INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Survive and advance. Despite 13 turnovers and a late surge by a Tennessee team capitalizing on several uncharacteristic Michigan miscues, the Wolverines held on 73-71 to advance to their second straight Elite Eight.
Unable to get a good grip on the ball for most of the night, the Wolverines struggled and fumbled away several opportunities that went the other way for Tennessee buckets.
For Michigan, a team that comes in averaging just nine turnovers per game, the issue left Coach John Beilein scratching his head afterward.
“I can't recall all year, so many people taking the ball off of us off the dribble and just really quick hands, where they got the ball several times,” Beilein said. “And I would say probably six to eight of those points I think led to transition baskets.
“We're really good with the ball and really strong with it. They didn't intercept passes; they just got us off the dribble or got us when we were driving to the basket. Did a great job.”
On Friday night, the Volunteers were almost good enough.
Trailing for much of the game Tennessee hung around and mounted a surge eventually cutting the Michigan lead to one in the final minute thanks to poor passing against the man-to-man press and a Caris LeVert foot toeing the baseline.
Amidst the chaos at the end, a turnover by Glenn Robinson III with 15 seconds to play gave the Volunteers the opportunity to go for the win and stun Michigan who was collapsing and clinging to a 72-71 lead.
Fortunately for the Wolverines, Jordan Morgan took a charge on Jarnell Stokes and the best shot Tennessee could get the rest of the way was a half court heave at the buzzer that flew innocently over the backboard.
“It was a lot of fun,” Glenn Robinson III said. “Especially at the end. A lot of people said it was nerve wrecking but this team has been through so many situations throughout the season, we never seem to get over excited about anything. We always stay calm, cool and collected, and that’s something that this team has done a great job of.”
A disaster was certainly avoided against Tennessee as Michigan failed to handle themselves with composure at key moments down the stretch. Moving forward, the Wolverines’ certainly hope the turnovers excuse themselves from the court.
“I think the way we did it, first of all, it's very, very hard to inbound the ball four or five times from a dead spot,” Beilein said. “I don't care where you are on the court. You only have so many out of bounds. Only have to do that a couple of times a year -- a couple times a game, not four or five in a row.
“Once we expanded the court, Glenn made the great catch on a longer one. But we don't like to give up leads. At the same time, this is a really talented team. I mean, a really talented team. And their turnovers helped us. So we don't turn it over. Hopefully we won't do that again.”
While the sequence at the end of the game will receive the most scrutiny Michigan’s sloppy play throughout is something very odd to see. Still, the Wolverines never completely lost their poise, leading them to their second straight Elite Eight appearance.
“It's not just the play at the end, it's the plays in the middle of the game,” Beilein said. “Today we had, Caris hit five turnovers and Derrick had three. We just played a game where neither one had any turnovers. And turnovers in the backcourt are worse because they're going to lead to a run-out at the end.
“There's going to be plays in the game here and there. The whole thing is these kids always believe and they never stop. They just never stop believing we're going to win the game.
“And we get just enough stops. And, remember, it's a real young team. They're experiencing so much of this really on a first or second time of college. The experience showed in Jordan Morgan, he's been through a lot of these.”
Michigan has far more experience on their side as they get set to take on Kentucky Sunday at 5:05 p.m. ET inside Lucas Oil Stadium with a trip to the Final Four on the line.