INDIANAPOLIS — Tennessee came within one offensive foul call of pulling off one of the really big rallies in NCAA Sweet 16 history.
But Michigan’s Nik Stauskas hit one of two free throws to secure the Wolverines’ place in the Elite Eight at the Midwest Regional at Lucas Oil Stadium on Friday night. The final score was 73-71.
Michigan will play Sunday for a trip to the Final Four against the winner of the Kentucky vs. Louisville contest played later Friday night.
The Wolverines appeared to have the game in hand for most of the second half, riding the crest of a 45-34 lead they had carved out in the first 20 minutes.
With 3:40 to go, Stauskas hit a 3-pointer to give Michigan a 70-60 lead and it appeared the game might end with that type of margin. But Tennessee’s Jordan McRae asserted himself with an assist, two baskets and a free throw to cut that lead in half at 72-67 with 1:56 remaining.
For the next 90 seconds nobody scored. Josh Richardson hit a layup to make it 72-69 with only 24 ticks left. The Vols got the ball back nine seconds later. McRae had the ball in the corner at 3-point range, but he also had a clear path to the basket so he drove and scored. The lead was 72-71 with 10 seconds on the clock.
Caris LeVert turned the ball over for Michigan, the 13th miscue for the Wolverines.
Then came the pivotal play of the final seconds. The ball went in to Jarnell Stokes. He went to the basket, but Jordan Morgan was in his way.
“I knew they set a screen to get him open so I knew he was going to make a play,” said Morgan. “I know he likes to play bully ball. I took the charge. That’s what I do.”
That was the call the officials made as well.