Michigan-Minnesota: Big Ten Barnyard Bubble Brawl

Charles ClintonCorrespondent IMarch 8, 2009

One of the biggest games in Michigan Basketball history in recent years happened when the Wolverines took on the Minnesota Golden Gophers in a Big Ten clash with major NCAA tournament implications. 

Both teams on the bubble looking for a quality victory against a fellow bubble team.  Michigan looking for their third road win of the season stumbled in their past two away games, losing to Iowa in overtime and by five points to Wisconsin. 

The Gophers were coming off a home victory against the same Wisconsin team the Wolverines had just lost to.

Minnesota got off to a great start in the first half leading by as many as nine points, but the Wolverines kept hanging on cutting the lead to as little as one and trailed by merely three points at halftime. 

The Gophers regrouped early in the second half and were leading by as many as 12 points with about 13 minutes left in regulation.  The Wolverines were desperate for some offense and so they inserted Laval Lucas Perry halfway through the second half and he began to connect from beyond the arc as Michigan climbed their way back into the ball game.

One of the major signs that this game was turning towards Michigan's favor was when they cut the lead to seven and Minnesota had the ball.

The Gophers missed a shot with nine minutes on the game clock and with 8:59 on the clock they got a new possession and a new shot clock, which promptly stopped and didn't restart until ten seconds later. 

Then at 8:34 referee Ed Hightower realized that there was something wrong, and stopped the game.  He and the other officials realized their might be a shot clock violation, but ruled that if Minnesota had seen the shot clock showing one instead of 11 they would have gotten a shot off. 

So they took six seconds off both the shot and game clock, Michigan forced a shot clock violation anyways and the Perry hit another three pointer to cut the lead to four. 

Perry finished the game with all 19 of the Wolverines bench points, but it was Deshawn Sims who siezed control of the game and became the hero with 24 points for the whole game. Down the stretch he made several shots that would eventually put Michigan in the lead.

62-60, before the Big Ten's leading scorer Manny Harris made a three pointer and later dished to Sims for what would turn out to be a dagger of a dunk. 

Minnesota coach Tubby Smith made a crucial error with 4.1 seconds left. Right as the ball was in the hands of the team's best shooter, Lawrence Westbrook, Smith called a timeout right before Westbrook launched what would have been a game-tying three pointer that would have almost certainly sent the game into overtime.

Instead when the Gophers inbounded the ball to Westbrook, he bobbled the ball and drew a triple team failing to get off a good shot attempt as time expired.  Michigan finally had their quality win.

The Gophers out rebounded the Wolverines 30-13 and shot 55 percent compared to 49 percent for Michigan. The telling statistic for why they lost the game was that they went 2-10 from beyond the arc, and their opponents went 9-22, which while far from perfect can be used to compensate for giving up a lot of two point baskets. 

Michigan coach John Beilein's system often emphasizes the long range shot and it is starting to really catch on in Ann Arbor as the Wolverines compensate for their lack of size.

As of Friday, on ESPN's bracketology Michigan was ranked as the second of the last four teams in the tournament as a 12 seed with Minnesota being solidly in as an eight seed.  Time will tell where this most recent classic will draw their fates in the upcoming March Madness.