Indianapolis— Michigan looked like it was well on its way to advancing to the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals.
The Wolverines built a 17-point lead against the ninth-seeded Hoosiers with under 13 minutes to play. They were in complete control and seemingly on the verge of turning the second-round game into a blowout. At least, that was until everything completely fell apart.
Costly turnovers and an ice-cold offensive stretch doomed eighth-seeded Michigan as it collapsed in a 74-69 loss to Indiana Thursday at Gainbridge Fieldhouse, where coach Juwan Howard was back on the sidelines after his five-game suspension.
“We feel like we had this game,” said grad transfer guard DeVante’ Jones, who finished with a team-high 18 points. “We let it slip away.”
BOX SCORE: Indiana 74, Michigan 69
Michigan (17-14) had a chance to solidify its NCAA Tournament case and make Selection Sunday less stressful. Instead, the Wolverines blew it and imploded. They were outscored 31-9 over the final 12 minutes as they missed 15 of 17 shots and committed eight turnovers, including one with 10 seconds left when it was a two-point game.
The tide started to turn when Xavier Johnson buried a 3-pointer to kick-start a string of nine unanswered points with 11:02 to play. During the stretch, the Wolverines had two shots blocked at the rim and turned the ball over twice, with both turnovers leading to baskets by Trayce Jackson-Davis that cut the lead to eight.
After fifth-year senior guard Eli Brooks (17 points) temporarily stopped the bleeding with two free throws to make it a 10-point game, everything continued to snowball. The turnovers and missed shots piled up. The offense was disjointed. Sophomore center Hunter Dickinson, who scored 13 of his 15 points in the first half, rarely touched the ball.
“They came out being for physical than us. They brought more energy, more effort in the second half,” said Jones, who had three turnovers during a two-minute span. “On defense there were multiple breakdowns that hurt us, and on offense as well.
“I take a lot of that blame for the turnovers that I had, a lot of costly turnovers that I usually don’t make. I put that on myself.”
Indiana (19-12) rattled off 11 straight points as Jackson-Davis asserted himself. He scored on a fast-break layup following a turnover by Jones. He threw down a two-handed slam off a lob pass. He made two free throws to put Indiana ahead, 63-62, with 5:39 remaining.
Brooks made two free throws to briefly put Michigan back in front, but it didn’t last long. Johnson countered with two free throws to regain the lead and Jackson-Davis continued to wreak havoc with two more baskets near the rim to give Indiana a 71-64 advantage.
The Wolverines still had a shot in the final minute. After Jones snapped an 11-minute field-goal drought with a runner, Brooks drained a 3-pointer to make it 71-69 with 44 seconds left. Michigan got the defensive stop it needed on the ensuing possession, but freshman forward Moussa Diabate’s pass went off Brooks’ hand and out of bounds with 10 seconds left.
“The game was changed with their aggressiveness,” Howard said. “They came out early in the second half, which we talked about at halftime, knowing and expecting that this team was going to not quit. But secondly, be more aggressive, whether they were trying to score in the paint, we talked about taking away the drive, or they were trying to shoot open shots, talked about contesting every shot without fouling.
“I thought at times we were not as aggressive enough defensively where we could have taken away some of those easy buckets by (Jackson-Davis). And in the second half, our turnovers, every time we turned the ball over, they got opportunities to score off that.”
Jackson-Davis scored 19 of his 24 points in the second half and Johnson finished with 17 points for Indiana, which shot 55.6% from the field after halftime (15-for-27). The win snapped a nine-game losing streak to Michigan and was the Hoosiers’ first victory in the series since Feb. 2, 2016.
“It was a total team effort, and this team hadn’t quit all year,” Indiana coach Mike Woodson said. “We’ve been so competitive over the course of this season. And a lot of games that we’ve lost, we didn’t get rewarded for it. I’ve felt at halftime we still had a shot to win the game. And these guys came out and they just played and played and played themselves back into the game and they were able to pull it out.”
Behind strong starts from Dickinson and Jones, Michigan jumped all over Indiana early on. After Diabate snagged a defensive rebound and went coast-to-coast for a one-handed dunk, Dickinson scored seven straight points, including a 3-pointer from the wing, during a 17-3 spurt.
When Jones capped a stretch of 11 unanswered points by sneaking into the paint, grabbing an offensive rebound and scoring on a putback, Michigan held a 21-10 lead with 8:48 left in the first half.
Outside of two early 3-pointers from Johnson, not much went right for Indiana over the first 20 minutes. The Hoosiers missed 12 of their first 16 shots, including four point-blank looks by Jackson-Davis. Even after Dickinson was hit with a technical foul at the 5:18 mark for barking at an official that he was fouled on a hook shot and sat the rest of the half, the Hoosiers couldn’t take advantage.
Instead, the Wolverines used a string of free throws — one coming after Woodson was given a technical foul for arguing with a ref — to push the lead to 15 before taking a 41-28 advantage into halftime.
Michigan continued to extend the lead in the second half. Freshman forward Caleb Houstan buried three 3-pointers within a four-minute span and Dickinson found Brooks for a layup to put Michigan up, 60-43, with 12:52 left.
From that point on, everything went sideways and the Wolverines put themselves in a position where all they can do is wait and wonder about their NCAA Tournament fate.
“It starts with me. I take full accountability. I’m never the one that’s going to deflect or point the finger,” said Howard, who called the up-and-down week — from his reinstatement on Monday to Thursday’s result — an “emotional ride.”
“I’m going to watch film and there’s going to be a lot of moments where I have a lot of disturbance in my sleep because I’m going to be playing every play on how I could have done better and what I could have done better to secure this victory for us.”