Michigan routs Vols 75-45
Wolverines post largest win of all-time for No. 8 seed
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Michigan coach John Beilein was so worried about rebounding a day before facing Tennessee he joked he was going to box out a reporter in the hallway.
His undersized but plucky and relentless team got the message and then some — enough to send Volunteers coach Bruce Pearl to an early offseason of uncertainty.
Zack Novak scored 14 points, including two 3-pointers in a decisive spurt to start the second half, and Michigan beat listless Tennessee 75-45 on Friday in the West region to end a season of distractions for the Volunteers.
In only their second NCAA tournament appearance since 1998, the eighth-seeded Wolverines (21-13) turned a four-point halftime lead into a rout when they got hot from the outside and found a way to stop Tennessee freshman Tobias Harris.
After scoring 19 points and not missing a combined 13 shots from the field and foul line in the first half, Harris went scoreless on 0-of-5 shooting as ninth-seeded Tennessee was outscored 42-16.
Stu Douglass, Matt Vogrich and Tim Hardaway Jr. all scored 11 points for Michigan, which shot 52 percent from the field and held a 36-26 rebounding edge in its 10th win in 14 games.
The loss was the eighth in 12 games for the Volunteers (19-15) as Pearl’s future as coach is in question after he admitted lying to NCAA investigators.
Pearl has since served an eight-game suspension, forfeited $1.5 million in pay over the next four seasons and is working without a contract.
Athletic director Mike Hamilton, who had strongly supported his coach, wavered this week in a radio interview in which he said “the jury is still out” on whether Pearl will return.
Pearl and his players were peppered with questions Thursday, and Pearl said he didn’t think the distraction would effect his players as Tennessee made its school-record sixth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance.
But their up-and-down season came apart with a dizzying stretch of turnovers and mental errors to start the second half.
The Volunteers committed four turnovers sandwiched between Scotty Hopson’s airball 3-point attempt in Michigan’s 16-0 run early in the second half. Two timeouts by Pearl did little to stop the onslaught as Michigan was able to deny Harris the ball and scored with ease on drives to the hoop at the other end.
The last eight minutes served as a glorified pickup game for Michigan, complete with behind-the-back passes, thunderous dunks, high-fives and big smiles as the Wolverines advanced to face the winner of top-seeded Duke and Hampton on Sunday.
Pearl, dressed in orange suspenders, stood with his hands behind his back for much of the closing moments in what perhaps was his final game at Tennessee.
Tennessee got off to a positive start.
Harris didn’t miss in a dominant first half, hitting all six shots from the field and seven free throws. After beating Novak early, Michigan switched to its 1-3-1 zone, but Harris still did damage inside.
Harris got uneven help from his teammates. Even with Hardaway Jr. on the bench with two fouls for much of the first half, undersized Michigan grabbed nine offensive rebounds, took 16 more shots and led 33-29 at halftime despite 3-of-15 shooting from 3-point range.
When Novak got hot from the outside to start the second half, Tennessee was finished.