Anatomy of a buzzer-beater: How Michigan basketball survived Minnesota
John Beilein saw the ball leave Charles Matthews’ hands. He heard the buzzer shortly after.
And then the ball dropped through the net, giving No. 5 Michigan basketball a last-second, 59-57 win over Minnesota.
The Wolverines rebounded from their first loss of the season in dramatic fashion.
Nothing went as planned, including the final offensive possession that led to the win.
But the only thing that mattered was Matthews’ buzzer-beating jumper from along the baseline.
“I knew it was good,” Matthews said. “I always have some fear in my head cause Purdue last year … You never know, but I remember the game clock was 24.7 and the shot clock was 24 seconds at the time. When I saw it was one second, I knew for a fact that I had the time. You just do simple math.”
Here’s how U-M won, despite the blown lead, along with everything that goes into a buzzer-beating shot.
Offense falters late
In the 64-54 loss at Wisconsin on Saturday, Michigan’s offense was cold most of the game, and especially during the last 6 minutes.
The Wolverines dealt with similar problems Tuesday night.
Michigan struggled to shoot in the first half. Then the offense got worst during the final minutes yet again.
After a short jumper from Jon Teske gave U-M a 10-point lead with 4:57 remaining, the Wolverines missed their next five field goal attempts and two free throws. Minnesota inched closer by attacking the paint.
“We just weren’t hitting shots,” Teske said. “We were getting some good looks, maybe forcing it a little bit, but we have to execute better down the stretch.”
With Michigan up three and under a minute left, Ignas Brazdeikis had a chance to ice the game. But his driving layup rolled out. That set the stage for the final 40 seconds.
The Gophers began their final possession with a ball screen for Dupree McBrayer near the top of the arc. Michigan responded with a soft hedge against McBrayer with Zavier Simpson and Brazdeikis.
Gabe Kalscheur, who started the play in the corner, ran up as if he was going to set another screen for McBrayer. Then he darted outside the arc.
Simpson switched over to Kalscheur, but McBrayer swung the ball over to Kalscheur, who rose up and buried a 3-pointer to tie the game at 57.
Crisler Center was quiet, with only Minnesota’s bench and guest section celebrating.
U-M inbounded the ball, and Simpson dribbled past half-court before Beilein motioned for a timeout.
As Matthews mentioned, there were 24.7 seconds left on the game clock and 24 seconds left on the shot clock.
During the break, Beilein drew up a play for Brazdeikis.
The goal was to get Brazdeikis, a 77.1 percent free-throw shooter who made 9-of-11 free throws, isolated and going toward the basket late.
Either he would score at the basket, draw a foul, or miss close – giving Michigan a chance at an offensive rebound.
“We didn’t want to settle in that situation,” Beilein said. “We were 3-for-22 from 3, and it wasn’t time to dial up a 3 to win by 3, it was a time to score and get to the tunnel.”
Simpson initiated the action with 10 seconds left. Brazdeikis, starting in the right corner, worked his way to the top of the arc for a handoff from Simpson. Jordan Poole came up to set a screen on the defender. Poole’s man and Jordan Murphy followed Brazdeikis as he drove left. Two more defenders came over to help.
The shot went up, a driving layup that was deflected into the air. Teske, almost directly underneath the basket, reached out to tip the ball.
Matthews was standing in the left corner. As Brazdeikis had drove past him, Matthews held both hands out, ready to catch and shoot just in case the ball found him.
He was also ready to crash the boards.
“I know Iggy. That’s my little brother. He’s like a bull in the china shop when he’s going to the rim,” Matthews told reporters. “So he ain’t looking to kick out. So I just said, ‘You know what, he might miss this one, let me try to just go get the rebound.’
“And thank God I was in the right position for it. Gotta know your teammates. Know your personnel.”
As he saw the ball tipped toward him, he darted forward with a couple quick steps. Then he got the ball.
“(Charles is) always around the basket,” Beilein said, “and he mopped up.”
When Matthews caught the ball, there were roughly 2 seconds left on the game clock — which he was keenly aware of.
He took one dribble forward and went up to shoot, releasing the ball with under a second remaining.
When the shot dropped through, he raised his arms, jogging toward mid-court to celebrate with his teammates.
“I was just like, thank goodness he’s about to shoot it, and then the ball looked like it was in slow motion from my view and then it went in,” Brazdeikis said. “I was just so excited. I don’t even remember, I was just screaming, I was just so excited to be in that moment and share that moment with him and the team.”
Upon first glance, it appeared Matthews had gotten the shot off before the buzzer.
But the officials still met for an extended review.
As it turned out, it wasn’t primarily to determine whether Matthews had beat the game clock. The officials were trying to figure out if he had beaten the shot clock – and if he had, whether any additional time needed to be added on.
“I heard them talking to maybe (Big Ten Network reporter) Andy Katz,” Beilein said, “I could listen in from afar, and that allowed me to know that the big dispute was did the shot clock go off, was it out of his hands, was there any time left, and it all worked out.”
Their coach, meanwhile, told them to be prepared in case the officials added 0.5 seconds to the clock.
Eventually, an official signaled that the game was over.
Matthews’ shot counted. U-M had won by the narrowest of margins.
“I saw the clock, like, when I did get the ball,” Matthews said. “I’m not sure exactly how much time, but I did know that there was time on the clock.”
Tuesday nearly ended in defeat for the Wolverines, just as it did Saturday at Wisconsin.
Michigan didn’t turn the ball over to Minnesota as many times as it did against the Badgers. It found more open shots.
Still, the offense went cold at the most inopportune of times – again. Michigan’s scoring output over the past two games is the lowest it has had over any two-game stretch this season.
That’ll have to change in the near future, especially with tougher games remaining on the schedule. And the Wolverines understand that.
“Yeah, I’m happy, but I don’t feel like we played (well),” Matthews said.
For now, though, they’ll enjoy the result: another hard-earned conference win. And a step forward after their first loss of the season.
“Like I said, from Wisconsin to this game we improved,” Teske said, “but from this game on, we’ve got to improve even more, and we’ll definitely do that.”
Contact Orion Sang: [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @orion_sang.