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No. 2 seed Michigan escapes with a win over No. 11 seed Tennessee

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INDIANAPOLIS — At 39.8 percent from the three-point line, Michigan was one of the best teams in the country at filling it up from the perimeter this season.

In the first half of the No. 2 seed Wolverines’ contest against No. 11 seed Tennessee on Friday, though, Michigan nearly doubled that percentage as the Wolverines came out red-hot on the offensive end behind a balanced effort as six different players scored at least six points and Michigan shot 77.8 percent (7-for-9) from the three-point line. The first-half perimeter shooting helped propel Michigan to a 45-34 halftime lead and the Wolverines never trailed in the second half of their 73-71 win over the Volunteers in a Sweet 16 game in the Midwest Regional at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Michigan shot 55 percent from three-point line (11-for-20) for the game as four players finished in double-figures for the Wolverines.

Tennessee made the game interesting in the final minutes when the Volunteers cut the Michigan lead to 72-71 with 10.8 seconds remaining on a driving layup by senior wing Jordan McRae (24 points). On the ensuing inbounds play, Michigan sophomore guard Caris LeVert (10 points, five assists) touched the baseline out-of-bounds and gave Tennessee a possession with a chance to win the game, trailing 72-71 with 9.6 seconds remaining.

But senior center Jordan Morgan (15 points, seven rebounds) took a charge on Tennessee junior forward Jarnell Stokes (11 points) with six seconds left to give Michigan the ball back. After two Tennessee deflections out of bounds, junior forward Nik Stauskas (14 points) was fouled with 2.1 seconds remaining and split a pair of free throws to give Michigan the 73-71 lead. Off of a Stokes defensive rebound, McRae missed a three-quarters court heave at the buzzer that didn’t come close to seal the Michigan victory.

Stauskas, the 2013-14 Big Ten Player of the Year, has been the focal point for the Michigan offense all season long but on Friday he had plenty of help from a confident group of Wolverine shooters. If Michigan continues to play this well on offense, they look like a serious threat to make it back to the Final Four. Even with sophomore All-American candidate Mitch McGary acting as the NCAA Tournament’s most famous cheerleader from the Michigan bench, the Wolverines have plenty of ammo on the offensive end to beat any team in the country.

Michigan (28-8) decimated Tennessee’s defense in the first half by exploiting mismatches on high ball screens as Stauskas, LeVert and freshman point guard Derrick Walton (nine points, six rebounds, four assists) all did a great job finding open teammates and moving the ball.

Sophomore forward Glenn Robinson III (13 points) and Morgan (15 points, seven rebounds) did damage on the interior from there as the duo was also able to limit the Tennessee interior duo of senior forward Jeronne Maymon and Stokes (11 points) to a combined 13 points.

Michigan’s interior defense and ability to keep Tennessee away from the offensive glass was a key point entering the game and the Wolverines did an admirable job against the bigger Volunteers, limited Tennessee to eight second-chance points.

Freshman wing Zak Irvin also contributed nine points off the bench for Michigan as the freshman from nearby Fishers, Indiana knocked down three three-pointers.

Despite a strong first half from sophomore guard Josh Richardson (19 points), Tennessee (24-13) couldn’t get in an offensive rhythm to match Michigan’s first-half output.

The Volunteers shot 52.6 percent from the field for the game (30-for-57) but couldn’t defend Michigan’s for long enough to get over the hump and make a comeback. Michigan led by double-digits for a large chunk of the early part of the second half and held off the late Tennessee second-half push. Michigan led for the entire second half.

In his final college game, McRae scored 16 of his game-high 24 points in the second half.

The Wolverines now move on to face the winner of No. 8 seed Kentucky and No. 4 seed Louisville in Sunday’s Elite 8 contest in Indianapolis.

NEW PODCAST: Indiana, Cal, troublesome trends and a weekend preview

California's Jabari Bird celebrates a score against Oregon in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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The gang is back together again for another episode of the NBCSports.com College Basketball Talk Podcast, with Rob Dauster hosting and Raphielle Johnson and Scott Phillips joining him. Today’s episode touched on big wins picked up Thursday night by California and Indiana, discussing the performances of those teams and also touching on their prospects down the line.

