point deficit heading into halftime despite an abysmal first half, Michigan fought back to draw its hole to just two after four minutes of second-half play. But a veteran Kansas (14-4 Big 12, 31-6 overall) lineup endured the punch and pounded back, harder, using a 12-4 run to push its lead back to eight. A few minutes later, a Johnson 3-pointer gave the Jayhawks a 14-point lead. But then the Wolverines initiated a ferocious rally, culminating in Burke’s 3-pointer, which brought Michigan back from down eight with 1:22 left to play. “We definitely didn’t see fear,” said junior guard Tim Hardaway Jr. “Everybody knew that the game wasn’t over. We’ve been in this situation before, earlier in the year. And we just had to go out there and gut it out.” Kansas opened the game by shooting a stunning 67.9 percent from the field, repeatedly tearing into glaring gaps through the Wolverine defense. But despite the blown opportunities and defensive lapses, Michigan headed into halftime down just 40-34. The Jayhawks pulled off a seamless transition from the pregame layup lines well into the opening 10 minutes of the game. Kansas had as many first-half points in the paint, 34, as the Wolverines scored in the opening stanza. In fact, the Jayhawks’ first 22 points came inside the painted area, as none of Michigan’s big men could keep Kansas off the boards, and its perimeter defenders were continually beat off the dribble. “It looked like everybody was a step slow out there, the heat in the building and maybe a little bit of anxiety about going into this game,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “It was tough stopping them.” Burke was glaringly absent in the first 20 minutes. The All-American missed all four of his field goals and turned the ball over three times — one more than his season average per game — though he did contribute with five assists. “In the first half, they did a good job keeping me out of the lane,” Burke said. “In the second half, I had a more determined mindset to get in the paint and make (Jeff) Withey play me more so I can drop it off to Mitch. The big fella stepped up again for me tonight.”

FILE PHOTO/Daily

Trey Burke won National Player of the Year and helped propel the Wolverines to the National Championship Game, where they fell short.

Heartbreak

Michigan falls to Louisville after magical run DANIEL WASSERMAN Former Daily Sports Editor

ATLANTA — For the third time in their lives, the members of the Fab Five had to look on in despair as another team sealed a National Championship from the free-throw line. After the Michigan men’s basketball team dominated most of the first half, Louisville stormed back in the final minutes of the opening stanza to capture the game’s momentum. The Cardinals never relinquished it, winning the 2012-13 National Championship, 82-76. “Sometimes you’d rather lose by 10 or 15 than four or five because you’re so close,” said junior guard Tim Hardaway Jr. “This is definitely the best game that I played in. You’re in the National Championship and you can’t really beat it. I’d trade every game before this just to get this game back. “It hurts, it really hurts.” Louisville (14-4 Big East, 35-5 overall) spent much of the second half attempting to pull away, only for Michigan to continually fight back. But the Wolverines could never quite get over the hump after leading for more than 19 of the game’s opening 20 minutes. While Michigan’s youth didn’t show in the first half — freshman point guard Spike Albrecht carried the Wolverines with 17 first-half points — it was the Cardinals’ experience that bested a tired-looking Michigan squad in the second half. But in a game marred by errant officiating, one incorrect foul call might have ultimately sealed the game. After completing a monstrous alley-oop to freshman forward Glenn Robinson III to cut the deficit to three — sending Michigan fans into a frenzy — sophomore point guard Trey Burke appeared to cleanly block a Peyton Siva lay-up attempt. Burke was whistled for

a foul, changing the tide of the game, as Siva hit two ensuing free throws. “I guess the ref thought it was a foul,” Burke said. “I thought I had all ball and timed it up pretty good. Unfortunately, you know, it didn’t go that way. “I think that was a turning point. … It could have been momentum. If it was a no-call, we could’ve gotten possession. We can’t go back on that now. It was a foul.” The Wolverines (12-6 Big Ten, 31-7 overall) later cut their deficit to four via the charity stripe — they entered the bonus with 11 minutes to play — but the Cardinals never let it get any closer. With under a minute left, Michigan forced a miss but after corralling the rebound, freshman guard Caris LeVert stepped out of bounds with 52 seconds remaining. Louisville was eventually sent to the free-throw line, where it iced the game. “We fought for 40 minutes,” Burke said. “There was never a point in time that we gave up. … They were the better team today.” While LeVert’s miscue was certainly a crushing blow, Michigan coach John Beilein admitted he mishandled the ensuing possession. Beilein, coaching in his first Final Four, mistakenly thought the Cardinals were already in the bonus and instructed his players not to foul. That blunder, along his decision to leave both Burke and freshman forward Mitch McGary in the game when each had four fouls allowed precious seconds to tick off the clock, thwarting any chance of what could’ve amounted to a miraculous comeback. “It was a coaching error,” Beilein said. “That falls on me as a coach.” Burke sat for much of the first half and finished the game with 24 points, but no other Michigan player — aside from Albrecht’s magnificent first half — could string together any offensive output. Louisville’s stars, meanwhile,

shined when it mattered most. Siva scored 18 points, and forward Gorgui Dieng registered eight points and eight boards, while neutralizing freshman forward Mitch McGary. In one of the best first halves in the history of an NCAA Championship, a pair of unheralded, un-recruited reserves stole the nation’s brightest spotlight in the opening 20 minutes. Burke got off to a hot start, scoring Michigan’s first seven points, to give the Wolverines a 7-3 lead, but two early fouls demoted him to the bench for the half’s final 15 minutes. With the Fab Five looking on from the stands, Beilein played all five of his freshmen on the court together for the first time since a Dec. 1 road game at Bradley. Albrecht came through in the unlikeliest of ways, knocking down six of his seven field goals, including four 3-pointers, for a game-high 17 firsthalf points. An Albrecht layup at the 3:56 mark gave Michigan an 11-point lead — its largest of the half. Led by Albrecht, the freshmen scored 26 consecutive straight first-half points for the Wolverines. “The whole world saw what Spike Albrecht is all about,” Hardaway said. Albrecht said his hot shooting was reminiscent of his high-school days. “When I go out there, I’m confident,” Albrecht said. “I wanted it so bad.” Added Burke: “If there was a point guard I want coming off the bench, it’s Spike Albrecht. He’s going to make plays for you. He may not win the look test, but he’s going to make plays for this team. … I wasn’t surprised by his performance today.” But a ferocious 14-1 Louisville run that included four consecutive 3-pointers from walk-on forward Luke Hancock gave the Cardinals their first lead, 36-35, with 22 seconds remaining.

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Goodbye, Trey EVERETT COOK

Former Daily Sports Editor

ATLANTA — With six minutes left in Michigan’s 82-76 loss to Louisville in the National Championship, Trey Burke launched himself off the ground and toward the backboard, stretching his arm as far up as it could possibly go, trying to stop the trajectory of Louisville guard Peyton Siva. It was a breakaway play in transition, one-on-one, point guard against point guard. Siva rose up with his right hand, cradling the ball, trying to slam it up and over Burke. Any other point guard either lets Siva go or tries to strip the ball in the air. Burke tried to block it. Ninety seconds prior, the sophomore point guard had been lying facedown on the court, trying to recover after being fouled hard on a drive. He had been beaten up all game by the physical Cardinal defense, and it was starting to take its toll. Burke got up and walked to the freethrow line, head down. Jordan Morgan caught him before he got to the stripe, telling Burke to lift his head. Morgan knew his point guard was hurting. The redshirt junior center told him, “Just keep fighting. Just six more minutes.” Burke nodded, but missed the first free throw. He muttered something

under his breath, took a breath, stepped forward and made the second one. He was in pain. But in the open court against Siva, the 6-foot Burke got up higher than he had all season. Half of his forearm was above the rim, where his hand met nothing but the ball. It was a clean rejection, a perfect defensive play and a perfect snapshot of two leaders leaving everything on the line. Then, a whistle. Burke was called for the foul, and Siva made both his free throws. After the game, 11 players and coaches were asked if the play was clean. All 11 said it was, but all said it ultimately didn’t affect the outcome. There were so many other plays that swung the game. All 11 praised the point guard for being able to even get there. There’s a story that Michigan assistant coach LaVall Jordan likes to tell about Burke. In the first open gym of Burke’s Michigan career in the summer of 2011, Jordan approached Burke and asked him, “You like winning, don’t you?” Burke, then 19, responded, “Coach, I win. That’s what I do.” Jordan knew that Burke had won the Ohio State Championship as a sophomore in high school, so he laughed and nodded, trying to humor his young point guard.

