Mitch McGary cheered from the bench clad in a suit as a result of his ailing back. Glenn Robinson III limped to the locker room with an apparent ankle injury late in the first half and never returned.
Before the game it would have been hard to envision Michigan winning on the road under such adverse circumstances, but the Wolverines somehow found a way.
Playing largely through Nik Stauskas down the stretch, Michigan rallied from six down in the second half to notch a 63-60 victory over a Minnesota team that entered the game on a six-game win streak. Stauskas had seven of his 14 points and three of his seven assists in the final 6:15, helping the Wolverines take control of a tie game and then hold off Minnesota's last-gasp rally in the final minute.
With McGary likely out for the season and Robinson also hobbled, it might behoove Michigan to play through Stauskas more often.
Neither freshman point guard Derrick Walton nor backup Spike Albrecht are conjuring memories of Trey Burke, and Stauskas has shown the ability to create off the dribble for himself and his teammates. Defenders have to respect his deadly outside shot, so Stauskas is able to drive by them and he has the vision to find his teammates for open shots.
Six of forward Jon Horford's 14 points were off second-half assists from Stauskas. Freshman Zak Irvin also contributed with 15 points on 5 of 8 shooting from behind the arc.
Stauskas only made one mistake down the stretch against Minnesota, but it almost cost his team what looked like a sure victory. He fouled Malik Smith on a 3-pointer with 5.6 seconds to play, enabling the Minnesota guard to sink all three free throws and pull his team within one. Stauskas redeemed himself with a pair of free throws, and Dre Mathieu's potential tying 3-pointer at the buzzer bounced off the rim.
If four non-conference setbacks and the subsequent loss of McGary suggests Michigan may not be good enough to return to the Final Four this season, Thursday's road win is a sign the Wolverines still have enough talent to make the NCAA tournament. John Beilein gave no timetable for how long Robinson might be out, but these are the types of games against fellow mid-tier Big Ten teams that Michigan has to win in order to make the field of 68 comfortably.
For Minnesota, this loss feels like a squandered opportunity. A shorthanded Michigan team was vulnerable Thursday night, and the Gophers failed to take advantage at home.