The Washington Times-Herald

The "Z" Watch

March 11, 2013

No. 7 Michigan loses to No. 2 Indiana, 72-71

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan had a chance to earn a share of the Big Ten title and give two rivals a piece of it, too.

The Wolverines, though, wilted with a five-point lead in the final minute.

Cody Zeller made a go-ahead layup with 13 seconds left and altered Trey Burke's shot at the other end, lifting No. 2 Indiana to a 72-71 victory over No. 7 Michigan on Sunday that gave the Hoosiers their first outright Big Ten title in two decades.

"This really hurts," Burke said. "This was for a championship."

The Hoosiers (26-5, 14-4) trailed 71-66 with 52 seconds remaining but took advantage when the Wolverines (25-6, 12-6) were unable to seal it at the foul line.

Jordan Morgan also had a fairly easy tip-in attempt of Burke's miss that could have won it for Michigan, but the ball rolled tantalizingly around the rim and off.

"It just hung there," Burke said.

Christian Watford got to the final rebound - Indiana had 23 more boards than Michigan - with 4 seconds left and threw it back in bounds to Zeller, ending the game.

"I'm glad that didn't end up being the last game of our season because it would have been a tough one to take," Wolverines coach John Beilein said. "We play on Thursday, and it would be special if we can win the Big Ten tournament, but if we can get a few games in, it will make us better. And then comes the granddaddy of them all. That's when you have to be at your best."

Michigan had other opportunities to win Sunday, and two other teams surely wish the Wolverines had.

Ohio State, which beat Illinois on Sunday, needed an Indiana loss to earn a share of the conference championship as did Michigan State, which beat Northwestern later in the night.

When the Hoosiers finished off Michigan and the teams shook hands along the sideline, Indiana coach Tom Crean and Michigan assistant Jeff Meyer, a former Hoosiers assistant, had a heated exchange.

"I'm not talking about any of that," Crean said. "Ask him."

A message seeking comment from Meyer was left with a Michigan spokesman.

The Wolverines will be the fifth-seeded team in this week's Big Ten tournament, opening against 12th-seeded Penn State in the opening round. If Michigan avoids losing to the Nittany Lions again, it will face fourth-seeded Wisconsin in the quarterfinals on Friday.

The Wolverines were a minute away from winning back-to-back Big Ten titles for the first time since the 1985 and 1986 seasons.

Morgan made a tiebreaking putback with 1:35 left, teammate Tim Hardaway Jr. followed with a layup on Michigan's next possession and Glen Robinson III made the first of two free throws with 52 seconds to go, giving the Wolverines a 71-66 lead.

After Zeller made a shot on the ensuing possession, Hardaway missed the front end of a 1-and-1. Zeller then connected on two free throws and Burke couldn't convert at the line, missing the front end of another haunting 1-and-1.

"This game wasn't blown on the free throw line," Beilein insisted. "Those two are our leaders, and they've won a lot of games for us. We're never going to put this on them."

Zeller hit another big shot down low, the one that counted most in a game Indiana might have needed to earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. The Hoosiers will be the top-seeded team at this week's Big Ten tournament in Chicago.

Burke and Indiana's Victor Oladipo, both of whom are Big Ten and national player of the year candidates, struggled to make shots all game at Crisler Center.

Zeller, meanwhile, made sure no one forgot about him with 25 points and 10 rebounds.

Oladipo had 14 points on 7-of-18 shooting and a career-high 13 rebounds, including seven on the offensive end.

"We gave up 24 offensive rebounds," Hardaway said. "That's a disgrace."

Burke finished with 20 points on 7-of-20 shooting after scoring just four points by halftime.

"I was trying to make plays that weren't there," he said.

Robinson had 13 points, Nik Stauskas scored 10 of his 12 in the first half and Hardaway had 11. The Wolverines were 7 of 13 at the foul line.

Indiana, looking as though it didn't want to give any other team a piece of the Big Ten championship, got off to a strong start and led 10-3 when Yogi Ferrell's field goal followed a pair of 3-pointers from Jordan Hulls.

The Wolverines took control in the first half with a 12-0 run, but faded toward halftime and led 33-30 after 20 minutes.

Michigan was ahead by as many as 11 points - matching the biggest lead any team has had against the Hoosiers - and looked as though it was going to be on the winning end of a closely contested game until it simply could not make key free throws or stop Zeller.

"There was a strong belief (in a comeback), but obviously they had to miss some shots with the free throws to make that happen and they did," Crean said.

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