One Big Ten team advanced to the Final Four this weekend (Wisconsin). Another one did not (Michigan State). Bragging rights to the state of Michigan came down to the Wolverines in their match-up with Kentucky on Sunday.
What turned out to be a dramatic and exhilarating game, after one team led by double digits early in the first half, ended in favor of the younger, larger upstart Kentucky Wildcats 75-72.
Michigan had one final chance to tie the game with 2.6 seconds remaining but a Nik Stauskas half-court shot missed the mark at the buzzer.
Kentucky’s size was very apparent and the perceived disadvantage for Michigan in this game, a lack of inside presence, came to fruition as the Wildcats grabbed 35 boards to the Wolverines’ 24.
Wolverine guard, Big Ten player of the year and first team All-American Nik Stauskas came to play in the first half putting up 18 points on 5-of-7 shooting. Stauskas finished the game with 24 points.
The Wolverines jumped out to a 10-point lead with 8 minutes remaining in the opening session, but then watched Kentucky fight back to tie the game at the break 37-37 thanks in part to Kentucky freshman forward Marcus Lee and his 10 points and four rebounds. The Wildcats finished the half on a 15-5 run.
But Michigan put on a 14-6 run of their own in the second half to take back the lead with 53-51.
The teams exchanged leads and each squad would not allow the other to run away down the stretch.
Michigan didn’t have the same success with the three-ball covering in the first half (3-of-8).
For the game, the Wolverines completed only 38% of their 18 attempts. Conversely Kentucky completed 7 of their 11 3-pointers.
Ultimately, it was the on three of the tournament the needed most they couldn’t get.