Dead serious, without a glint of humor, Burke looked up at Jordan, shook his head and said, “Coach, I win. That’s what I do.” After sweeping the four major National Player of the Year awards and getting the Wolverines to Atlanta, Burke accomplished what he wanted to. For him, there’s nothing left to accomplish at Michigan. It’s almost a foregone conclusion he will play in the NBA next year. But on Monday, he was still a Wolverine, and he was still the best player in the country, still the player capable of making shots 30 feet from the basket. Every time it felt like the game was slipping away, there was Burke, willing Michigan back into it. He finished the contest with a gamehigh 24 points while missing just four shots and tallied six of Michigan’s last 10 points. He couldn’t, wouldn’t let his team let it slip away. “He’s a superhero. A mythological figure,” said senior captain Josh Bartelstein. “I’ve never enjoyed playing with anybody so much. He’s the best basketball player I’ve ever played with, and I’ve played with some good players. That kid is going to have an unbelievable career in the NBA.”

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ARLINGTON, Texas — One night, and one more time Thanks for the memories Maybe the Fall Out Boy hit was just a part of the Kansas pep band’s routine playlist, but maybe — with the Jayhawks leading 63-52 during a timeout at the 9:59 mark of the second half — it was an early tip of the cap, an ode to the end of the 2012-13 Michigan men’s basketball team. And why not? Kansas was dominating all facets of the game and well on its way to the Elite Eight. So thanks for the memories, cheerleader Alexandria DeLuca. You’re a senior, so it appeared to be your final game cheerleading for Michigan, and you knew the tears were on their way. Thank you, LSA junior Zachary Salander. As a mellophone player in Michigan’s pep band, we’ve heard you during each and every home game, though we wouldn’t recognize you if we passed you on the street. And thank you, Josh Bartelstein and Matt Vogrich. The pair of senior guards battled day in and day out in practice and provided invaluable leadership but played sparingly this season. Both of your basketball careers looked to be over, and in nine minutes and 59 seconds, your realworld lives were set to begin. But most importantly, thank you, Trey Burke. You were the catalyst behind an improbable Big Ten Championship last season, and as college basketball’s best player this year, you put the Michigan basketball program back into a spotlight that hasn’t shined on Ann Arbor since the Fab Five days. But as the song goes: One night, and one more time Thanks for the memories Even though they weren’t so great For much of Friday night, as the Wolverines couldn’t keep up with the Jayhawks, it was time to reflect on the memories of a season full of ups and downs, and of course, Burke’s illustrious two-year career. Before he bolts to the NBA, he was supposed to lead the Wolverines deeper than just the Sweet Sixteen, but by the 9:59 mark, Burke was shooting just 4-for12, good for just eight points after being held scoreless in the first half. His time in a maize-and-blue jersey was fleeting as each second ticked away on the massive Cowboy Stadium jumbotron. Kansas continued to pour it on, eventually stretching its lead to 14 with 6:50 to play. Meanwhile, not even lotterypick money could buy Burke a shot in the game’s first 38 minutes. The sophomore missed 12 shots on Friday. But then something changed. Staring down an eight-point deficit with 1:22 left to play and stuck on 10 points, Burke channeled his inner Jordan — yeah, that Jordan. “I grew up watching Michael Jordan,” Burke said in the locker room nearly an hour later. “I’ve seen him make so many shots, and I’m not comparing myself to him, but — ” He paused to collect himself, before referencing his favorite MJ quote. I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twentysix times, I’ve been trusted to take the winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed. “I think that described me tonight,” Burke said calmly. At the 1:15 mark, he nailed a 3-pointer: five-point game. With 14 seconds left, a layup: three-point game. And with six ticks left, after Elijah Johnson missed the front end of a one-andone, Burke pulled up from around seven feet behind the 3-point line: tie game. “The moment it left my hand, I knew it was good,” Burke said. So from Bartelstein, who was so confident that Burke’s shot would go in that he jumped out of his seat while the ball was at the peak of its arc, thank you, Trey Burke. “That’s not how it was supposed to end. I’m not even sure what happened,” Bartelstein said. His phone was ringing, and Zack Novak was on the other line. It was past 3 a.m. in Zwolle, Netherlands, where Novak had stayed up to watch the game, but Bartelstein didn’t take the call. “I don’t recommend normal people taking that shot,” he continued. “It was an iconic shot from an iconic player.” And thank you, too, from Vogrich, the veteran whose minutes have decreased in each of the past three seasons. “I just want to sit here forever,” he said aloud, but to no one in particular, from his seat in the locker room. So the journeys of these four, out-ofthe spotlight upperclassmen will continue until at least Sunday afternoon, where for at least one night, and one more time, we’ll say to you, Trey Burke, thanks for the memories.


Friday, February 22, 2019 — 12B

Michigan Basketball - 2014

The Michigan Daily — michigandaily.com

Not easy, not fair, but we love it

Fun, until the finish ZACH HELFAND

Former Managing Sports Editor

SIMON KAUFMAN

Former Daily Sports Writer

INDIANAPOLIS — It’s been 20 minutes since the Michigan men’s basketball team lost to Kentucky, 75-72, in the regional semifinals — 20 minutes since it was four points from a second straight Final Four appearance. A 6-foot-8 fifth-year senior is doing everything he can to hold back tears after his final college basketball game — and failing to do so. Three sophomores are answering questions about their futures — whether they’ll stay another year or not. A senior team manager in khakis and a maize polo is sitting on a water cooler with his head down, trying to hide puffy red eyes. He didn’t play, but it was his last game, too. It’s easy to say they’re looking forward to next year. Easy to say how proud they were of this past season. Easy to praise Jordan Morgan, the lone player graduating. It’s easy to reflect, easy to compliment the opponent and to try, no matter how hard, to keep their heads up and their emotions back. This isn’t your YMCA youth basketball league and not everyone gets a trophy. And that’s not easy to accept, because after the year Michigan had, it doesn’t seem fair it will leave emptyhanded. It’s not easy and maybe it’s not fair, either. Maybe it’s not fair to ask a team that started the season 6-4 to compete for a National Championship. Not fair to expect that a team that lost two starters to the NBA and an All-American to an injury would win the Big Ten title by three games. Not fair to tell a sophomore who still wears braces that he should’ve played better defense on that last play. Maybe everyone was caught up in the lure of last year. Still replaying Trey’s shot, trying to forget Harrison’s. Maybe the expectations weren’t fair. But, as is said, life is not fair, not easy. And if ever there was a microcosm to emphasize that fact it would be sports. It would be college sports. And it would be March Madness. Because in real life, 18-year-old kids aren’t asked to be perfect or be forgotten. But that happens in college basketball, and it happens every March. And that’s OK. It’s what makes a stadium of 35,551 explode when a Wildcat guard hits a deep 3-pointer with two seconds left, and it’s what makes a six-year-old boy wearing a maize Michigan jersey grab his dad’s leg and cry when a Nik Stauskas heave misses a minute later. It’s the reason Caris LeVert is sitting in a chair in the locker room with his legs sprawled out and his arms crossed. He doesn’t look like the player that carried the team many times this season. He looks like a little boy who’s been put in timeout by his mom and told to think about his bad behavior. The sophomore bops his head every couple of seconds, not like he’s singing a song but more like he’s replaying the previous 40 minutes — thinking about every play, what he could’ve done differently so that he wasn’t sitting dejected and expressionless after the game. He doesn’t deserve that feeling — certainly not after the season he had. But just down the hallway from Michigan’s locker room at Lucas Oil Stadium there’s a room full of Kentucky players who don’t deserve that agony either. And yet that’s the reality of it. It’s the best time of the year because anyone can take the spotlight and any star can become an afterthought. It’s Bowl Week, the Frozen Four and Opening Day all wrapped into one spectacular month. And in reality, it’s probably too much emotion squeezed into a fourweek stretch highlighted by 40-minute contests than is healthy for us. But we still prescribe to it ourselves. Because no matter how hard, how unfair, that’s the fun of it. And just like each champion holds the title temporarily, so too, each loss fades away. Across the locker room from LeVert, Jon Horford playfully flips Max Biefeldt the bird, disapproving of a quip Bielfeldt made. They both laugh. Morgan talks with family on his way out of the stadium. One fan tells him that she watched every game. He smiles. With a swarm of reporters around him, Michigan coach John Beilein is level-headed. It’s hard to tell if his team just lost in the NCAA Tournament or in a preseason exhibition game. He praises, reflects and looks forward. That’s the easy part. Taking a team that had no business having such high expectations after roster changes, and bringing it so close to another Final Four, that’s the hard part.

FILE PHOTO/Daily

Nik Stauskas was the leading scorer on the season for the Wolverines, who won their first outright Big Ten regular-season title since 1986.

