ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The Hoosiers left the court at Crisler Arena Saturday showered by blue and yellow confetti.
They lost, 84-80, and the Michigan Wolverines were Big Ten champs.
It was a stark contrast to last season, when IU won a Big Ten title on the same court.
These teams had less to play for Saturday. Michigan had already won the Big Ten after beating Illinois earlier in the week.
IU, after knocking off two consecutive ranked opponents and pushing for a late run toward the NCAA Tournament, had just lost to Nebraska on senior night.
On Saturday, the game’s outcome wasn’t decided until a Glenn Robinson III corner 3-pointer gave the Wolverines a 3-point lead with about one minute to play.
On Michigan’s senior night, IU was sharp to start. Freshman forward Devin Davis started in place of freshman forward Noah Vonleh, who saw limited action Saturday after missing two consecutive games.
Davis won the tip and, after IU set up its offense, freshman guard Stanford Robinson found senior forward Will Sheehey for an open 3-pointer.
Sheehey connected on the shot, the first of nine straight made field goals for IU. It would take seven minutes and 51 seconds of game time before the Hoosiers missed their first shot, and by then they found themselves leading 22-14.
Heading into halftime, IU led 42-36. The Hoosiers went 16-for-27, 59.3 percent, from the field, assisting on 10 of their made field goals.
IU’s first half lead was quickly washed away by the Wolverines, who began the second on a 14-6 scoring run.
Michigan reclaimed the lead just four minutes and seven seconds into the half.
The Hoosiers hardly helped themselves either. After committing just three turnovers in the first half, IU turned the ball over 12 times in the second.
After the game, Sheehey beat himself up because of the turnovers committed.
“Me personally, was just trash from that point,” Sheehey said. “I think I had four turnovers, Yogi had four. I mean that’s just unacceptable from two guys that have played this game awhile.”
It was déjà vu for IU. On the road and leading at halftime, the Hoosiers have wilted in the second half in conference play this season.
On the road against Michigan State, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin and now Michigan, IU entered halftime with a lead, but lost each game.
With four minutes and 55 seconds to play, IU trailed 73-62. It had happened again to the Hoosiers. IU hadn’t scored in more than four minutes, and Michigan, led by Robinson III and sophomore guard Nik Stauskas, was on the verge of cruising to an easy victory.
The Wolverines wouldn’t cruise however, and it started with a rim-shaking dunk by freshman forward Troy Williams.
Williams’ slam began a 9-0 run during two minutes and seven seconds that trimmed Michigan’s lead down to 73-71.
After Robinson III made two free throws on Michigan’s next possession,
Williams threw down another dunk. Michigan led 75-73 with one minute and 49 seconds remaining.
With the ball in Stauskas’ hands on the ensuing Michigan possession, the ball was batted in the air. Vonleh leaped and grabbed the ball with two hands and fired an outlet pass to freshman guard Stanford Robinson. Robinson caught the ball and dribbled ahead of the Wolverines, laying the ball in just before the Michigan players could reach him.
The game was tied at 75 with one minute and 25 seconds to play. IU, down 11 and playing the Big Ten regular season champions on its senior night, had fought its way back.
On the next Michigan possession, Stauskas held the ball at the top of the key.
Robinson, who was guarding Robinson III in the corner, crashed down on the driving Stauskas, hoping to force a turnover.
Stauskas saw Robinson and fired to Robinson III, who raised high and sank the shot. The crowd went wild, and Michigan led 78-75.
IU Coach Tom Crean said that shot, and not IU’s comeback attempt, will stand out.
“That’s the one that will stick out, because we did do such a great job of coming back,” Crean said.
IU called a timeout, and Crean drew up a play that gave Robinson a 3-point attempt, which he missed.
IU was forced to foul the rest of the game. Michigan made all six of its attempted free throws in the game’s final 41 seconds.
Crean said his team fought throughout the game.
“We fully expected to win the game, and our guys played like it, and they never stopped believing that they would,” Crean said. “Our guys battled the whole way and answered every situation right until the very end.”