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Michigan basketball goes cold in critical Big Ten Tournament loss to ...

Michigan's offensive struggles in the second half led to a Big Ten Tournament loss to Rutgers

CHICAGO -- As the missed shots piled up for Michigan in the second half, the odds of an even more important miss grew. Michigan lost to Rutgers on Thursday in the teams’ Big Ten Tournament opener, 62-50. Michigan is in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament as a result.

The Wolverines missed 16 of their first 17 field goals in the second half, going 14 minutes without a basket. Rutgers, also fighting for an NCAA Tournament bid, took advantage, using a 12-0 run to push its lead to 13 with just under six minutes left. Michigan never got closer than 11.

It will be a long wait for the Wolverines until Selection Sunday. Entering Thursday, they were on the wrong side of the bubble in most bracket projections, including at ESPN, where they were the fifth team out of the field.

After losing in a league tournament, rarely does a bubble team’s situation improve in the days leading up to the bracket announcement. Often, it gets worse.

The Wolverines are 17-15 overall. They were the 8 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. Rutgers (19-13) was the 9, and will advance to face top seed Purdue in Friday’s quarterfinals.

Michigan hasn’t missed the NCAA Tournament since 2015. The Illinois and Indiana fans who chanted “N-I-T!” at the Wolverines last week may have been on to something.

Michigan was 16-1 all-time against Rutgers coming in and had won at Rutgers, 58-45, on Feb. 23. None of that seemed to matter on Thursday inside the United Center.

Hunter Dickinson finished with 24 points on 8-of-17 shooting. Kobe Bufkin was next with nine points, and Jett Howard (six) was behind him. Michigan finished 16-of-46 from the field (34.8 percent). The 14 turnovers didn’t help.

Coming off three straight overtime games, Michigan got off to a 7-0 start and led by three at half. Rutgers dominated the rest of the way. Michigan was bounced in its Big Ten Tournament opener last season, also as the 8 seed, but still earned an NCAA Tournament bid. Michigan last missed the Tournament in 2015.

Cam Spencer led Rutgers with 18 points, and made a couple of important shots during Rutgers’ decisive run. His team started the second half on a 9-2 run to take a 34-29 lead and force Michigan coach Juwan Howard to call timeout four minutes in.

A minute later, with Michigan down six, Dickinson canned a corner 3. Rutgers’ Paul Mulcahy hit a 3 from the wing to give his team a 40-35 lead; Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell called timeout immediately after, with 12:08 left. Free throws got Michigan within one.

That’s when Rutgers freshman point guard Derek Simpson made his first free throw and missed his second, only to grab the rebound and drive unimpeded through the paint for a layup. Rutgers led 43-39 with 10:41 left.

A layup off a baseline out-of-bounds play pushed the Scarlet Knights’ lead to six, and they had a chance to extend it off a turnover. Kobe Bufkin, though, erased Caleb McConnell’s layup attempt. McConnell converted after picking Dickinson’s pocket, though, and Spencer followed with a 3.

Michigan missed again, leading to a breakaway dunk by Simpson. It capped a 12-0 run that put Rutgers ahead 52-39 with 5:52 left. Dickinson ended Michigan’s six-minute scoring drought with a pair of free throws.

Dickinson’s 3 with a minute left was Michigan’s first field goal since his triple 14 minutes earlier. Michigan made two more baskets the rest of the way. Most of the Wolverines’ second-half offense came at the foul line: They were 11-of-16.

Michigan led 7-0 four minutes in as Rutgers missed its first seven shots. Baskets were at a premium. Terrance Williams II’s long 2 from the corner made it 18-11 Michigan with 7:25 left in the half.

Howard got a friendly roll on a 3 that put Michigan ahead 23-17 with four minutes left in the half. Rutgers answered with an 8-0 run to take the lead. Joey Baker pump-faked his way into an open 3, beating the buzzer to give Michigan a 28-25 halftime lead.

The Scarlet Knight shot just 29 percent, but won the turnover battle and grabbed eight offensive rebounds to stick around.

Their second-half surge kept their postseason goals alive. Michigan has a long wait to learn its fate.

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