Big Ten Champs After ‘M’ takes regular-season title, run ends in Elite Eight SIMON KAUFMAN

Former Daily Sports Writer

The Michigan men’s basketball team had been waiting to celebrate for 335 days. It had been waiting for confetti to fall, nets to be cut and a trophy to be hoisted since April 8 of last year, when it walked off the court and watched on after losing to Louisville in the NCAA championship game. Saturday night, after beating Indiana, 84-80, the wait was over. The blue and gold confetti and streamers, the nets and the Big Ten championship trophy was all the Wolverines. Despite clinching the conference title Tuesday with a win over Illinois in Champaign, they waited until Saturday night to enjoy it on their own court. And when the final buzzer sounded, the moment belonged to this year’s Michigan team, and it savored every moment of it. The attention was on the present celebration, not the past. Not of the memories of a dejected Trey Burke walking off the court in Atlanta last year with his head down and his back to a different team. Freshman guard Derrick Walton Jr. danced in a circle of cheering teammates, injured sophomore forward Mitch McGary kissed the championship trophy, fifth-year senior forward Jordan Morgan shared a long embrace with a fan on the sideline and Charles Woodson photobombed a picture

of the whole team. This was the celebration the Wolverines had been waiting for, albeit they didn’t envision the former Michigan football Heisman trophy winner joining. Michigan coach John Beilein grabbed the microphone in the midst of it all to thank the fans and encourage everyone to “celebrate this great win,” even after he said celebrating would be kept to a minimum after the Illinois game earlier in the week. Not even Beilein could resist enjoying the moment — savoring the program’s first outright conference title in nearly 30 years. “That’s one happy locker room,” Beilein said in his postgame press

It was a blast. It’s surreal. It just shows what hard work can do.

senior was honored before the game during Senior Day festivities, and he had a special night on the court to go along with the occasion. Morgan scored 15 points and finished with 10 rebounds in his last game at Crisler Center. Cheers of “J-Mo, J-Mo” rained down from the student section before Morgan led the crowd in singing “The Victors.“ “It was a blast,” Morgan said during the celebration. “It’s surreal. It just shows what hard work can do. We’ve got a bunch of guys that people counted out, just coming together working hard.” As the confetti continued to fall, a ladder was set up underneath Michigan’s basket, and Morgan made his way to the hoop. He cut off a small piece — just enough of a reminder of the accomplishment without losing sight of the bigger goal. Morgan was followed by other Wolverine players who climbed the ladder to get a piece of the net — some who started every game and others who rarely got minutes. Each took the scissors to the rim to cut off a memory of the Big Ten season that was — one that ended with confetti falling and a banner rising next season. Michigan is a month away from when it hopes to cut down nets again. But on Saturday night, at long last, the Wolverines could celebrate. “It’s been an amazing year,” Morgan said before pausing. “So far, so far.”

That’s one happy locker room. We did celebrate out there.

conference. “We did celebrate out there. We celebrated what we’ve been really waiting for since Tuesday, and our kids are ecstatic with the way this season has ended. “I had no idea all that was going on and it’s just great for the fans to stick around and see a tribute to a really special team.” A full house of Michigan fans stayed in its seats to take in the moment. After Beilein addressed the crowd, he handed the microphone off to Morgan. The team’s lone

FILE PHOTO/Daily

After winning the Big Ten and making it to the Elite Eight, Michigan lost to Kentucky after Aaron Harrison hit a go-ahead 3-pointer.

INDIANAPOLIS — Moments after the game, the sun is low in the sky and Lucas Oil Stadium casts a long shadow across Indianapolis as, inside, Michigan walks off the court for the last time together. Jordan Morgan is first, well before anyone else. Glenn Robinson III gives a quick wave to the crowd and puts his head down. Nik Stauskas is emotionless. Mitch McGary, who was never getting into the game, walks off wearing the uniform his teammates have insisted he wear. Later, Morgan, held up by his press conference, is one of the last to enter the Michigan locker room. Most of the room is composed except for Zak Irvin, who is emotional in one corner of the room, and for Morgan. He wipes his face with his sleeve and cries in front of the television cameras. His teammates have said the loss is all the more difficult because it means they’ll never play another game with Morgan. The senior doesn’t know how to respond. He pauses to wipe his eyes. “I didn’t expect it to be my last game,” Morgan says. “It’s over. I don’t know what else to say.” It’s unclear what Michigan could have done differently against Kentucky. It’s unclear what Michigan could have done better. A few more box outs, maybe. Less foul trouble. But Michigan played at just about its peak and stood with Kentucky’s size and talent and said beat this. And Kentucky did. It was hard to ask much more from this team in this game, this season. Michigan’s big men, simply, weren’t big. Kentucky was too much to handle above the rim. The final six minutes on Sunday were the best basketball of this thoroughly entertaining tournament. Michigan takes a timeout, down seven, the game slipping away. A pretty drive and kick back by LeVert finds Robinson open in the corner. His shooting has been inconsistent for most of the season. It’s good. Fourpoint game now. Two possessions later, Morgan gets a putback and the foul. Free throw good. One point game — and now we’re off. Aaron Harrison three. Morgan dunk. Kentucky layup. Robinson layup. Kentucky layup. The under-fourminutes television timeout feels akin to interrupting Mozart mid-symphony to sell a few extra bratwursts. Damn your television timeouts. Back now. Stauskas makes both on a shooting foul. Harrison three. Robinson three. Nine possessions now without so much as a missed shot. How much fun is this? Michigan needs two to tie now, so John Beilein takes a timeout. And then LeVert goes off. Stauskas misses a layup, but LeVert grabs it and dishes. Stauskas, again, from three rims out and LeVert slashes into the paint, dives after the ball and, falling backward, dishes back to Stauskas. Another miss, but a hand — likely that of Julius Randle of Kentucky — redirects the ball back in. Tie game. This right here was Michigan’s season. A flawless, smart offense (the most efficient, ever, it turns out, at least since we’ve started keeping track of such stats); a socialist-like insistence on sharing the basketball; and more effort than defense. LeVert was not going to let Kentucky get the ball back before Michigan made a basket. Then Aaron Harrison — that’s Aaron Bleeping Harrison, to translate for Ann Arbor readers — hit the shot of his young career. Stauskas’ prayer went short. And Kentucky won. Michigan will be back here again. This feels more certain than it has in forever. For Michigan, this hurt not because it gave Kentucky anything. It didn’t. It hurt not because it squandered a rare opportunity. It will come again. It hurts because it won’t be with this team, this thoroughly surprising and likeable team. It hurts, because in college basketball today, teams like this are like comets — brilliant, breathtaking, brief. It hurts because that photo feels nostalgic. And it’s from 2012. It hurts because of Morgan. Morgan is talking about this team in the press conference after the game. He’s the last one to speak before it’s over. “Yeah, I mean, just this year has been the most fun time I’ve had, probably, playing basketball, ever,” he says. It’s over now, and it hurts for Michigan, but I don’t know what else to say except: How much fun was that?


The Michigan Daily — michigandaily.com

Michigan Basketball - 2017

Friday, February 22, 2019 — 13B

Irvin’s pregame message propels ‘M’

