Rushed Reactions: #2 Michigan 73, #11 Tennessee 71Posted by Walker Carey on March 28th, 2014
Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) is the NCAA Tournament’s Midwest Region correspondent. He filed this report after #2 Michigan’s 73-71 win over #11 Tennessee. RTC will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight.
Three Key Takeaways.
- Michigan’s first half explosion was the reason it was able to win. The Wolverines have been an extremely high octane offensive unit all season and that continued against Tennessee. Michigan scored 45 points in the first half. It shot 61.5% overall and 77.8% from three in the opening 20 minutes. John Beilein’s squad was moving the ball around so easily and efficiently that it was easy to see why its shooting numbers were so good, as they were getting such open looks. In a game that came down to the wire, Michigan being able to use its phenomenal offense to grab an 11-point halftime lead was a ridiculously huge factor in it ultimately being able to leave with the victory.
- Tennessee stormed back with great tenacity. The Volunteers fell behind by 15 with 10:56 to play before storming back to trim Michigan’s lead to just one with 10.8 seconds to play. Tennessee was led on the comeback trail by senior guard Jordan McRae, who recorded 16 of his 24 points in the second half. McRae’s ability to both hit shots and get to the rim had the Michigan defense in disarray for a good portion of the final 20 minutes of the game. After pretty much allowing Michigan to do anything offensively over the first 30 minutes of the game, Tennessee made adjustments to lock down defensively and force several key turnovers late in the game. Cuonzo Martin’s squad is probably hurting now because its season is over, but those players have nothing to hang their heads about. Michigan was given everything it could handle and then some. That was a gutty and resilient second half from the Volunteers.
- John Beilein deserves more attention for his coaching job this season. Michigan went to the National Championship game last year due in large part to the contributions from guards Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. and the emerging force of Mitch McGary. After the season, both Burke and Hardaway Jr. wisely declared for the NBA Draft and Michigan was left with a lot of inexperience in its backcourt. The Wolverines’ winning experience took another hit in late December when McGary was lost with a back injury. Somehow, Michigan is still advancing to its second straight Elite Eight and a majority of that credit should go to coach John Beilein. Under Beilein’s guidance, Michigan has become an extremely cohesive unit that has time and time again, found a way to win this season.
Player of the Game. Jordan Morgan, Michigan. The national talk all week was about how Michigan was going to struggle mightily with Tennessee’s imposing big men Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon. No one was giving Morgan or his interior cohort Jon Horford any chance of impacting the game at all. As it turned out, all that talk was very off-base, as Morgan put forth an effort that was monumental to his team earning the win. The senior forward finished the night with a team-high 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting and grabbed seven important rebounds. Defensively, Morgan more than held his own against Stokes. Stokes finished with just 11 points and six boards after coming into the game, averaging 20.3 points and 15 rebounds per game in the tournament. Morgan’s star performance was cemented by him drawing an offensive foul on Stokes with just six seconds to play and Michigan only leading by one. The play put the ball back into Michigan’s hands and the Wolverines were able to survive to advance to their second straight Elite Eight.
- “Mismatch my a**.” – Michigan forward Jordan Morgan, exclaimed after walking off the court following the final buzzer. Morgan was referencing the talk all week about how Tennessee forwards Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon posed a mismatch inside for Michigan.
- “Great effort between two good teams. You expect it to go down to the wire like that.” – Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin, acknowledging that, despite the loss, his team hung in there until the very end.
- No. I do not think I fouled him [Jordan Morgan]. It was a smart play for him to try to take the charge. He pretty much anticipated it.” – Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes, responding to the question regarding whether he fouled Jordan Morgan with six seconds to play.
Sights and Sounds. While this game served as the undercard to the colossal showdown between Louisville and Kentucky, the atmosphere was still pretty spectacular. There were a strong amount of both Michigan and Tennessee fans and they all maintained a great level of intensity throughout the game. Each school’s band also played a big role, as playing “The Victors” always fired up the Michigan contingent and playing “Rocky Top” always got the Tennessee fans into it. It was terrific atmosphere and one worthy of the Sweet 16 stage.
What’s Next. Michigan advances to its second straight Elite Eight where it will play the winner of Louisville and Kentucky on Sunday afternoon.