Michigan led Vanderbilt by eight points with a minute left on Saturday afternoon, only for Vanderbilt to score the final nine points.
The Wolverines lost 66-65 and ended their season in the second round of the NIT.
Michigan lost two starters and faced a huge early deficit on the road. Michigan fought back and put themselves in a great position to progress.
Joey Baker’s basket left the Wolverines 65-57 by 1:45. They got a defensive stop before Hunter Dickinson missed a layup right at the basket. Vanderbilt scored at the other end and deployed a full-court press that stunned the visitors the rest of the way.
On the final possession of the game, Dug McDaniel’s runner missed the edge, as did Dickinson’s tap attempt just before the buzzer sounded.
Michigan finished with an 18-16 record.
Jett Howard missed his second straight game with an ankle injury. Another starting supervisor, Kobe Bufkin, was also absent with an ankle injury, the first game he missed this season.
Reserve guard Isaiah Barnes, who hasn’t appeared in a game since January but may have been called up Saturday due to Michigan’s injury situation, was unavailable with a leg injury.
As a result, Michigan started a group that included three new faces from Michigan’s Big Ten tournament play last week in Dug McDaniel, Baker, Terrance Williams II, Youssef Khayat and Dickinson.
The injuries led to other unusual lineups. At one point Williams played alongside Baker, Jace Howard, Will Tschetter and Dickinson point guard.
Vanderbilt scored 17 straight points to take a 17-5 lead, but Michigan responded with nine straight points and led by one at halftime.
Michigan was up as much as 10 in the second half but couldn’t hold on.
Dickinson, a junior, finished the tournament with 21 points and 11 rebounds. McDaniel scored 19. Baker added 11.
Vanderbilt (22-14) advanced to the quarterfinals, played Tuesday or Wednesday, and hosts the winner of Sunday’s game between UAB and Morehead State.
Saturday marked a disappointing end to Juwan Howard’s fourth season as head coach. The Wolverines, ranked 22nd in the AP preseason poll, failed to make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2015. They beat Toledo in Tuesday’s NIT opener and had a good chance of picking up an away win to keep their season going.
The Wolverines have two seniors, Baker and Jaelin Llewellyn. Baker will request a sixth season and Llewellyn could apply for a medical exemption after suffering a season-ending knee injury in Michigan’s eighth game. Jett Howard and Bufkin could go to the NBA. Dickinson also has to decide about his future.
It was Dickinson who scored 11 straight goals for the Wolverines on Saturday to give them a 52-42 lead with 10-52 left. They maintained control but were unable to retreat. A 3 from Vanderbilt’s Trey Thomas cut Michigan’s lead to 61-57 with 3:47 left.
The next basket came out of the glass on McDaniel’s float. He attacked at the other end, Baker hit a foul line jumper and Michigan was eight with 1:45 left.
Dickinson missed a layup on Michigan’s next possession. Vanderbilt raced the other way to stay alive with an A from Tyrin Lawrence (21 points). Vanderbilt used a full-court press. Williams turned the ball over and committed a foul; The free throws put Vanderbilt within three by 49 seconds.
McDaniel then threw it wide. A layup reduced Michigan’s lead to just 19 seconds from the end.
Michigan got the ball against a press, but Williams couldn’t process Dickinson’s pass, and Vanderbilt got another layup – after a keeper call on Dickinson that looked like a clean block.
After one, Michigan was 12.5 seconds ahead. Even that wasn’t easy, but McDaniel eventually got on the lane for a contested shot. It missed, as did Dickinson’s put-back.
Michigan ended with 15 turnovers, including three in the last minute.
Early on, Michigan appeared to be in serious trouble. Michigan led 5-0, but Vanderbilt scored the next 17 points, forcing Howard to time out at 12-51 after Colin Smith’s third 3. That gave him 11 points; he would not score again. Michigan responded with nine in a row, and McDaniel’s second 3 (and fourth basket) tied the game at 20 with 9:21 at the half. Two free-throws by Williams put the Wolverines ahead with seven minutes remaining and led 30-29 at halftime.
They couldn’t hold it and struggled down the track as they had in several close defeats this season.