Michigan claims Big Ten title over Badgers BRANDON CARNEY

BETELHEM ASHAME

Former Daily Sports Writer

Former Managing Sports Editor

WASHINGTON – A little over a month ago, Michigan hit rock bottom. The Wolverines had just lost to Big Ten bottom-dweller Ohio State, and looked completely shook while doing so. But following the game, senior guard Derrick Walton Jr. stood in the corner of the Crisler Center pressroom looking as poised as ever. He knew his team had just hit its lowest point, but realized things could only get better. “If what we’re going through at this point spearheads a run and us taking the next step in some places we lagged in, then I’m all for it,” Walton said following the Ohio State loss. “I’m more so excited. I think it’ll make it a better story.” And what a story it has become, as the Wolverines have done what looked impossible over a month ago and improbable just four days ago. They’ve won a Big Ten championship. There were a lot of questions asked of Michigan following that Ohio State loss. Could Walton and senior wing Zak Irvin put together complete performances in the same game? Could the Wolverines’ defense get out of the basement of almost every statistical category of the Big Ten? Did Michigan have a winning mentality? “The loss at home to Ohio State really opened our eyes,” Walton said on Sunday. “I think we played well but we just layed down and that was the biggest moment for us as a team. I knew after that very moment guys took it to heart, and really wanted to make the key adjustments to be successful for the rest of the season. We did that, and that’s why I was so confident going into the rest of the season.” Over the past four days, the Wolverines have turned the weaknesses present against the Buckeyes into strengths. And that all culminated in Michigan’s titlewinning 71-56 victory over Wisconsin. The most suspect of all those questions was Michigan’s defense, but after watching today, one would never know the struggles the Wolverines once faced while defending. Michigan opened the second half on an 11-2 run to get out to a 10-point lead. That stretch included a 5:19 Wisconsin scoring drought and denying the Badgers from getting points from the field for over eight minutes. The Wolverines also were struggling to find points as the second half wore on, but their defense helped Michigan maintain a comfortable lead over that period. “Especially in the second half, we all came together and connected well on all cylinders on the defensive end,” said redshirt sophomore forward DJ Wilson. “Even when they brought in within six, we were able to get crucial stops and crucial rebounds. I think that’s really what sealed the deal.” Again in the second half, the Badgers began chipping away at an 11-point Michigan lead slowly but with the sort of poise their core group of seniors have become known for over the past few seasons. The Badgers would get within six of the Wolverines, but Michigan had a response every time they were closing in. Irvin and redshirt junior wing Duncan Robinson each hit massive three-pointers when Wisconsin looked like it had found the slightest bit of momentum to get on a run. “I just feel lucky my teammates had that sort of confidence in me,” Robinson said. “I hadn’t really gotten any clean looks in the game. But to get that shot and knock it in was a special moment.” When the Badgers put on a fullcourt press for the final three minutes of the game, Wilson found junior guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman for a slam that brought the fans at the Verizon Center to their feet and all but shut the door on Wisconsin. Wilson was essential in the Wolverines maintaining their lead down the stretch, scoring 12 of his 17 points in the second half, while shutting down a first team all-Big Ten player in Ethan Happ defensively too. The Wolverines leave Washington as the Big Ten’s highest seeded team to win the conference tournament, and, most importantly to them, will be raising a banner at Crisler Center next fall. More than anything, they have a trophy with their names engraved in Michigan basketball lore for what they proved over the past five days. “I wanted them to imagine what it would be like for them to walk into that beautiful William Davidson Player Development Center and see that trophy and tell people about not the four games, the five days, and be able to tell them that story,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “Because that’s part of their legacy together, all 16 of those guys.”

WASHINGTON — “It’s not every day you get to wake up and play in a championship game.” While warming up on the court before the Big Ten Tournament championship game between the No. 8 seed Michigan men’s basketball team and No. 2 seed Wisconsin, Zak Irvin kept repeating those words. Determined to help his teammates recognize the opportunity that lay before them, the senior wing made his voice echo around the Verizon Center for all to hear. And the Michigan men’s basketball team heard him. “This is a really special moment for us, just go out there and seize it,” redshirt junior forward Duncan Robinson recalled Irvin saying. As much as the refrain was directed toward his fellow Wolverines, it was just as indicative of his own personal mantra. After playing a key role in leading Michigan past its first three tournament opponents, Irvin saved his best performance for last. Turning in a championship caliber effort Sunday, Irvin tallied 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out five assists in Michigan’s 71-56 victory. Time and time again, he gave the Wolverines the edge when they needed him most. “He realized the moment,” Robinson said. “He took advantage of it, and that’s what we expect him to do. He’s been so great, so consistent all year long, and today was no different.” After back-to-back 3-pointers gave Michigan an early 11-6 lead, the Verizon Center came alive in support of the Wolverines. A quick 5-0 Wisconsin run, though, tied the game and silenced the crowd. Before the Badgers could extend their swing, though, Irvin had something to say about it. He responded by helping the Wolverines launch an 8-2 run, driving to the basket and laying it in to give Michigan a 19-13 lead. Wisconsin immediately called a timeout, and Irvin threw his arm in the air, urging the fans decked in maize and blue to get loud. They obliged, launching a “Let’s Go Blue” chant that reverberated around the arena. “It was great to hear that encouragement,” Robinson said. “Maize and blue travels well.” Late in the first half, Michigan opened up a double-digit lead and started to look like it was capable of pulling away, but Wisconsin fortified its defense — holding the Wolverines scoreless for almost four full minutes — and scored seven consecutive points to narrow the deficit to three. With Michigan in danger of falling behind at the break, Irvin stepped up once again. Coming out of a timeout, he took control of the possession and made a move on his man to gain enough separation to nail a 3-pointer, putting the Wolverines back up by four. At the start of the second half, Michigan maintained its momentum, holding the Badgers without a field goal for the first eight minutes. Irvin punctuated that stretch with a 3-point play to give the Wolverines a double-digit lead at 44-34, sending the crowd into a frenzy once again, as the Michigan faithful could sense a title in their grasp. Wisconsin put up one last effort at wresting the crown away from the Wolverines, scoring five straight points in just 45 seconds to shrink its deficit to 51-45 with 6:19 left in the game. Coming out of a timeout, Michigan couldn’t find an opening in the Badgers’ defense as the shot clock wound down. Pushing past his man and catching the ball in motion, Irvin elevated for an off-balance 3-pointer. He nailed it as the shot clock expired to put the Wolverines back up 54-45. With 5:46 left in the game, Wisconsin would never come closer than six. “I think he’s really just relaxed and let the game come to him,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “He was very disappointed with some games when we needed him to make big shots and he didn’t. I think he probably heard the people that doubted him. “I knew at some point he would make some big plays.” Throughout the tournament, Irvin has risen to the occasion to make those big plays when his number has been called. On Sunday, he put on his strongest showing of all. Living out his pregame message, Irvin came away a champion. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Irvin said. “I just wanted us to make the most of it.”

FILE PHOTO/Daily

Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin helped lead Michigan to the Big Ten Tournament title days after after the team plane skidded off the runway.

“Those Five Days” Wolverines survive plane crash, win Big Ten Tournament after five wins in five days KEVIN SANTO

Former Managing Sports Editor

WASHINGTON — It started in East Lansing. Before the confetti falling from the rafters, before the practice uniforms and before the plane accident on the runway at Willow Run Airport, the Wolverines had a date with the Spartans. On Jan. 29, Michigan entered the Breslin Center, and the final scoreline didn’t do the tale justice. Michigan was dominated, manhandled, embarrassed. Pick one, they all apply. Or just take Duncan Robinson’s word for it. “We went in there and kind of got punched in the mouth to be honest with you,” he said. Fifteen Wolverines went down for the count. One swallowed his teeth and kept fighting. You can probably guess who that is. He’s the same guy who poured in a game-high 22 points, grabbed six rebounds and dished out seven assists to take a Big Ten Tournament championship trophy from Wisconsin on Sunday afternoon. He’s the same guy who scored a career-high 29 while pitching in nine rebounds and five assists the day prior to get Michigan there in the first place. He’s Derrick Walton Jr., the man who changed the course of the Wolverines’ season in the way he has always wanted to, but never realized he was. Walton has never desired the role of the vocal leader. That spot had Zak Irvin’s name on it. For a while, that relationship functioned harmoniously. That is, until it didn’t. Now, Walton doesn’t shy away from opening his mouth — far from it. “Being emotional is fine, but just not

bashing guys,” Walton said. “I know I get on Moe (Wagner) all the time. I just cuss him out for no reason.” Still, his entire career he simply wanted his teammates to watch him and follow suit. No poetic pregame speeches, no bull****. Go out. Compete. “That’s all I’ve been taught to do,” he said. Little did he know it at the time, but he finally got his wish in East Lansing. He scored a game-high 24 points and took a beating doing so, going to the line 15 times and missing only once. And the Wolverines still lost. The light bulbs didn’t just go on, Walton turned on a couple of floodlights. “We were down probably 10 or 11 and Derrick was just keeping us in the game,” Robinson said. “He hit a couple shots where he was really just doing it from playing hard. “He was just making plays, and you could just tell by the way he was playing that he was doing everything he could, leaving everything out there just to make something happen, and I think everyone ... acknowledged, ‘Look, if this guy just did this on his own, and kept us in that game, what can happen if we collectively all follow him and really all 16 of us do it every single day in practice and games?’ ” What can happen? Michigan’s new trophy is the answer. But it’s not just the tournament championship trophy, but how the Wolverines got it. On Jan. 17, when Michigan faced the Badgers for the first time in Madison, the Wolverines surrendered a sixpoint lead with roughly six minutes left, as Bronson Koenig spearheaded a personal 10-0 run. Plain and simple, Michigan couldn’t defend, so it couldn’t capture the upset.

