INDIANAPOLIS — It all depends on one’s perspective.
Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes thought he beat Michigan forward Jordan Morgan to the spot on a drive to the basket with 6.0 seconds left in Friday night’s Midwest Region semifinal at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Morgan and the Wolverines thought otherwise.
So did official David Hall and his vote was the only one that mattered.
Stokes’ offensive foul denied the Volunteers a chance to complete a comeback from a 15-point deficit midway through the second half as second-seeded Michigan held on for a 73-71 victory.
It was the last in a series of clutch plays for Morgan, an unheralded 6-foot-8 senior who many thought would be devoured by Tennessee’s beefy 1-2 post tandem of Stokes and Jeronne Maymon.
Instead, Morgan outscored the duo by himself, netting a team-high 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field and grabbing a game-high seven rebounds.
“I thought he took it personally,” Wolverines guard Nik Stauskas said of the talk that the Volunteers would dominate in the paint. “He made their big guys earn everything they got.”
Stokes managed just 11 points on nine shots from the field and Maymon scored only one bucket, playing just 17 minutes as he stayed in foul trouble all night.
Still, 11th-seeded Tennessee nearly erased a 60-45 hole with 10:55 remaining after it figured out a way to stop Michigan (28-8) while using the scoring of guards Jordan McRae and Josh Richardson to rally.
McRae accounted for 13 of his game-high 24 points in the last 11 minutes, drawing the Volunteers (24-13) within 72-71 on a baseline drive after a turnover with 10.8 seconds left. Richardson netted 19.
But after Michigan guard Caris LeVert stepped out of bounds while catching an inbounds pass with 9.6 seconds remaining, giving Tennessee a chance to pull off an unexpected win, neither McRae or Richardson got a say on the most critical sequence.
The Volunteers isolated Stokes on Morgan. Stokes drove the left baseline, lowered his shoulder and made contact with Morgan. Hall emphatically signaled charge.
“I don’t think I fouled him,” Stokes said, “but you have to give (Morgan) credit. He anticipated the play and got the call.”
Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin was clearly unhappy with the call.
“I thought both guys were moving,” he said, “but the referee called it a charge.”
Stauskas scored the last of his 14 points on a free throw with 2.1 seconds left but missed the back end of a one-and-one. However, all the Volunteers could get was a hurried 55-footer by McRae that was not close as time expired.
The end-of-game comeback almost wiped out a beautiful first 30 minutes for Michigan, which shot 55.1 percent from the field, including 11-of-20 3-pointers, and put four players in double figures.
Forward Glenn Robinson III scored 13 points for the Wolverines, which will play either Kentucky or Louisville in Sunday’s regional final, and LeVert added 10 — all in the first half.
But Michigan’s comfortable lead was on the verge of disappearing until Morgan stepped up one more time against an opponent who was supposed to have its way with him.
“It doesn’t matter who we play,” LeVert said. “Everyone thinks we won’t have the advantage inside. But Jordan was motivated to play this game. He made a great play at the end.”
NOTES: Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin played with Glenn Robinson, the father of Michigan F Glenn Robinson III, at Purdue from 1991 to 1994. … Robinson III, injured Wolverines C Mitch McGary and Volunteers G Jordan McRae all participated in the LeBron James Skills Academy last summer in Las Vegas. … Tennessee is one of only five teams in Division I to rank in the top 20 nationally in offensive and defensive efficiency, joining Florida, Louisville, Virginia and Wichita State.
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