Michigan State's home loss to Illinois was Michigan's gain Saturday in Ann Arbor. Nik Stauskas hit his first of five triples at 19:42 of the first half of Michigan's Big Ten title clinching over Minnesota, giving the Wolverines their first lead. While U-M didn't shoot well for a stretch after that and struggled with the Gophers' Elliott Eliason and his height, they adjusted to pull out a 66-56 win that clinched at least a share of the championship.
Eliason scored Minnesota's first four points and was active on the offensive glass. The Wolverines, meanwhile, made only two of their first seven shots in falling behind 7-5 at 15:10, the first TV timeout.
The Wolverines defended well, but the shooting woes continued. They missed their next three shots, all badly, before Eliason scored again to make it 9-5 at 13:10. Freshman Zak Irvin missed his second from long range, but sophomore Caris LeVert finally scored on a lay-up in transition to end the drought.
The outside shooting remained brutal. Irvin and Stauskas both missed again, and it was 11-7 Gophers at the second TV timeout. Robinson III drove and fed fifth-year senior Jordan Morgan inside at 10:17 - he missed the and-one free throw to keep it 13-9 before Minnesota's Maurice Walker backed him down for a score and a six-point Gophers lead.
Seven straight from the Wolverines put them back up a point and brought crowd back into the game. A strong, Stauskas drive and finish followed a Derrick Walton Jr. triple to finally give U-M some offensive momentum.
The Wolverines turned it over on back-to-back possessions, but the Gophers couldn't take advantage. It stung them at 3:35 when Stauskas hit a triple in transition to give U-M its biggest lead, 21-16.
The two teams continued to play sloppy basketball. LeVert, though, hit a triple between two turnovers to expand the lead to 24-18 at 3:15, leading to a Gophers timeout. Andre Hollins hit a long two to cut the deficit to four, but then U-M finally clicked. Two alley-oops to Robinson III from Stauskas, the first finished with a monster jam, and a Stauskas triple ended the half at 31-20 with U-M fully in control.
Michigan finished the half 13-for-26 and with eight assists. Stauskas led the way with 11 points, making three of five triples. Robinson III added eight points, LeVert and Walton five each.
LeVert hit his first shot, a jumper, to counter a Minnesota bucket, but the Gophers took advantage of sloppy play to creep within seven, 33-26, at the 17-minute mark. Morgan's hands failed him on a rebound attempt and on a dish from Stauskas, and LeVert missed badly on a wide-open triple on a bad sequence.
The first four minutes of the second half resembled the game's first four overall, with both teams struggling to shoot or protect the ball. Minnesota cut it to seven again, but good ball movement set up a Walton triple form the corner that pushed the lead back to 10 at 15:00. It was 41-30 when LeVert set up Stauskas for his fourth triple at 14:00.
Michigan, though, missed a golden chance to gain separation. LeVert botched a three-on-one by trying to take it himself, leading to a transition bucket at the other end. Morgan let another wide open look on an offensive rebound go through his hands, and Minnesota cut it to 41-37 at 11:49 on an Austin Hollins triple.
Stauskas' long three at 11:15 was critical and pushed the lead back to 44-37. Four more from the Gophers, though, cut it to 44-41 at the 10:00 mark, setting up a ball game down the stretch.
Michigan regained some control by scoring the next four. Sophomore Spike Albrecht drove and finished at the end of the shot clock and LeVert hit a jumper off the dribble to push it back to 48-41 at 8:45. Andre Hollins countered with a triple with a hand in his face to cut it back to four. He hit two free throws on a questionable Morgan block call to cut the lead to just two.
Minnesota missed a triple, and a Robinson alley-oop from LeVert gave U-M the momentum back at 6:30. Robinson followed a LeVert three-point miss with an offensive rebound and putback to push it back to six at 6:00.
Minnesota still wouldn't go away. The Gophers scored four of the next six to pull within 54-52 at 4:30, but two hustle plays, a held ball from Morgan and an Albrecht save to Morgan for a short glasser, pushed the lead back to four. Stauskas scored off the bounce at 3:00 to make it six again.
Morgan took a charge, and the Wolverines were 2:40 away from a championship with Albrecht going to the line for a one-and-one. He made both, and when Morgan was fouled on the second, he made one of two to push it to 61-52. Albrecht provided a dagger at the one-minute mark with a triple at the shot clock buzzer, and the Wolverines closed it out from the line to earn at least a share of their second Big Ten title in three years.
Stauskas led the scoring with 21 points. LeVert added 13, Robinson III 12, Walton eight and Albrecht seven. Morgan notched five points and 10 rebounds.