With 6:19 left in Sunday’s championship game, Michigan found itself in an eerily similar situation. Michigan coach John Beilein called a timeout. Behind a 3-pointer from Vitto Brown and a breakaway layup from Zak Showalter, the Badgers had cut the Wolverines’ 11-point lead to six in 30 seconds. It was either buckle down or go home empty-handed. Koenig went 0-for-7 in the frame. Wisconsin made just three field goals in the final six minutes. The Wolverines could defend, and they captured a lot more than an upset. After the game, redshirt sophomore forward DJ Wilson was asked if this team likes defending. “I think we love it now,” he said. Yeah, this is the same team that gave up over 80 points three times through its first five conference games. But Walton’s performance in East Lansing changed that. “I think with the Michigan State game, at State, D-Walt really took over,” Wilson said. “And we look back at how many defensive lapses we had and how close we were to winning that game if we just had a few more stops down the stretch. “I think that’s one (game) that everybody really bought in. From then on, it’s been working real good for us.” Now, as the Wolverines prepare to face Oklahoma State — the No. 1 team in adjusted offensive efficiency and one of just four teams above Michigan in that category according to Ken Pomeroy —in the NCAA Tournament, much like Sunday afternoon, they are going to need to win a game with defense and a whole lot of heart. Luckily for them, Walton supplied these 15 with that a long time ago.

Michigan sheds “white-collar” reputation KEVIN SANTO

Former Managing Sports Editor

WASHINGTON — “It felt like pain. I was thinking, you either submit to the pain or you keep pushing.” Derrick Walton Jr. was talking about running away from the plane. He could have just as easily been talking about Michigan’s season roughly a month ago. The Wolverines could have submitted to the pain and accepted a season that was spiraling toward mediocrity and an NIT bid, or kept pushing and earn an invitation to the only March tournament that matters. Michigan chose the latter, and the 33 days that followed all led to Thursday afternoon, as the Wolverines took the floor for their opening matchup of the Big Ten Tournament against Illinois. They had all the excuses in the world to swallow one loss, pack their bags and go home. Less than 24 hours earlier, the power went out in Crisler Center. Michigan chose to practice in the dark. A few hours later they boarded a plane to Washington D.C. They never made it in the air — skidding off the runway due to high-speed winds and an aborted takeoff. Walton picked up a gash on his knee that needed five stitches. He still tied fellow senior Zak Irvin for a teamhigh 37 minutes played against Illinois.

After the accident, they went back to Ann Arbor. They woke up this morning at 6 a.m., took a bus to Detroit Metropolitan Airport, departed at 7:30, landed at 8:45 and took a bus straight to the arena. Michigan was supposed to tip off at noon. The Big Ten told the Wolverines that they were willing to move the game time. Michigan asked for 20 minutes instead. Illinois was playing for an NCAA Tournament bid. The Wolverines could have lost and still gone dancing. And then there was the issue of jerseys — albeit the least of Michigan’s worries. The Wolverines were required to leave their gear on the plane as it was part of the Federal Aviation Administration’s investigation of the accident. They improvised, hitting the hardwood at Verizon Center in their practice jerseys — outfitted more like an AAU team than a Division I basketball program. Then they punched Illinois in the mouth, finishing with a 20-point victory to advance to the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament. “That was kind of the question walking back into the locker room, like, ‘If we get our real jerseys back tonight, what do we do tomorrow?’ ” Sean Lonergan said. “I’m sure we’ll have a conversation about that. “I don’t have any clue what the status of our actual jerseys are, so who knows at

this point? … I like it. I like it a lot.” This is the same team Illinois center Maverick Morgan called “white collar” back in January. And in truth, maybe they were. Maybe the stigma of being “soft” that has followed the Wolverines in the modern era was warranted. Then again, that’s the point. As senior guard Andrew Dakich said: “Sometimes they’re right, and sometimes it makes us mad that they’re right.” Michigan’s senior class has seldom gone a day without hearing the outside chatter. The five seniors walked into it, and they’ve spent their careers denying it. But on Thursday, they finally made you believe them. “A lot of people question our toughness, and I think that kind of sums it up right there,” said senior forward Mark Donnal. “It takes a tough team to be able to move on from that. … It tells a lot about our team — the type of guys we have, the type of characters, that are able to just kind of move on from something that happened to them so recently. We were not feeling bad for ourselves, we were ready to play basketball.” So call the Wolverines soft. Tell them they’re a white-collar team. After the last 24 hours, frankly, they don’t give a damn.

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Friday, February 22, 2019 — 14B

Michigan Basketball - 2018

The Michigan Daily — michigandaily.com

Michigan advances on Poole gamewinner

Wolverines beat FSU, head to Final Four

MAX MARCOVITCH

ETHAN WOLFE

Managing Sports Editor

WICHITA, Kan. — Somehow, some way. His legs flailing each and every direction and a defender square in his face, Jordan Poole caught a pass on the right wing from Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and hoisted a prayer. And as the ball found sweet nylon, the prayer was granted — somehow, some way — in the wee hours of Sunday morning. The freshman guard darted to the opposite side of the court, greeted by the rest of his jubilant team as they celebrated an astonishing 64-63 win. It was a miracle on the Great Plains the likes of which will live in Michigan lore right alongside the Trey Burke shot and the Denard Robinson pass. “I was thirsty,” Poole told a swath of reporters after the game. “I just felt like I always wanted to be in a situation like that at the end in the game, and my teammates constantly tell me that I’ve got ice in my veins. “I definitely dreamed about this a long time. Actually, before I went out there on there, I thought, ‘What if I hit this shot right now as a freshman?’ ” And that he did. On this stage. With these implications. Somehow, some way, the only player with the personality to match the grand moment found the ball with 0.8 seconds and a season teetering in the balance. Now Michigan will head to Los Angeles next weekend to play its fourth Sweet 16 game in six years on the back of a monstrous defense and one lucky St. Patrick’s Day heave. “I don’t have any words for that one,” said fifth-year senior Duncan Robinson. “It’s incredible. That’s all I got.” Somehow, some way. For much of the game, though, there appeared to be no way. For the second consecutive game, Michigan’s offense fell victim to offensive lulls that threatened its survival in the NCAA Tournament. For all the talk about Cougars guard Rob Gray offensively — coming off a 39-point performance against San Diego State — it was the defense on both ends that controlled the game. Gray, the alpha and omega of Houston’s offense, couldn’t find his rhythm in the first half, thanks to a swarming defensive effort from Michigan guards Zavier Simpson and Abdur-Rahkman. Gray finished with 23 points, but on 8-of-22 shooting. On the flip side, a physical Houston man defense held the Wolverines in check, stifling Michigan’s pick-and-roll action with athleticism, holding it so just 30 percent from the field. By the end of the game, a dejected Wolverines bench thought that would be the culprit of its dying season. “They were down because we did some things that aren’t winning basketball today — just a few, but just enough,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “But credit Houston. They made us make some of those plays.” With 17 lead changes and 12 ties in total, neither team took firm control until Gray began to come to life midway through the half. He scored eight of his team’s 10 points at one point, nabbing a six point lead with 10:43 left on an inexplicably wide-open three. The teams traded blows from there, with the Cougars grabbing what seemed to be the final lead with 44 seconds left on two free throws from forward Devin Davis. But that wasn’t the last of Michigan’s season. It just couldn’t be. There was a little more than a strong breeze flowing through Intrust Bank Arena on Saturday night. Sophomore center Jon Teske could just feel it. “I actually told CJ (Baird), I didn’t think we were gonna go home,” Teske said. “I felt something special was going to happen and I’m just glad he knocked that down. … It’s something I will always remember.” And in a wild back and forth affair, it all came down to a howling freshman, with the confidence to belt “Ham” — the team’s nickname for Abdur-Rahkman — with the season on the line. The call was “Tennessee,” the same full-court inbound play run to beat Maryland early in the season as time expired. The senior caught the pass at midcourt and then put his season and career in the hands of Poole, who answered the faith with one of the most historic shots in program history. “I knew they were not going to let me shoot the ball. So I was looking for JP,” Abdur-Rahkman said. “I knew he could knock it down. “Literally, he makes it all the time in practice.” And as the entire team piled on Poole under the hoop, cheers reigned down from the traveling Michigan crowd and band. “It’s great to be a Michigan Wolverine.”

Daily Sports Writer

EVAN AARON/Daily

Jordan Poole ran off into the Wichita night after nailing an historic 3-pointer to send Michigan to the Sweet 16 with a win over Houston.

