Wolverines win fifth in a row
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Michigan’s early January road game against what’s been one of the Big Ten’s worst teams turned out to be anything but mundane.
The Wolverines survived a scare at Nebraska on Thursday night, taking their final lead with 21.8 seconds left and sweating out two missed shots on the other end before they could leave Pinnacle Bank Arena with a 71-70 victory.
Michigan (11-4, 3-0 Big Ten) won for the second time on the road in three games to move into a tie with Michigan State and Wisconsin for the conference lead.
"That’s two under our belt and that’s big when you’re chasing after championships," forward Jordan Morgan said. "Those are the hardest ones. Those are the ones you remember the most. I don’t think we’re going to forget this win, just the way we fought together."
Freshman Derrick Walton Jr., who hit a buzzer-beater from beyond half-court to end the first half, scored the Wolverines’ final basket on a give-and-go play that ended with his layup over Leslee Smith. Walton was fouled on the play but missed the free throw.
Michigan coach John Beilein said Walton had been working on the play that had him pass to Zak Irvin, get the ball back almost immediately and then drive the baseline.
"He took it right at them and scored," Beilein said. "He had some other options. He didn’t look at those other options. He looked to score."
Nebraska set up a final play with 9 seconds left, but Terran Petteway missed a layup. Smith got the rebound, but his shot missed, too.
"We knew he was going to get the ball," Morgan said of Petteway. "They were going to him every play. He just had a downhill mindset so it was on us to try our best to stay in front of him, not foul him and put him on the free-throw line and try to come up with the rebound."
Michigan celebrated at center court after the final buzzer while the Huskers headed to their locker room to the applause of the crowd of 15,012.
"When we had the last shot," Nebraska coach Tim Miles said, "I swear to God I thought we were going to win this game. I was just stunned when we didn’t."
The Cornhuskers (8-7, 0-3) lost for the first time in eight games at their new arena.
"You can’t feel sorry for yourselves," Miles said. "Purdue has been waiting a week for us and they will punish us if we’re not ready to compete (Sunday) so we have to get back in the fighting mode."
The Wolverines won their fifth game in a row without preseason All-American Mitch McGary, who is out indefinitely after having back surgery.
"We’re really fortunate to get to this win," Beilein said. "We shot 62 percent from the floor. We couldn’t stop them. Thank goodness we shot the ball very well."
Glen Robinson III scored 19 points to lead five Michigan players in double figures. Jordan Morgan had 15 points, Nik Stauskas added 12 and Walton and Caris LeVert had 10 apiece.
Petteway scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half for the Huskers. Ray Gallegos and Deverell Biggs added 14 points and Walter Pitchford had 12.
The Wolverines, who beat Northwestern by 23 points on Sunday, found the going much tougher against a Nebraska team that shot 58 percent in the second half and 53 percent for the game. There were 11 lead changes and 10 ties.
Nebraska had its final lead, 70-69, with 33 seconds left after Petteway made the front end of a one-and-one. He missed the second free throw to set the stage for Walton’s deciding layup.
There were six lead changes in the first half before Walton put the Wolverines up 33-30 with his buzzer-beating shot from just beyond the half-court line. Walton’s long shot came after the Huskers had tied it on Biggs’ drive to the hoop. Michigan inbounded with 3 seconds left and Walker dribbled up to the big red `N’ at center court before launching his 50-foot swish.
"That had a great impact," Robinson said. "We were a little bit down because they had just come back and hit a couple 3s. After Derrick hit that shot, it amped us up."