In the headliner matchup of the Saturday’s 2013 Brooklyn Hoops Holiday Invitation, Michigan defeated Stanford, 68-65.
“We had a great week of practice, we prepared tough for this game,” Michigan senior Jordan Morgan said. “We were ready from the tip. We knew we wanted this game.”
The Wolverines’ commanding, 10-point lead in the second half was diminished to one point at 66-65 in the final minute, but they executed down the stretch to leave Barclays Center with a victory.
Sophomore guard Nik Stauskas drained a pair of free throws with eight seconds left, and then Stanford’s Chasson Randle missed what would have been a game-tying three-pointer at the buzzer.
“They made the plays at the end they needed to make to seal the game,” Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins said.
For Michigan (7-4), this was a much-needed win, especially with star forward Mitch McGary out with an injury.
The Wolverines have played a very tough non-conference schedule, but they have lost nearly every time they played a high-quality opponent.
They fell to Iowa State on the road, Duke in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, Charlotte in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off championship, and most recently Arizona at home.
The Wolverines’ only quality win was against a Florida State that is far from a NCAA Tournament lock.
“It’s a great feeling for us today, to grind out a win against a really good team,” Stauskas said. “We’ve had some losses where the situation went the wrong way for us. Today to finally get that win and grind it out felt great.”
Michigan jumped out to a 25-17 lead during the latter part of the first half.
Stanford (8-3) closed the gap to 30-27 on the final play of the half with a Dwight Powell layup.
The Cardinal cut the lead to one point multiple times early in the first half, but the Wolverines used a 14-6 extended run to open up a 10-point lead.
That was when the Cardinal began chipping away at the foul line, cutting the deficit back to six points with four straight free throws.
A couple of minutes later, back-to-back layups from Powell and Randle got Stanford within 60-56. The Cardinal remained close into the final minute.
Randle’s three-point play brought them within one point, but the Cardinal were unable to get over the hump.
Stauskas led the Wolverines with 19 points, and sophomore forward Glenn Robinson III had 17 points, including a key bucket in the final minute.
Freshman guard Zak Irvin added 12 points on four three-pointers off the bench.
Randle led Stanford with 18 points while Stefan Nastic (14 points) and Powell (10) points were the other members of the Cardinal to reach double figures.
One of the most impressive parts of Michigan’s win is the improvement it showed since its last time out against Arizona. Against the Wildcats, the Wolverines blew a double-digit lead in the second half and lost, 72-70.
“It was the same scenario we just went through,” Michigan head coach John Beilein said. “That would’ve been a difficult holiday season if we had not won that game.”
Michigan will return home for its final non-conference game against Holy Cross, and then the Wolverines are back to high-level competition with Big Ten play beginning at Minnesota on Jan. 2.
“The games that we have played will help us for the Big Ten and especially the NCAA [Tournament],” Robinson III said. “We just have to come out with the right mindset and keep getting better every game.”