Michigan falls apart late, ends season with 1-point loss to Vanderbilt

Michigan led Vanderbilt by eight points with a minute left on Saturday afternoon, only for Vanderbilt to score the final nine points.

The Wolverines lost 66-65, ending their season in the second round of the NIT.

Down two starters and facing a huge early deficit on the road, Michigan battled back and put itself in great position to advance.

Joey Baker’s basket put the Wolverines up 65-57 with 1:45 left. They got a defensive stop before Hunter Dickinson missed a layup right at the basket. Vanderbilt scored at the other end and deployed a full-court press that flummoxed the visitors the rest of the way.

On the game’s final possession, Dug McDaniel’s runner missed off the rim, as did Dickinson’s tip attempt just before the buzzer sounded.

Michigan finished with an 18-16 record.

Jett Howard missed his second straight game with an ankle injury. Another starting guard, Kobe Bufkin, was also out with an ankle injury, the first game he’s missed this season.

Reserve guard Isaiah Barnes, who hasn’t appeared in a game since January but may have been called upon Saturday given Michigan’s injury situation, was unavailable due to a leg injury.

As a result, Michigan started Dug McDaniel, Baker, Terrance Williams II, Youssef Khayat, and Dickinson, a group that included three new faces from Michigan’s Big Ten Tournament game last week.

The injuries led to other unusual lineups. At one point, Williams played point guard alongside Baker, Jace Howard, Will Tschetter, and Dickinson.

Vanderbilt scored 17 straight points to take a 17-5 lead, but Michigan answered with nine in a row and led by one at half.

Michigan was up by as many as 10 in the second half but couldn’t hold.

Dickinson, a junior, finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds. McDaniel scored 19. Baker added 11.

Vanderbilt (22-14) advanced to the quarterfinals, to be played Tuesday or Wednesday, and will host the winner of Sunday’s game between UAB and Morehead State.

Saturday marked a disappointing end to Juwan Howard’s fourth season as head coach. The Wolverines, ranked No. 22 in the preseason AP poll, failed to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015. They beat Toledo in the NIT opener on Tuesday and had a good chance to get a road win to keep their season going.

The Wolverines have two seniors, Baker and Jaelin Llewellyn. Baker will petition for a sixth season and Llewellyn could apply for a medical waiver after suffering a season-ending knee injury in Michigan’s eighth game. Jett Howard and Bufkin could leave for the NBA. Dickinson also has to decide on his future.

It was Dickinson who scored 11 in a row for the Wolverines on Saturday to give them a 52-42 lead with 10:52 left. They stayed in control but couldn’t pull away. A 3 by Vanderbilt’s Trey Thomas cut Michigan’s margin to 61-57 with 3:47 left.

The next basket came on McDaniel’s floater off the glass. He took a charge at the other end, Baker hit a foul-line jumper, and Michigan was back up eight with 1:45 left.

On Michigan’s next possession, Dickinson missed a layup. Vanderbilt raced the other way for an and-one by Tyrin Lawrence (21 points) to stay alive. Vanderbilt deployed a full-court press. Williams turned the ball over and committed a foul; the free throws got Vanderbilt within three with 49 seconds left.

McDaniel then threw it out of bounds. A layup cut Michigan’s lead to just one with 19 seconds left.

Michigan got the ball in against a press but Williams couldn’t handle Dickinson’s pass, and Vanderbilt got another layup — after a goaltending call on Dickinson that looked like a clean block.

Down one, Michigan inbounded with 12.5 seconds left. Even that wasn’t easy, but McDaniel eventually got in the lane for contested shot. It missed, as did Dickinson’s put-back.

Michigan finished with 15 turnovers, including three in the final minute.

Early on, Michigan looked to be in serious trouble. Michigan led 5-0 but Vanderbilt scored the next 17 points, forcing Howard to call timeout with 12:51 left after Colin Smith’s third 3. It give him 11 points; he wouldn’t score again. Michigan responded with nine straight, and McDaniel’s second 3 (and fourth basket) tied the game at 20 with 9:21 left in the half. Two free throws from Williams gave the Wolverines the lead with seven minutes remaining, and they led 30-29 at half.

They couldn’t hold it, struggling down the stretch as they had in several close losses this season.

Leave a Comment