A Familiar Miracle

Poole’s prayer was a play teammates had seen before MIKE PERSAK

Former Managing Sports Editor

WICHITA, Kan. — You’ve seen that play before. Alright, so you haven’t seen that exact scenario, with Jordan Poole hitting an improbable, contested three to send the Michigan men’s basketball team to the Sweet 16. But you’ve seen that set before. Think back to January, when the Wolverines needed free throws from senior guard MuhammadAli Abdur-Rahkman to overcome Maryland. It’s the same set. Freshman forward Isaiah Livers inbounded the ball with a baseball pass to Abdur-Rahkman, who turned at half court and tried to make a play. Back then, he got into the paint and was fouled. This time, he was cut off by Houston defenders, and he had to dish it off to Poole. And the fate of the entire season rested in the hands of the boisterous, inconsistent freshman from Milwaukee. Even before that, it would have been hard to console AbdurRahkman with the hope that the play has worked before. Moments earlier, he missed a layup that would have tied the game with six seconds left. He kneeled under the basket after the whistle blew, watching his college career flash before his eyes, as the Cougars had a chance to ice the game away at the free-throw line. “I think people were down. I especially was,” Abdur-Rahkman said. “But I’m a leader, so I have to keep that stale face and show strength. Coach (Beilein) was trying to boost us all up, because we were all kind of down. We thought it was over.” Duncan Robinson was in a similar

position. With 2:06 remaining, he was called for his fifth foul in a tie game. It was just the fourth time the fifth-year senior forward had fouled out in his Michigan career, yet there he was, walking to the bench for quite possibly the final time in his Michigan career. Junior forward Moritz Wagner went over to Robinson and tried to tell him that this wouldn’t be his last time, that he had seen his team pull out close games before and that he was about to see it again. But it’s hard to believe at that point. “Michigan’s done so much for me, and I just didn’t want to go out that way,” Robinson said. “You know, that second half I didn’t feel like I played well. I just — I want it more than anything for my teammates, my coaches, this fanbase, the whole University, and I didn’t want to go out like that. For a second there, you try not to go to that place mentally, but I was fighting it. I was fighting it.” John Beilein might have been the only one who kept the faith. Maybe it was just the coach’s façade they must put up to keep their team calm, or maybe it was that he knew his end-of-game play had worked before. Either way, after AbdurRahkman’s missed layup, he called his team over to talk about the situation. Beilein pointed to the clock. He was trying to get his team to believe that they had one last chance. “We had a lot of time that we’ve been practicing the play,” Beilein said. “We decided we were going to run it. We had time.” Added Livers: “He literally said, ‘Look. Look at that much time. That’s too much time. We’re good, we’re gonna go with that famous out-of-bounds play.’ He has a lot of trust in that play.”

But it isn’t just that the play had worked before or that the Wolverines have won close games before. Jordan Poole has literally hit that shot before. Just last week, when Michigan held an open scrimmage, Poole hit a game-winner from almost the same area of the floor. “It’s like the same spot,” said fifthyear senior guard Jaaron Simmons. “That’s crazy to me. That’s crazy to me. But shoutout to JP, man.” That’s not all, either. Livers says he’s seen Poole take the shot countless times before. In fact, he takes it at the end of his warm-up routine. “I definitely just dream of shots like this,” Poole said. “I’m the one that, when the clock’s going down at shootaround, I’m the one dribbling and waiting to see if I can make the last shot. I missed it earlier when we were doing shootaround, but this last one I didn’t miss.” There’s one more place you’ve seen that shot before. It’s in your dreams. Any kid who has ever touched a basketball has taken that shot in their driveway. You count down the seconds in your head, like Poole at shootaround, and you wait until the last possible moment to heave it from deep and send your hypothetical team to a championship. It isn’t the same, because Poole’s shot was real, but you’ve seen that shot before. On Saturday night, Beilein called his go-to play with the season on the line, trying to salvage more time for Abdur-Rahkman and Robinson and the rest of this team. Poole got the shot that he and so many others have dreamed about taking. And despite everything going on around him, it was easy to see it go in.

‘M’ shows grit en route to Final Four MARK CALCAGNO Daily Sports Editor

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — The Michigan men’s basketball team felt slighted two days ago. In the Wolverines’ annihilation of Texas A&M in the Sweet 16, Michigan’s shots fell so frequently that even freshman guard Jordan Poole was surprised by the regularity of the Wolverines’ clean looks. “Being able to get the open looks that we had today was kind of like a shocker to us,” Poole said. “We felt a little disrespected.” The opposite was true in Saturday’s Elite Eight. Florida State defenders presented a length and athleticism that peeved the Wolverines’ offensive cohesion, as Seminole bodies flew with so much as a look towards the hoop. Ninety-nine points turned into 58. Sixty-two percent shooting fell to 39. Fourteen triples tumbled to four. Now take a step back. Think of a Michigan basketball team enduring an atrocious shooting night and still beating formidable competition. Memories from years prior are probably not plentiful. In Friday’s press conferences, Florida State players were asked what they thought were the Wolverines’ strengths. Shooting bigs, ball movement

and marksmanship from deep were common answers. That’s been the perception around Michigan’s program throughout coach John Beilein’s tenure. In some ways, it’s a viewpoint that carries a slight in itself. But that hasn’t been the reality this year. The Wolverines’ defense, as has been well documented, is vastly improved — a direct correlation to assistant coach Luke Yaklich’s arrival in Ann Arbor. What has changed as much as anything, however, is Michigan’s approach. When the offense goes awry, it becomes about grit over flash. Brawn over beauty. Substance over style. That’s the Wolverines’ fresh mentality. It has been all year. That’s why they’re going to the Final Four, despite a porous shooting performance. “That’s literally when the dog comes out of us,” said freshman forward Isaiah Livers. “Coach (Beilein), coach (Yaklich), it’s all about the dog all the time. We love being at wars. Like you said, Texas A&M was pretty, but this was going to be a dog fight. “That’s our slogan and something on our back right now. We’re out to show teams that we aren’t just an offensive team. We’re here to play defense, and we take pride in it.” Fifth-year senior forward Duncan Robinson has seen the days of offensive

cohesion being the lone root of Michigan victories. He himself is a sharp-shooter, known for that skill and finesse that so many of his teammates were recruited for. When asked if the Wolverines could’ve won Saturday’s type of game in years prior, his answer was simple: “No.” But on Saturday, with that grit absent in years’ prior, Michigan pulled it out. “We (got) into a fight … we were going to be like that,” Beilein said. One night, they can shoot the lights out. The next, they can scratch and claw the opponents’ eyes away. It’s an adaptable, sustainable model that guards against the game’s ebbs and flows, primed for a run at a national championship. “Shots can’t always fall, but being tough … you can actually control that,” Livers said. “That’s how we approach the game every time.” Eleventh-seeded Loyola-Chicago won’t be of the disrespecting type. The Ramblers will be scrappy and hungry, looking for a once-in-a-generation chance at a title. And if that means the Wolverines’ offense struggles to get in rhythm, Michigan still has its new form of elegance. “We’ve had a lot of grinder games this year,” Yaklich said. “People call them ugly. I call them beautiful.”

