John Beilein's team played one of its best halves of basketball of the season. Then, at halftime, Mike Brey's team flipped the switch.
Notre Dame was atrocious defensively in the first half Friday night, allowing Michigan to turn in a terrific offensive period and take a 12-point lead into halftime. But the Fighting Irish locked down on defense after the break, the Wolverines scoring just 22 second-half points in a 70-63 loss in the NCAA tournament.
After shooting 51.6 percent from the field and hitting seven 3-pointers in the first half, Michigan shot just 28.1 percent from the field in the second half, nearly getting doubled up as Notre Dame held a 41-22 scoring edge after the break. The Irish shot a sensational 58.1 percent from the field on the game.
Michigan got off to a fast start, with a 10-0 run in the middle of the first half building a 26-13 lead. Notre Dame responded in kind with seven consecutive made baskets, Zach Auguste cutting it to a five-point game with a layup. But Auguste missed the ensuing free throw, and the Wolverines streaked away, rattling off seven straight points over the final 85 seconds of the half, Moritz Wagner coming off the bench for four of those, including a buzzer-beating layup to close out the opening 20 minutes.
Both teams shot well, Notre Dame an astounding 59.1 percent from the field and Michigan not too shabby at 51.6 percent. But the Wolverines lit it up from 3-point range, splashing home seven first-half triples compared to just two by the Irish. Notre Dame coughed the ball up far too often, turning it over 10 times in the first half leading to 14 Michigan points compared to just two points for the Irish off two Michigan.
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But Notre Dame burst out of the gates in the second half on an 8-0 run to cut the deficit to four, and the game was tied at 48-all with 12 and a half minutes to play. Three minutes later, Michigan trailed for the first time in the game, only for an Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman 3 to tie it moments later and a Zak Irvin 3 — his first of the game after going 1-for-10 from the field and 0-for-5 from 3 —to put the Wolverines back in front. Notre Dame tied the game at 56 with a 3-pointer, and then Wagner was hit with a questionable offensive-foul call, his fourth of the game, sending him to the bench. The Irish kept hitting, at one point making six straight shots, including a tie-breaking 3 to break out to a 64-59 advantage with three minutes to go. An Irvin layup brought the Wolverines within three with a little more than a minute to play, but after a stop, Michigan turned in a poor possession in the final minute, spending the entire shot clock to only get Irvin a low-percentage deep look at a 3 that missed.
Notre Dame's strong shooting night lifted it to victory, shooting 58.1 percent from the field and an efficient 8-for-15 from 3-point range. Meanwhile, Michigan shot only 39.7 percent from the field thanks to its woeful performance in the second half, its 3-point shooting an inefficient 10-for-27. The Irish also went 12-for-15 from the free-throw line, while the Wolverines were only 3-for-5, Notre Dame's lack of fouls — just nine on the whole game — balancing out its 16 turnovers.
Abdur-Rahkman led the way for Michigan with 15 points, though he had just three after halftime. Derrick Walton Jr. scored 10 in the first half but none in the second. Irvin, Duncan Robinson and Mark Donnal all ended with nine points.
The Wolverines' season came to a close, though it lasted longer than many believed it would as recently as last week. Irvin's bad night Friday — he was 4-for-16 from the field and 1-for-9 from 3 — was only made possible thanks to his heroics in the Big Ten Tournament (game-winning shot in overtime to beat Northwestern) and in the First Four (big-time shot to deliver a win over Tulsa). Add in Kam Chatman's game-winning triple to beat Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament, and it's been a highlight week for Michigan, despite the ending.