Michigan basketball had made only one field goal nearly 10 minutes into the second half but still felt like it was starting to take the momentum back.
A six-point deficit had been cut to one, when Rutgers’ Derek Simpson stepped to the free-throw line.
He made the first and missed the second, but the ball caromed off the back iron directly back to him. He dribbled once and laid it ball in as Rutgers’ bench exploded while the Wolverines looked around at one another.
“It was really deflating,” Hunter Dickinson said after the game. “A miscommunication between us, that’s something we practice on, it’s unacceptable. Coaches emphasize it in practice and in timeouts — one guy cover the shooter one guy stays down low.
“It’s just on the players on the floor to do their job communciating with each other.”
It started a 12-0 run for the Scarlett Knights as U-M had its worst shooting half of the season.
The Wolverines opened the second half shooting 1-for-17 (and finished the period 4-for-21) and had a stretch of more than 14 minutes without a field goal as they lost to Rutgers, 62-50, in the second round of the Big Ten tournament.
U-M (17-15) was projected on the outside of the NCAA tournament bubble before the game and now seems a virtual certainty to miss the Big Dance for the first time since 2015. Michigan has made it to each of the past five Sweet 16s.
“I felt we pressed a little bit too much as far as wanting to make the play individually,” said Juwan Howard. “That allowed Rutgers to either capitalize on rushed missed shots or turnovers.
“But overall, in the second half, offensively for us to only make four shots … then you add in turnovers and offensive rebounds, it was just a really rough second half for this group.”
Michigan was 16-1 in 17 prior meetings with Rutgers and was 15-1 in its past 16 Big Ten tournament openers.
Howard is now 1-3 in four Big Ten tournament games and was ejected before the conclusion of the lone win against Maryland in 2019.
Hunter Dickinson led the way with 24 points and seven rebounds while Kobe Bufkin added nine points, seven rebounds and five assists. Cam Spencer led Rutgers with 18 points and Simpson had 13 as Rutgers advances to play No. 1-seed Purdue on Friday afternoon.
The second half could not possibly have gone worse for Michigan, which carried a 28-25 lead into halftime.
It started with a shot clock violation before Howard, Bufkin and Dickinson missed four shots.
The Scarlett Knights put together a quick 9-1 run to force a timeout by Juwan Howard.
“At times we got a little out of character as far as what we would do,” Howard said. “(We didn’t) stick to just keeping it simple like we did in the first half.”
After Bufkin made a pair of free throws, Aundre Hyatt hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key for Rutgers’ fifth consecutive bucket. Dickinson buried a 3-pointer from the corner to get within 37-34, before he split a pair of free throws, Dug McDaniel made two and Tarris Reed Jr. made one to cut the deficit to 40-39 with 11:06 to play.
That’s when Simpson scored the quick three points to put Rutgers up, 43-39, when the U-M misses started to pile up.
“Sometimes it’s just the way the ball bounces,” Bufkin said. “Obviously we didn’t get off to a great start in the second half but we stuck through it. The outcome just wasn’t what we wanted.”
As Michigan started its stretch of 12 straight misses, Rutgers made five of its six shots; many of which were set up by defense.