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — After too many defensive miscues, too many turnovers and too many misses in the first half against Florida State, all John Beilein could do was take a seat and cover his face. A 27-point whooping of Texas A&M two days earlier didn’t mean a thing. The ninth-seeded Seminoles that Beilein hardly had time to scout were bringing everything the Aggies were supposed to have — length, athleticism and self-titled “junkyard defense” that stifled No. 3-seed Michigan. Calling a 27-26 halftime lead marred with carelessness a blessing hardly does it justice. “(Florida State was) exceptional on defense,” Beilein said. “We had that string of plays where Moe (Wagner) was wide open, Charles (Matthews) is wide open, Duncan (Robinson) was wide open. … We might’ve rushed some shots, maybe we were a little bit tired.” But this was game No. 39 this year for Beilein and the Wolverines, in a situation they’ve been in countless times. This was Michigan’s game. You didn’t need a betting line or a look into the history books to figure it out. It wasn’t pretty — the two teams combined to shoot 35 percent with 26 turnovers — but the Wolverines found just enough offense and more than enough defense to turn the ugly into history. Michigan (32-7) outlasted Florida State, 58-54, to notch the most wins in program history and will its way to its second Final Four appearance in six seasons, where they will face this year’s Cinderella in LoyolaChicago. “The really good teams win in different ways,” Robinson said. “Even if our shots don’t fall, we can count on our energy and effort on defense. We were able to bring that tonight.” Added assistant coach Luke Yaklich: “This is basketball cloud nine. Everyday has been basketball Christmas Eve for me.” In the first half, Michigan seemingly picked up where it left off from Thursday’s offensive onslaught against Texas A&M. A Matthews slam dunk and-one on his first possession ignited the pro-Wolverines crowd that packed Staples Center. Florida State couldn’t hold onto the ball. The Seminoles threw an early full-court press, and Michigan didn’t care — the Matthews show continued with an alley-oop and another and-one. But when it seemed that Florida State would be another victim succumbing to a hostile environment and a suffocating defense, the Wolverines’ luster vanished. The Seminoles swished where the Aggies couldn’t. Free throws off of a flagrant foul by Robinson capped a 7-0 lead that gave Florida State a 17-15 lead — Michigan’s first deficit since before Jordan Poole’s buzzer-beater to beat Houston a week ago. The teams exchanged leads four more times before the Wolverines entered halftime up one. As unpleasant as it was, it was what a back-and-forth affair with Final Four implications should have looked like. “You’re just not satisfied,” AbdurRahkman said. “You know you can play so much better. They’re a great team, so they gave us trouble and threw things that we weren’t accustomed to. We just kept fighting and fighting for the next 20 minutes.” Florida State kept hanging in with physicality in the paint and solid freethrow shooting — they finished the day 18-for-20 from the line. Even when it looked down and out, they kept it close. Robinson, after failing to convert a field goal in the first half, drilled a corner 3-pointer to give Michigan its biggest lead of 10 with 2:25 to go. Perhaps then the Wolverines could have said goodbye. “I hadn’t hit one all day, I was struggling,” Robinson said. “Felt like I was a little out of it, timid in the first half. My teammates and coaches got on me about it and I knew I had to respond in a way.” But the Seminoles’ last-ditch effort effectively caused a scare. Free throws, then a trey by P.J. Savoy cut Michigan’s lead to just three, and it looked like the Wolverines’ free throw woes were going to finally catch up to them. Before two clean swishes by Robinson, Abdur-Rahkman and Zavier Simpson went 2-for-5 in the final 1:38 to bring the game to one possession. But when Florida State looked poised to go on the run it needed, it was too little too late and the buzzer blared. Beilein wasn’t covering his face anymore, he was taking a pair of scissors to a net. The nylon grasped firmly in his hands, the typically-stoic head coach yelled out “one more.” It was his last wish for the season — cut down the nets again in San Antonio.

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Michigan Basketball - 2018

Friday, February 22, 2019 — 15B

AbdurRahkman’s final exit

Wolverines dominated by Villanova in title game

ETHAN WOLFE Daily Sports Writer

MIKE PERSAK

Former Managing Sports Editor

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Jordan Poole sat with a towel over his head, eyes red with tears. Duncan Robinson stood next to him, his voice barely audible. Isaiah Livers was down a ways, isolated from the rest of his team. Charles Matthews and Zavier Simpson sat deep in their lockers. All of the Michigan men’s basketball players answered questions about the 79-62 drubbing they’d just taken from Villanova in the NCAA Championship Game. The Wolverines’ answers varied from regret to pride to love for their teammates. But one thing was consistent. They all struggled to find an explanation for what just happened. Villanova made all the right plays all night long, and Michigan was rendered completely helpless. “We lost to a team that was better than us tonight,” said Wolverines coach John Beilein. “And we were telling our kids, ‘We’ve just gotta be better than them one night.’ Because they are talented and have incredible experience. But we didn’t have it, and they did.” Every time Michigan did show signs of making a run, it was answered immediately. With just under seven minutes left and the Wolverines trailing by 14, Poole forced a turnover and sprinted into the frontcourt. The freshman guard slipped into the lane and rose up through traffic but missed the contested layup wildly off the backboard. Moments later, the Wildcats’ Mikal Bridges came the other way and drilled a step-in, leaner of a three. It was a play that made Beilein shake his head in disbelief when he talked about it after the game. And the play started a run that crushed Michigan’s hope once and for all. “We talk big about chopping the tree down,” Livers said, referencing the metaphor the Wolverines use to conceptualize making a comeback. “You can’t chop a tree down when you chop it one time and then on the next time down they hit a big shot. Especially, I think there was a spurt when (Villanova guard Donte DiVincenzo) hit two or three of them in a row, and one was a lay-up or something like that. And when a guy’s going like that, it’s just tough on a team.” Livers was right. DiVincenzo hit everything he looked at for the Wildcats. He hit and-one layups and pull-up threes and two-handed dunks en route to a game-high 31-points. “(It’s) frustrating as heck, because you play good defense on the guy,” Livers said. “… So you’ve gotta do your best to alter his shot and get in his way, but every time we tried to do that he just adjusted.” Entering the game, it seemed like Michigan would need a perfect storm to win anyway. Villanova had to have an off night shooting, Jalen Brunson would have to have an off night all around, and the Wolverines would need to be clicking offensively. In the beginning of the first half, that seemed to be taking shape. After making his first two shots of the game, Brunson missed his next four. The Wildcats missed their first four threes. Wagner had 11 points, and Michigan sprung out to a seven-point lead with just under 11 minutes left. That’s when DiVincenzo, the Big East Sixth Man of the Year, went off. After leading for most of the first half, the Wolverines were caught in a whirlwind. They missed 14 of their 18 shots after taking that seven-point lead. That, combined with DiVincenzo’s explosion, erased Michigan’s promising start. The Wildcats led, 37-28, at the break. The run to end the half was a preview for what was to come. “They’re really talented top to bottom and experienced, and they’ve played on this stage before,” Robinson said. “Not that that’s any sort of excuse, because we feel like we could have played better, but tonight they were just a lot better than us clearly.” The Wolverines exited the court at the Alamodome with confetti cascading around them, like they had in Los Angeles and New York. But it was for the opponent this time. The Big Ten Tournament championship and the NCAA West Regional championship didn’t mean anything in that moment. On Monday night, Michigan ran into a buzzsaw that it had no hope of stopping. The Wolverines were outgunned and outmanned in the final game of the season, and now it was all over. Villanova won its second NCAA championship in three years, and Michigan was helpless in stopping it.

KATELYN MULCAHY/Daily

Moritz Wagner ascended to Michigan lore in 2018, but his 16 points were not enough to lift his team past Villanova in the national title game.

Only Tears

Michigan overachieves on season, but comes 40 minutes shy MAX MARCOVITCH Managing Sports Editor

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Heartbreak knows nothing of circumstance. There’s no sense in telling Zavier Simpson, sulked deep into his locker and speaking in a hushed-tone, that his team wildly outperformed any expectation this season. Not as the team with a trophy was 100 feet down the hallway. Duncan Robinson doesn’t particularly care that the the upstart defensive scheme that came to prominence this year will pay major dividends down the road. That’s no solace for a senior who just lost by 17 in his last game. Don’t expect Charles Matthews, draped in a towel over his head, to delve deep into the bright future ahead of this college basketball program. He didn’t sit out a year just to ignore the here and now. With the clock winding down, a graceful end to a slow, painful bludegoning in the National Title Game, fifth-year senior guard Jaaron Simmons could only summon a word to describe his emotion. “Damn.” The scoreboard read 79-62, an anticlimactic ending to a season that has been anything but. “At the start of the season there’s a probably handful of teams, 10 teams, that would say ‘We need to be in the National Title Game,” said assistant coach Luke Yaklich. Michigan was decidedly not one of those teams. But? “We grew into that team.” This was a team unranked in the preseason, picked tied for fifth in the Big Ten and labeled as a fringe bubble team. It expected to start a transfer from Ohio at point guard and to be led by a Kentucky washout. This was supposed to be a rebuilding season, left to plug gaps from the departures of

Derrick Walton Jr., Zak Irvin and D.J. Wilson and anxiously await next year’s heralded recruiting class. Instead, it won a Big Ten Tournament, made the Final Four and came one game shy of taking the whole damn thing. “Hell nah,” Simmons said, when asked if he’d thought about the contrast in preseason predictions relative to the team’s success. “Right now, you’re thinking, ‘We just lost. It’s over.’ But we knew people didn’t expect us to get here. That don’t mean we didn’t expect to get here and we didn’t expect to win.” Don’t believe him? “We talked about being national champs and Big Ten champs at our culture meeting in July,” said assistant coach Luke Yaklich. “We referenced that again tonight. It’s been on our mind. The word ‘champion’ has been on our mind at the start of every single meeting. “Just 40 minutes short of just a perfect ending.” Monday night, those dreams were shattered by Donte DiVincenzo, a particularly cruel way to bow out. The Villanova guard ended Michigan’s season with a 31-point outburst off the Wildcats’ bench. Instead of national player of the year Jalen Brunson or future first-round pick Mikal Bridges, the players in the locker room were left answering questions about how an Italian guard from Delaware sliced and diced one of the best defenses in the country. There were self-inflicted wounds, too. It would be hard for any team to win after shooting an abysmal 3-for23 from 3-point range and allowing 12 offensive rebounds. There was a time midway through the first half when it appeared junior center Moritz Wagner could carry them to glory on his lonesome, scoring nine of his team’s first 11 points, leading Michigan to a quick 11-6 advantage. That hope, though, continued to dwindle by the minute, with each

