Morgan helps Wolverines cap regular season with victory
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Jordan Morgan isn’t going to be a high NBA draft pick and he’ll certainly never have his number raised to the Crisler Center rafters.
On Saturday, however, Morgan showed one more time why he’ll always be remembered fondly at Michigan.
Playing his final home game, Morgan had his first double-double of the season, putting up 15 points and 10 rebounds to help No. 12 Michigan cap a night-long celebration with an 84-80 victory over Indiana.
"We weren’t ecstatic in the locker room, but we were pretty happy," Morgan said. "This was a unforgettable night."
Morgan came to Michigan in 2009, and was a redshirt on a team led by Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims. They went 15-17, missed out on postseason play and didn’t look anything like a basketball power.
Five years later, the Wolverines have won two Big Ten titles, gone to a national championship and head into next week’s Big Ten tournament as the top seed and unquestioned favorite.
"It has been an incredible five years," Morgan said. "I can’t begin to tell you how much hard work and sweat went into getting this program where it is now, and putting those banners in the rafters."
Michigan (23-7 15-3) avenged last year’s defeat in the last game of the regular season. In that game, Morgan’s tap-in rolled off the rim as time expired, giving the Hoosiers the victory and costing the Wolverines a share of the conference title. This time, Michigan was playing for pride already having clinched the outright title Tuesday in Illinois.
"Our motto since we came here has always been `finish it strong’," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "We wanted to do that for the regular season, but we also wanted to win this for Jordan and we wanted to win it for our fans, who came out every night during a horrible winter to support us."
Glenn Robinson III had 20 points for Michigan, including a tie-breaking 3-pointer with 1:10 to play, while Nik Stauskas scored 21, furthering his case for Big Ten Player of the Year.
"No one believed in this team, not after we lost Trey (Burke) and Timmy (Hardaway), and then had Mitch (McGary) go down with his back injury," Robinson said during a postgame celebration on the court. "We wanted to win this for J-Mo, and most of us had never beaten Indiana, so we wanted to take care of that."
Will Sheehey led Indiana (17-14, 7-11) with 17 points, while Troy Williams and Yogi Ferrell added 16 apiece.
"This is really disappointing — no one is happy about this," Williams said. "We’ve just got to learn from this and get better down the road."
The Wolverines were sluggish in the early going, looking like a team that had already clinched everything important. If not for Morgan, who had shed a few tears during the Senior Day ceremony, Michigan might have been run off the floor by the Hoosiers.
"I was trying to separate the emotions from my focus on the game," he said. "It was tough — you didn’t see all of the tears — but it helped a lot to get really involved in our offense right from the start."
Things got worse for the Wolverines late in the half, when a technical foul on Beilein resulted in two free throws by Ferrell.
Indiana led 42-36 at the half, thanks to 13 points by Sheehey and 10 by Ferrell.
"We fully expected to win this game, and we were ready to go," Indiana coach Tom Crean said.
Stauskas, however, took over at the beginning of the second half, scoring six quick points to help Michigan tie the game at 48. The sophomore eschewed his normal 3-pointers to attack the rim, scoring three baskets.
"I knew I needed to stay aggressive, even though my shot wasn’t falling," Stauskas said. "That means trying to get to the rim."
Indiana struggled with turnovers in the second half, giving the ball away 11 times in the first 13 minutes, leading to 16 Michigan points that helped the Wolverines build their lead.
"It was just trash at that point," Sheehey said. "I think I had four turnovers in there and Yogi had four. That’s just unacceptable for two guys that have been playing this game for a while. I was just trying to make passes that weren’t there."
An already fired-up Crisler Center crowd became louder as Charles Woodson was shown sitting courtside — he even busted out the Heisman Trophy pose — and a video from Morgan thanking the fans for the support during his career.
"I never played football, but I was a Michigan fan, so Charles was one of my idols," Morgan said. "I couldn’t believe it when I saw him here tonight."
Caris LeVert’s dunk made it 69-60 with 5:39 left, but Indiana tied the game at 75 with 90 seconds left. Robinson answered with a baseline 3-pointer, then grabbed the rebound when Stanford Robinson missed a 3 at the other end.
"Glenn practices that shot all the time," Beilein said. "You expect him to drive from there, but he works and works on that shot, and I knew it was going in as soon as it left his hand."
The Wolverines were able to clinch the game from the free throw line, despite Noah Vonleh’s 3-pointer with 4.2 seconds left.
"That 3 really sticks out for me, because we had come so far back," Crean said. "We overcame the mistakes and overcame the turnovers, but they got it done at the end."