Close won't cut it as Michigan tries to make its way back to the NCAA Tournament.
The Wolverines let a golden opportunity slip as away as #6 Maryland (23-5, 11-4 Big Ten) held off Michigan (19-9, 9-6 Big Ten) in an 86-82 affair. Michigan rallied from a 16-point first-half deficit to take a 75-72 lead with 5:47 left when Mark Donnal put back in Zak Irvin's miss. However, Michigan suddenly went cold, and Robert Carter willed Maryland to the win with six points and two crucial offensive boards in the final minutes. Michigan had one last chance to at least send it to overtime, trailing by three with less than 30 ticks left, but Derrick Walton drove down the right side of the lane and was called for a clear offensive foul. Michigan had to foul, and the Terrapins hit their free throws to seal it.
Donnal was the star for the Wolverines, registering 25 points on 10-of-13 shooting, five rebounds, and five blocks. He scored 22 points after the halftime intermission, knocking down three pointers because Maryland's centers couldn't stick with him on the perimeter and getting open underneath as his teammates penetrated into the paint. Four other Wolverines also scored in double digits, but Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (16 points and 9 assists) and Derrick Walton (14 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists) stood out while Irvin (11 points) and Duncan Robinson (10 points) struggled to hit their shots.
Ultimatley, though, it wasn't Michigan's offense that was the problem. It was the defense. The Wolverines had no answer for Maryland's front court as Jake Layman, Carter, and Diamond Stone combined for 46 points on 18-of-30 shooting and its bench received an unexpected spark from Damonte Dodd, Jared Nickens, and Jaylen Brantley (18 points).
And this was the first time in nine seasons under John Beilein that Michigan lost a game in which it scored 80-plus points. The Wolverines had been 50-0 in such games before today.
It was a great effort from Michigan, taking Maryland to the wire in a place where almost every Big Ten team has lost since the Terrapins joined the conference. However, effort won't be enough for Michigan to get to the NCAA tournament. The Wolverines are firmly on the bubble and need two more regular-season wins to feel secure about their chances to dance in mid-March. However, the schedule isn't very forgiving with Michigan closing out with a road date against Wisconsin and a home contest against Iowa after the Northwestern game this week. Michigan will need to beat the Badgers or the Hawkeyes because it wasn't able to conquer the Terrapins. The Wolverines continue to fight for their postseason life.