INDIANAPOLIS – After receiving seemingly every award and accolade possible this week, including being named the Big Ten Player of the Year, Michigan sophomore wing Nik Stauskas had his moment on national television.
Seconds remained on the clock, Michigan calling a timeout to draw up a play down 63-62 to Illinois.
The stage was set for Stauskas to hit a big, dagger of a game winner to send Michigan off to the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament in dramatic fashion.
“I just came off a high ball screen,” Stauskas said afterward. “I was looking to be aggressive, and I raised up to shoot, and the guy guarding me was still chasing me, and the big came up to me, too, and J-Mo (Jordan Morgan) rolled down the lane and he was wide open.
“I hit him with the ball and he laid it in.”
Replaying the final offensive possession, Morgan says he wasn’t expecting to touch the ball at all.
“Well, coming out of timeout, Nik [Stauskas] told me he was going to shoot it regardless, so I wasn’t necessarily ready for the pass,” Michigan senior center Jordan Morgan said after notching the game winning lay-in to beat Illinois. “But I don’t know, just watching the shot, there’s been times in the past where they’ve passed that, and we weren’t ready because they thought they were going to shoot.
“So just kind of watching the play, and then as far as catching it, I just put it on the rim and got a nice roll.”
Unlike Morgan’s last second put back at home against Indiana to end the 2013 regular season, a put back that rolled off the rim along with Michigan’s chances of claiming a share of the Big Ten championship, Friday’s soft lay-up bounced, hung and fell through the cup to give the Wolverines a 64-63 lead they would not relinquish.
Morgan finished his day with four-points, six rebounds, one block, and one steal, helping send Michigan to the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament Saturday against Ohio State.
Friday’s game was more of the norm for a fifth-year senior that has had his fair share of ups and downs over the years. Playing in his 136th career game for the Wolverines, Morgan officially ties Stu Douglass for the school record.
Never the go to guy nor a player that appears to project as a pro prospect, Morgan has been Mr. dependable in his time in Ann Arbor, stepping in when Michigan needs him most, especially this season as the Wolverines dealt with the unfortunate lingering back issue for Pre-Season All-America center Mitch McGary.
As if acting as a microcosm for his career or even just his time over the last calendar year, Morgan was ready and able to make the most of his opportunity when the time came, ready to catch the pass when the ball came his way.
“We do a drill, probably every other day, that I saw from a team we played in the NCAA Tournament,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “It’s just a guy running to the rim with his head turned looking.
“It’s a lot of action, a screen and roll play, but you don’t know what’s happening. You’ve got to be able to catch it here, catch it here, catch it with balance and put it in.
“I’m telling you -- I probably exaggerate, 10,000 times -- at least 2,000 times in five years Jordan Morgan has run that same drill. There’s a bag to hit him, you still got to catch it in a crowd and keep it up and dunk it if he can. He said he wanted to add a little drama to the game, so he decided to put it up on the rim.”
For Michigan, Morgan, and even Stauskas on the pass, the decision was just what they needed to advance in Indy.