Also discussed were the recent performances of Iowa State, Providence and Texas A&M (which are you more worried about?), and some of the top games on this weekend’s schedule headlined by Kansas visiting Oklahoma. And if you’re a fan of seafood, you may take umbrage with some of Rob’s comments at the beginning of the podcast.

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast on either iTunes or Stitcher, and there’s also a link to listen to this podcast below. Thanks for listening.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Key contests in Atlantic 10, Pac-12

Arizona head coach Sean Miller talks with guard Allonzo Trier (11) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Northwestern State in Tucson, Ariz., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015. (Mamta Popat/Arizona Daily Star via AP)  ALL LOCAL TELEVISION OUT; PAC-12 OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT; GREEN VALLEY NEWS OUT
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GAME OF THE NIGHT: UCLA at No. 17 Arizona, 9:00 p.m.
The Bruins and Wildcats have already met once this season, with a Bryce Alford three-pointer giving UCLA an 87-84 win. But UCLA has continued to struggle with consistency since then, and the chance at payback should serve as a motivating factor for Arizona. Sean Miller’s team welcomed back Allonzo Trier in Saturday’s win at Washington, and in forward Ryan Anderson they have one of the conference’s best players. The “rivalry” aspect of this game should make it a good one, as UCLA tends to show up for big-name opponents, but it could also be another major blow to the Bruins’ fleeting hopes of getting back to the NCAA tournament.

THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: No. 19 Dayton at Rhode Island, 7:00 p.m.
The Rams have struggled with injuries all season, most recently dealing with Jarvis Garrett’s broken jaw and Kuran Iverson’s concussion. Garrett’s back on the floor, playing with a face mask that appears to be inspired by Hannibal Lecter, and it’s that team toughness that makes URI a serious threat to first-place Dayton at the Ryan Center (Iverson’s been medically cleared but remains a game-time decision). Charles Cooke has been outstanding for the Flyers this season, and Dayton’s depth makes them a tough matchup for any team much less one as banged up as URI.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR

1. As a result of No. 11 Oregon’s loss at Cal last night, No. 23 USC finds itself tied in the loss column atop the Pac-12 standings heading into their game at Arizona State (8:00 p.m.). Outside of keeping opponents off the offensive glass the Sun Devils have had issues defensively in conference play, and with the Trojans’ many scoring options led by guards Jordan McLaughlin and Julian Jacobs this will be a tough matchup for the home team.

2. Monmouth looks to maintain its lead atop the MAAC standings, as they visit Rider (9:00 p.m.). The Broncs haven’t been the conference contender many envisioned them being when the season began but they’re still dangerous, with players such as guard Teddy Okereafor capable of giving opponents fits. Justin Robinson, who’s been excellent at the point all season long, leads the way for a Monmouth team that still has hopes of earning an at-large bid should they need it.

3. Having lost to Yale last weekend, Columbia’s in a position where they need to hold serve ahead of the rematch in New York City March 5. That makes games like tonight’s against Penn (7:00 p.m.) that much more important for Kyle Smith’s Lions, who have done a good job of turning opponents over in league play (22.8 TO%). Penn’s had issues taking care of the basketball, and that combined with Columbia’s tandem of Maodo Lo and Alex Rosenberg could prove to be the difference at Levien Gym.

4. Two teams looking to make a push in the MAC East race meet in Buffalo, as the Bulls host Ohio (7:00 p.m.). Nate Oats’ team had its four-game win streak snapped by Toledo, with the Rockets beating Buffalo by two Wednesday night. They’ll look to rebound with a defense that has been the best in the MAC in conference play (tops in defensive efficiency and effective field goal percentage), but they have to take care of the basketball in order to do so.

5. Grand Canyon, which can’t play in the NCAA tournament as they’re still in the Division I transition process, looks to remain a game behind New Mexico State in the WAC standings. Dan Majerle’s Antelopes visit Seattle (10:00 p.m.), which handed GCU its first conference loss 13 days ago. GCU shot just 6-for-23 from three in that game, which they led by ten late in the first half. If Seattle is to win they’ll need to slow down the tandem of sophomore Joshua Braun and senior Grandy Glaze, who combine to average 31.5 points and 13.6 rebounds per game.