DiVincenzo heave and bruising team rebound. Villanova ran through the tournament, winning each of its games by double-digits. It was the Wildcats’ night, the Wildcats’ tournament and the Wildcats’ season. The Wolverines can take some consolation that their season was ended by the clear, unquestionable best team in the country, a team that led the field beginning to end. But that does nothing to ease the harsh, momentary pain. Michigan coach John Beilein sniffled as he left the locker room to head to the podium, eyes red. He shared the sentiment of an entire team, an entire university. “That is a very sad locker room right now,” Beilein said, “not because we lost the game, but because they know something special just ended.” There’s a harsh crescendo with an ending to a run — one so abrupt and defiant that the numbness overwhelms the disappointment. It won’t mask the accomplishments of a special team in the bigger picture. But for the players in the locker room, nine months of work can’t be properly contextualized minutes after the buzzer. There’s reality, a realm in which this Michigan team — a group threaded together at its seams with transfers and no-name recruits — came 40 minutes short of a national title, running into a juggernaut and finishing as the national runner-up. That’s a sentence that would’ve seemed preposterous not even a month ago. “I think that when the pain ends, whenever it is for each person, I know they’re going to look back on this and be thankful for the experiences they had,” Yaklich said, “the relationships that were developed, all of the wins, all of the losses, just the time together. “They’ll all get to that point when they need to.” There’s no room in the Michigan locker room for that right now, though. Not while the wounds are still fresh. Only tears.

With moxie, Matthews displays value MARK CALCAGNO Daily Sports Editor

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — After the final buzzer sounded, Charles Matthews was the last player to climb down the elevated floor and swagger his way to the concrete underbelly of the Alamodome. Many of his teammates, smiling from ear-to-ear and yelling at full throat, had chosen to go through a line of high-fives with students. Moritz Wagner even jumped to meet the hands draped over the railing above, reenacting an NBA combine vertical test. Matthews took a different approach. He trotted down the steps, showed the camera the name across the front of his bright-maize jersey and sashayed down the tunnel unbothered. His chin pointed high, he molded a half-smiled smirk. It was a look of confidence — one of those, “I’m good, and I know it,” faces. Matthews breathed that moxie throughout Saturday. The redshirt sophomore guard scored 17 points, grabbed five boards and added three steals against the darlings of his hometown Chicago, helping to send the Michigan men’s basketball team to the national championship. “Charles was a beast,” said freshman forward Isaiah Livers. “We see him like that all the time in practice. I was

wondering when it was going to come out again, and it came out at the right time.” It came out early. When the Ramblers switched a screen on the Wolverines’ second possession, Matthews found himself in a mismatch against Ramblers’ center Cameron Krutwig. Matthews knew what to do: Jab step, pump fake and then pop it for Michigan’s first three points. Five minutes later, he drove inside and sunk a layup with a foul, “mean mugging” as he swaggered across the baseline in celebration. “We feel like we’re at our best when he’s aggressive,” said fifth-year senior forward Duncan Robinson, “and that’s been the case all season.” Matthews was essentially one of two consistent options for the Wolverines offensively, as the rest of the team desperately struggled to hit shots. As such, Matthews was the go-to option when Loyola clung to a seven-point lead early in the second half, slashing his way to a pair of scores to keep things close. “Nobody was going to let anybody stop him,” said freshman guard CJ Baird. Wagner eventually charged the comeback for the Wolverines, finishing with a monstrous 24-point, 15-rebound performance. But it was Matthews who helped Wagner and the Wolverines get there. Up a nickel, Matthews penetrated and

collapsed the defense, then kicked to a wide-open Wagner outside, who put the game away with just over 3:03 to go. And if it wasn’t over then, it certainly was two minutes later when Matthews punctuated his night with a two-handed tomahawk jam. “It’s the big stage. Charles has been waiting for this for a while,” Livers said. “He transferred from one of the top-tier teams in the country, and he comes here wanting to do that same thing. He’s going to put on a show no matter what.” Matthews has certainly found it in the NCAA Tournament. He had 31 combined points in the first two rounds, then 35 and a West Regional MVP Award in the second weekend. “This young man has done such a good job of just growing as a player,” Beilein said. “And it’s showing off every day that he goes out there. “His future is brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.” Saturday was still Wagner’s night. But Matthews was undoubtedly essential to Michigan’s win, playing Robin to Wagner’s Batman along the way. And if his walk off the floor is any indication, Mattthews is perfectly okay with that.

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SAN ANTONIO, Texas — The walk between the bench to the Alamodome tunnel is as lonely as it is visible. After stepping up to the court and walking across it, it takes another 70 steps to leave — an expansive walk on the carpet with an unobstructed view around the arena until step No. 71. That was the route Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman took, jogging behind his teammates as they exited. In the final game of the senior guard’s career — a 79-62 drubbing at the hands of Villanova in the National Championship game — all he could do was stroll, stone-faced, off the court for the last time in a Michigan uniform. Nobody imagined his team would make it this far. The team’s accomplishments, including a program-best 33-8 record, didn’t make the defeat any less painful. “You don’t think about it much right now because of the way we lost,” AbdurRahkman said. “But nobody had us here. Lost a couple guys to the NBA, a lot of new faces and we weren’t picked to be one of the top teams in the Big Ten. We went out there and proved them wrong from the beginning of the season to the end.” Despite the results, Abdur-Rahkman did what a senior and team captain should do on the biggest stage — the perfect goodbye to one of the quietest players to rank in Michigan lore. In the first half of Monday night’s tilt, he finished a transition layup, knocked down a 3-pointer and finessed his way to two more easy layups and a free throw for 10 points. The captain even showed uncharacteristic emotion, hoisting up three fingers and pounding his chest after his triple. Then he was substituted out after earning his second foul with 4:07 remaining, and the wheels came irreversibly off for Michigan. Wildcat guard Donte Divincenzo exploded for 31 points, draining shots every which way. When Villanova wasn’t scoring, the Wolverines committed one foul after another. Abdur-Rahkman was the lone constant. The 6-foot-4 guard stayed aggressive, driving to the rim for points three separate times and hitting one crossover trey as part of his team-high 23 points on 8-for-13 shooting. The game was out of reach, but Abdur-Rahkman played like someone who knew it was his last. “It’s a testament to his heart, the type of person he is,” said sophomore guard Ibi Watson. “Unfortunately, it was kinda overshadowed by our loss. But it just shows how he is as a person. He never gives up and he has such a great will. “It’s something that’s rubbed off on all of us, and he’s a great example of what it’s like to be a Michigan man.” With 1:10 remaining, Abdur-Rahkman checked out for the final time and embraced John Beilein. It wasn’t long after he lined up last for post-game handshakes and made his contemplative jog out of the arena. But he wasn’t thinking about the future — it was time to be a captain one more time and impart his wisdom on his teammates. “I just wanted to say how proud I am of this team,” Abdur-Rahkman said. “Being the captain, I had my hand in a lot of things and a lot of people’s growth. We wanted to see people grow and pass stuff on to the younger guys.” So what comes next for the senior, who is actually just 23 years old? Earlier in the season, Beilein called Abdur-Rahkman a guy who practices solely to improve, not to make the jump to a more competitive league. Pursuing a professional basketball career is not something that he’s ever spoken about publicly. Not even his teammates know. The “silent assassin,” as assistant coach Saddi Washington calls him, is just that — Abdur-Rahkman’s quiet imprint includes one of the most polished resumes in program history. A national championship appearance, two Big Ten Tournament titles, a Sweet Sixteen finish, 1,283 career points and a program record for most games played. Abdur-Rahkman was never one to make light of that, of course. It’s not in the DNA of someone who came in as a twostar recruit and who was thrusted into the starting lineup his freshman year. His legacy is as powerful as it is predictable. “Do your work in silence,” Livers remarked of what Abdur-Rahkman taught him. “You don’t see Duncan (Robinson) and Muhammad flaunting about all the work they’ve put in. They don’t say anything about that at all. … I haven’t told them this yet that I appreciate how much work they’ve put in even when nobody’s looking.” But after Monday night’s loss, AbdurRahkman couldn’t escape the 67,831person crowd as he walked off the court for the final time. He’s now a part of Michigan basketball history.


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